Category: Property Search

Frobisher Court, Forest Hill SE23

I’ve now been running this blog long enough to see properties that I viewed as a potential buyer a few years ago being put back onto the market by the people who ended up buying said properties.

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Frobisher Court flat, living room

This is the very nice but expensive flat in Frobisher Court that I went to see in 2016, looking very much the same as when I saw it albeit with different furniture (though it appears that sellers left behind all of the built-in units in 2016).

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Frobisher Court flat, communal areas and exterior

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Frobisher Court flat, communal entrance

It has the larger three-bedroom floorplan found in these Austin Vernon and Partners-designed blocks (the standard, more commonly found type has two bedrooms without the bay window in the lounge) though this particular flat only has two bedrooms – the previous owners knocked into the third bedroom to make the lounge bigger.

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Frobisher Court flat, living room and bedroom

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Frobisher Court flat, kitchen

It’s on the market at £575,000, which might be a bit less than the price it was marketed at four years ago.

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Frobisher Court flat, master bedroom

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Frobisher Court flat, bay window in lounge

20 February 2016

Frobisher Court, Forest Hill SE23
Apartment block forming part of Dulwich Wood Park estate; winner of Civic Trust Award 1964
Architect: Austin Vernon & Partners
Year built: 1959

I’ve wanted to buy one of these Austin Vernon & Partners flats in the Dulwich Wood Estate ever since I went to see one in Raleigh Court last year. Even though that particular example was a bit decrepit with rubbish views into other people’s flats on the estate, the combination of the pleasant, almost wooded setting, the mid century communal areas and the spacious, open layout of the flat led me to keep an eye out for other flats on the estate coming onto the market.

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One year down the line, I’ve seen six other examples of the same flat, all of which have been pretty much identical in layout but have varied dramatically in condition from perfection to complete wreckage. Having had bids rejected on two of the better ones and a sale fall through on another (I’m still reeling from the sheer injustice of that experience), I decided to view a 7th floor flat in Frobisher Court that had just come on the market.

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Although Frobisher Court looked almost identical to all of the other blocks congregated around Gipsy Hill I’d been to see, it was actually situated a couple of miles north from the rest in the slightly more affluent Forest Hill. The facade and communal areas looked familiar with the slightly oppressive patterned sixties tiling and juddering lift present and correct but this particular building seemed particularly well kept with not a spot of peeling paint or limp indoor plant to be found.

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The flat itself, which was situated at the very top of the building, was pretty stunning. It had the same open plan layout of all of the others I’d seen but appeared to have an additional bay window with great, far-reaching views of the surrounding area.

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The current owners had made bold but period-appropriate design choices, including some great built-in furniture (I loved the bespoke hallway unit) and coloured feature walls. Unlike all of the other flats of this type I’d seen, the solid wood flooring continued beyond the main living areas into the bedrooms, which somehow made the flat seem more spacious.

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The only downside to this particular flat, which I loved and could completely picture myself living in, was the asking price: it was an absolutely ridiculous £195,000 more expensive than the last one of these flats I viewed. I appreciate that you sometimes need to pay a premium for a well-presented property but in my opinion, no amount of nice built-in furniture or pretty views is worth an additional £195,000. The last time I checked, this flat was still on the market. If the owner were willing to reduce the price to something more sensible, I may well make an offer.

Hyndewood, Forest Hill

Though we ended up buying another house, the keenly-priced mid century end-of-terrace that we looked at in 2017 in the Norman Starrett-designed Hyndewood estate in Forest Hill was one of my favourites from our property search (see entry from 2017 below).

Three years on, another house in the same estate came onto the market briefly via The Modern House and a very stylish example it was too.

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Hyndewood, front of house and porch

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Hyndewood, exterior shots and garden

While it didn’t have the extension on the side like the one we saw in 2017 and therefore didn’t have the second reception room and bathroom (this one must have been mid-terrace), it was in much better condition, having been preserved and sympathetically renovated. At £635k, however, it was quite a bit more expensive than the one we saw in 2017.

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Hyndewood, ground floor open plan living area

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Hyndewood, ground floor open plan living area and kitchen

With its understated palette of white, cork and natural wood (the top floor bedroom still had its original ply-panelled vaulted ceiling), it had an unmistakably mid-century modern aesthetic that looked up-to-date rather than a pastiche. I particularly liked the black 1960s cabinetry and glass serving hatch in the kitchen and the outdoor courtyard that the kitchen led out into.

