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What not to buy now: the six types of London home that may turn out to be a bad investment

·5-min read
Flats with no outside space won’t be a great buy in the current market  (Matt Writtle)
Flats with no outside space won’t be a great buy in the current market (Matt Writtle)

Few people are putting their homes on the market at the moment and house prices are soaring — up £11,000 in the month of February alone, according to the latest Land Registry figures.

If you're in a position to buy now it can be frustrating to see homes being priced out of your reach or, common in the current market, to find there's no properties for sale.

Don't be tempted into a bad buy out of desperation though, it's better to bide your time than suffer from buyer's remorse over such a major purchase as a house, especially with a more uncertain economic environment on the horizon.

These are the property types I would avoid in London in the current market.

Homes with no outside space

Timing is key in the property market. Outside space has become much more important to buyers over the past couple of years and is often top of their wish lists, whether it's a private or communal garden or even just a balcony or terrace. A more desirable home will be a better investment.

After we helped a recent client to buy a new home they asked us to help sell a central London flat they also owned. It had no outside space, nor did it have anywhere to work from home so in the current market they would end up selling at a significant loss.

We advised them to wait until demand for city centre flats increases back to pre-pandemic levels.

Unmodernised properties

Fixer uppers should be cheaper than a turnkey home but buyer beware! In a market that's short on supply (like this one) this isn't always in the case.

In some hot areas, such as Notting Hill, there's little price difference between a home that needs serious renovating and one that's more up to date.

It's absolutely crucial to do your own sums and obtain detailed quotes before making an offer on an unmodernised property, independently of an estate agent's estimate.

The cost of renovations has significantly increased since Brexit and inflation rises and the Ukraine war are pushing them up even further, which could tip your 'bargain' home purchase well over budget and leave you living on a building site.

You should also get specialist advice from a planning consultant before submitting an offer — it's no good buying a property thinking you can dig a basement or knock down a wall, only to find out you can't.

Even small changes like replacing carpet for wood floors in an apartment may seem relatively straightforward but can be prohibited in some leases.

Ex-rental flats

There are a lot of ex-rental properties on the market at the moment, as private landlords exit the buy-to-let market.

You need to be extremely cautious when viewing these homes, if something seems very cheap, it's likely there's a reason.

Look out for: cladding issues, lack of outside space, distance to a park/green space, local high street and transport links and overall density of flats in the immediate surrounding area.

Some of the worst examples we have seen for sale are often located in high density older new builds (more than 10 years old) in secondary areas, far from transport links and outside space.

These types of flats are often sitting on the market for a year plus, with no sign of a buyer. Don't let that happen to you.

Property with a poor EPC rating

Currently domestic private rental properties must meet a minimum level of energy efficiency; an EPC rating of E. However, from 2025, all newly-rented properties will be required to have a certification rating of C or above. Existing tenancies will have until 2028 to comply.

Our advice for any new entrants to the buy-to-let market is to look for properties with a C rating or above.

With energy bills set to soar this is also a major consideration from a running costs perspective.

Train or Tube-affected property

No matter how great a property looks, if you can hear the rumble of a Tube, this will always seriously impact the property’s value and future saleability.

Often this isn’t mentioned on an agents’ particulars so be sure to look at where tube lines are located and spend time in the property to check for noise. When considering a new purchase, it is important to familiarise yourself with the immediate area surrounding the home too.

Even if you are unable to book in multiple viewings, travelling to the property at different times of day to stand and listen is advisable.

A couple of years ago, a client of ours visited a property in the early evening having previously viewed it in the day. Upon viewing the property after dark, our clients found the area was overcrowded as people travelled home at rush hour, and the street became exceptionally noisy.

This is particularly important when purchasing in London as traffic and public transport vary greatly depending on the time of day.

Don't commit if you have doubts

London is a long-term investment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can easily flip a property and make easy money.

Buying costs such as stamp duty and legal fees mean every property purchase will cost thousands of pounds on top of your deposit and mortgage.

To see meaningful price growth to offset all this you should have a long-term view of five years or more.

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