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Why estate agents in West Hampstead couldn't be happier

PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 October 2013

The new Little Waitrose will be opening at the site of Pizza Express

The new Little Waitrose will be opening at the site of Pizza Express

Archant

Low crime, good schooling, and easy access to public transport - the basic trio that attract buyers looking for a new home in London. But there's another box estate agent's are eager to tick when trying to attract wealthy house hunters to their patch.

“We’ve known it’s been coming for a while now,” says Gideon Gold, director of Hunters Estate Agent in West End Lane and a property expert for West Hampstead.

“Although we’ve seen our high street change with the arrival of major chain coffee houses and major supermarkets, this adds a different dynamic altogether.”

He, along with many of his colleagues in the local property market, have been keeping a close eye on rumours that a Little Waitrose is about to open in West End Lane.

On Friday, the supermarket company finally announced its “long-standing ambition” to open a store in West End Lane.

There has been a oft-repeated maxim that having a Waitrose on your doorstep adds significant value to your home.

As more and more new homes come without parking for residents, access to close-by amenities is quickly becoming as essential as traditional factors - and for estate agents, the more upmarket the better.

Earlier this year, property researcher Savills decided to investigate the “Waitrose effect” further and discovered a clear trend.

Across the country, houses situated close to a Waitrose were on average 25 per cent higher in value than those further away.

In London, the effect was even more marked with prices rising an astonishing 50 per cent.

Sophie Chick, a research analyst at Savills, said: “It’s clear that buyers should expect to pay significantly more for their home if they wish to have a store on their doorstep.

“Our analysis identifies a very clear house price premium in Waitrose store locations.”

But do house prices really jump after a Waitrose has opened, or is it simply a case of the company employing a canny strategy to open their stores in already affluent areas?

Peter Gobey, sales manager at Greene Estate Agents in West End Lane, says it’s a mixture of both.

“There’s a significant difference in cost as you find yourself getting closer to the other Waitrose in Finchley Road, with prices jumping from up to £850 per square foot to almost £1,000,” he explained.

“But this new Waitrose could certainly now boost house prices for those nearby households who have previously had only Sainsbury’s and Tesco on their doorstep.

“The location of nearby amenities is becoming increasingly important, especially as an increasing number of properties don’t come with parking spaces.

“But it’s worth noting that house prices in the area have been going up 8 to 10 per cent for the past two years anyway, so it could also be a case of Waitrose finding the area is now well-suited.”

Judging by the reaction from West Hampstead residents, Mr Gobey is not wrong.

Enthusiasm has not been hard to find despite the possibility of disruption from delivery vans and shoppers - something that nearby Tesco has received a number of complaints about.

Danny Van Emden, who works in nearby West End Lane Books, has been in the area for the past 20 years and says a Waitrose fits the changing demographic.

She said: “If it was a Tesco opening I’d be horrified, but a Waitrose fits perfectly with how the area has been changing.

“Older residents are now being joined by a lot of younger families, many of whom are international city types with huge cars.

“We’ve even had to change what we sell in our bookstore to adapt, stocking a bigger children section with perhaps fewer books on philosophy and poetry.”

Jonathan Turton, 39, who runs community blog West Hampstead Life, also sees the sense in opening a Waitrose in West End Lane.

He said: “It’s a sign that the area is deemed to be a significantly more affluent area than it was, although it has been on the up for a while now.

“It’s also one of these chain stores that anti-chain and pro-independent people seem to like.

“There’s not the same level of complaints about disruption and delivery lorries that we had when Tesco opened and I think there’s a presumption Waitrose will do the right thing.”

Even though a severe shortage of parking spaces means the scope for disruption is similar, residents living right on the new store’s doorstep seem willing to put up with it.

Amie Khan, 36, who lives with her family in West Cottages, which runs alongside the site of the new store, said:

“If it was a Tesco we’d be more worried.

“We’re quite pleased it’s a Waitrose as now we won’t have to travel to Finchley for our shop.

“I can’t see it hurting the value of our home either, so I think that also helps outweigh any problems with traffic.”

A more senior neighbouring resident also said the Waitrose factor was allowing her to forgive any disruptions.

She said: “I am concerned about where people are going to park - something that nobody seems to have thought through - but if it had to be anything I’m glad it’s a Waitrose.

“They’re not as bad as some of the other supermarkets around and they’re a good sign for the local area.”

So what does the presence of a Waitrose mean for your area?

Two things.

Firstly, that your house price has been going up and is likely to keep going up.

And secondly, that you now live in a community where you and your neighbours are deemed to be of a certain “type” worthy of Waitrose’s attention.

Labels like “gentrified” or “yuppified” are never far off the opening of a Waitrose in London.

Even political parties are sectioning off potential voters into a new class system of the “Aldi mum” and the “Waitrose yuppie”.

But for West Hampstead, a Waitrose more likely signifies the area’s population is becoming more like its Hampstead neighbours to the north-east.

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