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Hyndewood, ground floor open plan living area and open tread staircase

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Hyndewood, first floor landing and bathroom

The speed with which this house was snapped up (it came onto the market as part of that rush of properties last month when the estate agents opened again and was under offer within days) goes to show the continued demand for houses in London with this sort of aesthetic/layout in this price bracket.

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Hyndewood, bedrooms on first floor and top floor (with ply-panelled vaulted ceiling)

6 May 2017

Hyndewood, Forest Hill, SE23
Mid-century extended end of terrace house
Architect: Norman Starrett
Year built: 1950s-1960s

Due to a happy change of circumstances, I’ve changed the focus of my longstanding property search from a modernist property for one to a modernist property for two.

I’ve always quite liked Forest Hill as an area – it’s commutable into the city, it has nice green spaces (including the Horniman Museum gardens with that fantastic view across to the city and Dawsons Heights), the amenities are decent with a nice mix of pointless artisan and essential shops and most importantly, it has a fair amount of nice mid century modern housing stock, including one of those Austin Vernon and partners blocks that I went to see last year and rows of less well known but still interesting-looking terraced houses.

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This house was at the end of a Norman Starrett-designed terrace down a very quiet little close containing a cluster of mid century houses and flats. It looked enormous from the floorplan due to a ground floor extension on the side of the house and appeared to have retained a lot of original 1960s features, including a very stylised kitchen and a lot of wood panelling.

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In person, the house was even perhaps bigger than I was expecting it to be. The amount of floor space on the ground floor alone was probably bigger than a lot of two bedroom flats in London that I’ve seen, containing two adjoining reception rooms (both with original parquet flooring), that very retro kitchen, a utility room and a downstairs bathroom. Patio doors led out onto a small paved garden.

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Upstairs were three bedrooms (two double, one single) and a further bathroom (this one with a very period avocado suite) and another bedroom up a further flight of stairs at the top of the house.

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The seller was an elderly lady who had lived in the flat for over thirty years and while she clearly hadn’t updated anything during that period, she had maintained everything pretty well, which meant that the house was a nicely preserved time capsule. With a small amount of cosmetic updating (repainting the walls, replacing the carpets upstairs and probably that avocado bathroom) and a bit of good mid century furniture, the house would have been absolutely beautiful.

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The house was also quite keenly priced at £600k, a decision on the seller and agent’s part to get as many offers as possible (most likely over the asking price), allowing for the property to be sold as soon as possible. We didn’t end up putting in an offer as the timing wasn’t quite right (and we had a fair amount of competition from other buyers) but this house will certainly serve as a benchmark for the purposes of our property search going forward.

Walkerscroft Mead, Dulwich SE23

Updated 5 May 2019

One year after moaning about how those funny looking “courtyard” houses with pointy roofs on Walkerscroft Mead never come up for sale, two were recently listed in quick succession.

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The first one was mysteriously listed by the agent without any photos of the interior and at a suspiciously low price for a three bedroomed detached house in West Dulwich (£650k). Despite the fact that the combination of these factors suggested that the house was an absolute hot mess inside and we’d just bought another house nearby, I was sorely tempted to arrange a viewing just to have a nose around (I’d already invented a story in my head about our circumstances) but it was sold after only a few days on the market.

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The second house looks familiar – I’m sure I’ve seen photos of the overly modernised interior before. While it looks the same as all of the other houses of its type from the outside (thanks to the stringent rules imposed by the Dulwich Estate in relation to external alterations), it appears to have been extended and carved up beyond recognition on the inside – it barely looks like the same house when you compare its floorplan with that of the first house, which retained the original layout. Just to highlight how much of a steal the first house was, the second house was listed at £795k and is still on the market.

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8 July 2018

Walkerscroft Mead, Dulwich SE23
1960s terraced house on the Whytefield Estate
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1961-1967

We were impressed by West Dulwich as an area when we went to see Ling’s Coppice so we were keen to see a house that had come up for sale in Walkerscroft Mead, another Austin Vernon and Partners-designed estate nearby.

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Walkerscroft Mead forms part of the wider Whytefield Estate, which also includes Pymers Mead, Perifield, Cokers Lane and Coney Acre and was built between 1961 and 1967. At 7.5 acres, it is one of the largest of the early 1960s Dulwich Estate development sites and contains a number of different property types: mews townhouses and maisonettes, single-storey bungalows and detached “courtyard” houses with unusual pointy roofs.

