Ask The Agents: What is the most important thing to look for when investing in a property?

Investing for yourself

Richard Woolf, director at Winkworth St. John’s Wood, says:
Location, location, location… The old adage is true; location of the area you prefer within the city, location of the property in the area you choose, and, in the case of apartments, location within the building are all very important (for example, a southerly aspect is generally favourable as it usually provides the best natural light).

Use a reputable estate agency with a long track record in the area they serve. They should have an intimate understanding of the local amenities, culture and environment. I have been working in St. John’s Wood for over 30 years and that gives me pretty good local knowledge, which I believe is vital in order to serve our clients and applicants well.

Tenure is also very important, particularly in the Capital, as even though lease extensions are simpler to arrange these days, they can still be expensive. Internal decoration is, in my opinion, less important, but always ask your solicitor to check that any alterations have the necessary permissions. There can be a number of bodies that licenses may be required from, such as landlords, local authorities, conservation bodies and possibly English Heritage.

It goes without saying that paying the right price is tantamount, so always do your homework. This is much easier these days because there is so much information available online, but in the fast moving, seller’s market we have now, you will need to bear in mind that you may be looking at historical information, that might not reflect the current market. Hopefully the above advice will be useful to you in buying the right property, in the right location at the right price.


Investing as a landlord

Simon Hedley, DruceSimon Hedley, director of Druce Marylebone, says:
I don’t want to sound boring, but location is key. If you can invest in either a blue chip location (such as Belgravia or Knightsbridge), or an area rich in attractions and appeal which is becoming established (like Fitzrovia or Marylebone), you should be guaranteed a secure safe return, coupled with a reasonable yield and strong, hopefully double figure, growth in value. Incredibly, despite a worldwide economical disaster and continuing European debt pressures, the value of prime W1 stock has remained robust and even shown incredible levels of gain.

Beware of up and coming areas: there has to be a strong, sustainable and consistent reason for a sudden up turn in values. Many a time an up and coming area, which looked cool and vibey in a buoyant market, has suddenly looked very shabby and unappealing when the economy turns.

I believe that if your budget is restricted, you are better to buy at the high end of the one-bed market, than at the bottom of the two-bed range. This will get you a better property in terms of design, size and street location. If you try to squeeze an extra bedroom at the expense of these assets, you undoubtedly end up with a secondary location or property.

Finally, but only if the location warrants it, invest in your finish. Put in solid wood or stone floors and granite worktops, use good heritage range paints, and install middle to high-end white goods. Details like these will determine the final price, or the calibre of tenant you attract. In theory, better finishes will give you fewer headaches at a later stage.

Don’t be nervous; I worked in the industry for nine years before buying an investment flat, and I only regret not doing it sooner.


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