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The house we viewed was a part of a terrace of mews townhouses and maisonettes which backed onto a central garden court. The house comprised on the ground floor, a garage, utility room, entrance hall and bedroom/study leading out into a small walled garden (which then led out into the rather beautiful communal gardens), and on the first floor, approached by a semi-circular staircase, a large living room across the front of the house, a dining room and kitchen at the back, and on the second floor, three bedrooms and a bathroom.

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It was really quite a spacious townhouse albeit one with a lot of redundant space, a prime example being the entirety of the ground floor which had a practically unusable layout (though we were told that other people knocked through the garage, study and utility room into an enormous kitchen diner, which would be a far better configuration especially given the relatively small kitchen on the first floor). The house also needed a new central heating system (as it featured a dreaded 1960s hot air heating system) and general cosmetic updating throughout.

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I liked the house and thought it compared favourably to similar townhouses we’d seen (that slightly dilapidated one in Southfields with the hole in the ceiling sprang to mind) but I didn’t think it was architecturally interesting enough to invest time and funds into doing the renovations required to make it our home. The lack of really distinct architectural features was emphasised by the other, far more striking housing types on the (beautifully maintained) estate, namely the bungalows and the detached “courtyard” houses with pointy roofs – I’d much rather have been looking around one of those.

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Model of Phase 2 “courtyard” houses (courtesy of whytefield.co.uk)

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Great Brownings, Dulwich SE21

Great Brownings, Dulwich SE21
Scandinavian-style mid-century estate surrounded by woodland
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1966

After years of looking for a mid-century property in the right location, at the right price, on the right estate and with the right number of original features intact, we finally found a house that fulfilled most of these criteria in Great Brownings.

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Resembling something out of a Scandinavian fairytale, Great Brownings is a rather unusual estate of gingerbread-looking houses integrated into the steep slopes of the Dulwich Woods.

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The estate was designed by Austin Vernon and Partners in 1966 and was built across tiered levels, connected by brick and stone staircases and walkways carved into the natural landscape. Unlike the buildings in the more conventional Austin Vernon and Partners-designed estates nearby (such as Lings Coppice, Walkerscroft Mead and Giles Coppice), the Great Brownings houses were built with timber frames because the steep slopes of the land prevented easy access for normal heavy building materials.

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Properties on the estate range from two-bedroom apartments over the garages to four-bedroom detached houses, all built in a consistent style with white cladding, either terracotta or grey slate tile and either pitched or sloping roofs.

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The house that we ended up buying is one of the grey slate tiled four-bedroom houses. As far as we’re aware, all of the four-bedroom houses originally had the same layout with the main entrance at the side of the house opening into a double height hallway which branches off into the living room opening out onto the rear garden on the right hand side and the dining room and kitchen opening out onto the front garden on the left hand side. A timber open tread staircase leads up to the upstairs landing overlooking the double height void and branches off into four bedrooms (two double (one with en-suite), two single) and family bathroom.

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Although it was apparent that the house needed quite a bit of work and we were a bit nervous about the non-traditional timber frame construction (which thankfully didn’t end up being a problem for our mortgage lender), we fell for both the house and the estate almost immediately. The tranquil, wooded setting was something we’d never have expected to find 15 minutes away from central London and the style and layout of the house (large windows, quadruple aspect, double height hallway/void, patio doors on both sides of the house, lots of timber) were unlike anything else we’d seen during our search.

Two of our neighbours were kind enough to let us have a look around their beautifully renovated homes, which gave us an idea of the potential of these houses.

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Both houses provided us with plenty of inspiration for what we’re going to do to ours, including knocking through the existing separate kitchen and dining room, redoing the floors in something resembling the original hardwood floorboards, fitting vertical blinds and reinstating the original timber porch. Although neither of our neighbours opted to do so (and their houses look tidier as a result), we will also be replacing the hot air heating system with a traditional wet heating system with radiators due to the fact that I am a chronically dry individual.

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Clearly, we have some way to go before our house resembles either of these stunners but what we do have are a plan, spreadsheet, a list of the names of some tradespeople and a healthy amount of self delusion as to the probably gargantuan size of the task ahead. I plan to document the renovation process over the coming months, most likely starting with the kitchen.

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Peckarmans Wood, Dulwich SE26

Peckarmans Wood, Dulwich SE26
Midcentury town house
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1960s

I mainly associate Peckarmans Wood near Sydenham Hill with those amazing ranch-style houses with pitched roofs built by Austin Vernon and Partners in the 1960s. Forming part of the same development, this house that we went to see recently didn’t have quite the same wow-factor but was nevertheless architecturally interesting and a bit different to your usual mid-century terrace. It also shared the same wooded setting (quite literally, the walk from the station to the terrace of houses was through some kind of wood).

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While the house wasn’t in the best condition and hadn’t been presented in the best way for the viewing, it was pretty substantial in terms of size and unusual in the way it was split over four floors. Upon entry, you had a cloakroom and storeroom. A short flight of stairs went up to the kitchen and dining room, which opened out onto the garden. A further short flight of stairs led up to the living room. Another short flight of stairs led up to one of the bedrooms and the bathroom and the final flight of stairs led up to three further bedrooms, which appeared to have pitched roofs and there was also some kind of skylight in the hallway.

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With quite a lot of investment, this could have been a spectacular house. Looking down the terrace of houses, it was clear that a couple of the others had been restored to their full potential and the setting was absolutely beautiful. At the time of writing, the house is still on the market, having been recently reduced.

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Grassmount, Forest Hill SE23

Grassmount, Forest Hill SE23
Midcentury town house
Architect: Unknown to me
Year built: 1960s

The fact that this house was in a development called “Grassmount” accessed by a road called “Taymount Rise” coupled with its listing which boasted of “views across London” should have prepared me for the very steep hill that it was necessary to climb in order to reach the front door. Unfortunately, there are few activities that I dislike more than climbing steep hills or staircases so I’d pretty much decided that this house was a no before we’d even been inside.

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This was a shame because the house was beautiful. For a 1960s mid century townhouse, it was unusually wide and substantial with an open plan kitchen/diner and small living room on the ground floor and two bedrooms and a bathroom on each of the first and second floors.

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The front garden and at the rear were beautifully landscaped and kept and the decor was as exactly I’d have had it if I had the confidence to go for such a rich, dark colour palette. Appliances and things like the windows and patio doors looked expensive and satisfyingly chunky.

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The only change I’d have made would be to convert one of the first floor bedrooms back into the main living room by removing a partition wall and use the small living room on the ground floor as a study. But that would literally have been it – everything down to the cork flooring to the colour of the front door was perfect.

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The perfection of the house was reflected in the relatively high price, which seemed fair enough for a substantial house with a decent amount of space that had undergone a great renovation job. I had to remind myself of that steep hill to stop myself from being tempted.

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Ling’s Coppice, Dulwich SE23

Ling’s Coppice, Dulwich SE23
1960s terraced house with atrium
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1968

We didn’t end up making an offer on that beautifully renovated but expensive house in Ling’s Coppice but we liked the development enough to come back to view this slightly less striking but cheaper example.

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This was fundamentally the same house as the one we saw last time except this one had the original layout (unconverted garage, kitchen and living room accessed by separate doors, 4 bedrooms with a small bathroom upstairs) intact. Unfortunately, the original warm air heating system was intact as well.

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Decor wise, the house was relatively neutral if a bit bland with all of the mid century features that characterise these houses slightly camouflaged under layers of off-white paint, beige carpets and 80s/90s-looking additions and renovations.

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The asking price was pretty fair – it wouldn’t have taken too much work to restore the house to its best – but we saw another property on the same day which turned our heads (more on that soon). As far as I’m aware, the house is still on the market.

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Ling’s Coppice, Dulwich SE23

Ling’s Coppice, Dulwich SE23
1960s terraced house with atrium
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1968

I’ve always admired Ling’s Coppice, a neat-looking 1960s housing estate in Dulwich made up of two-storey terraced houses notable for having double-height atrium-style dining areas (leading to them being locally referred to as “the atrium houses”).

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Forming part of the Dulwich Estate, the houses were built in 1968 by Austin Vernon and Partners in U-shaped terraces with gardens that opened onto communal landscaped amenity areas. Though a little outside of the price range we had originally envisioned, we decided to take a look at a particularly nice example of a house on the estate that had recently been reduced in price.

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Though I’d passed Ling’s Coppice many times on the bus, I’d never had the opportunity to have a wander around the estate properly. It was as nice as I’d expected – rows of immaculately kept houses and neatly trimmed retro-looking shrubs.

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The interior of the house that we viewed was, in short, spectacular. The entrance hall led straight into the double height dining area, which was flooded with light from a large square skylight overhead and overlooked by an upper-floor gallery. This led through to a living area, which opened out onto a small but well tended garden, and an open sided staircase. The current owners had converted the garage into a storage room and a substantial utility room (in my view, the ultimate indulgence).

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The upstairs was no less attractive, the upstairs gallery looking out over the dining area and branching off into two bedrooms on one side and a further bedroom and the bathroom on the other (the original layout had four bedrooms and a small bathroom but the current owners had traded the fourth, smallest bedroom for a more substantial bathroom, a worthy trade-off in my opinion).

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I was quite taken with this house, far more so than with any of the other properties I’d seen as part of my long running search (the only other property having the same effect on me was an Austin Vernon and Partners flat that I tried to buy about two years ago). This, however, was reflected in the price of the house, which I’m sure would be enough to buy a small mansion in Sutton.

We haven’t ruled out this house but have decided to keep looking at properties at the same price point to see what we can get if we are willing to stretch our budget to the absolute maximum.

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Feature in House Beautiful magazine, 1968 (courtesy of lingscoppice.org)

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Feature in House Beautiful magazine, 1968 and original floorplan (courtesy of lingscoppice.org)

Property search 2018 roundup

We started looking in earnest for a mid century house this year with a £600-700k budget and a south London location in mind. Here’s a roundup of the houses that we’ve seen (and haven’t bought) to date:

Victoria Drive, Southfields

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This sixties 3-bed end of terrace in Southfields looked promising from the photos – I liked the fact it had two adjoining reception rooms (the second one the result of an extension) and saw the pine panelled ceiling throughout the whole of the ground floor of the house as a selling point rather than an eyesore.

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Visiting the house in person, however, I wasn’t entirely sure about it. The £650k asking price was ok but we’d seen bigger places for the same price. The last time I checked, the house was still on the market and had been reduced to £625k.

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Topsham Road, Tooting

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This sixties 3-bed semi was extremely incongruous on a street of Victorian-era terraced houses near Tooting Bec underground station. I quite liked it from the outside, it was conveniently located and was very reasonably priced at around £640k but it was a bit dark and characterless inside and I felt too overwhelmed by the amount of work that would be needed to get it into a decent state. This clearly didn’t put off another buyer who bought it two days after our viewing.

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Kay Road, Clapham

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I suspected that this ultramodern house sandwiched between two Victorian properties on the Clapham/Stockwell border would be a bit small but went to along see it anyway because I was intrigued by the photos of a timber-cladded living room and Grand Designs-worthy facade.

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Built a couple of years ago on a tiny plot of land by the architect owners, the house was full of neat design touches including a lot of (much needed) built-in storage, skylights and unusual uses of materials.

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The house had an upside-down layout with two bedrooms and the bathroom on the ground floor and an open plan living area and kitchen on the first floor with a balcony spanning the length of the room. Despite the fact it was all very attractive (with a great view from the balcony of some brutalist towers), there wasn’t an awful lot of house for the £700k asking price.

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Reynard Drive, Crystal Palace

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Unlike the Kay Road house, this place had an abundance of space. Situated at the end of a row of terraced houses with unusual inverse pitched roofs in a quiet cul de sac near the Crystal Palace Triangle, the house had been extended to the side and had 4/5 bedrooms, a very large lounge, two bathrooms and a nice garden which led directly into woodland.

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All in all, while it needed a bit of work and the layout was a little odd owing to the way in which the extension had been tacked onto the side of the house, there was a lot there for the £700k asking price (reduced from £750k) and the number of interested buyers reflected this – there was a practically a queue to get in and it was snapped up the day after we went to see it.

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Augustus Road, Southfields

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Priced at £650k, this 3-storey sixties (or maybe seventies) townhouse was a little ugly from the outside but had four bedrooms and was in a decent location in Southfields. The fact that a more modernised but otherwise identical house in the same terrace was sold last year for around £100k more made this house seem like excellent value.

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Visiting it in person, however, it looked like it would be an £100k project to get it into a decent condition (we’re talking holes in the ceiling), which felt too ambitious given our limited experience renovating houses. The last I heard, the owners were taking it off the market to do some of the work to it themselves, most likely with a view to relisting it at a higher price.

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Balham Park Road, Balham

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Conveniently located (a few minutes’ walk from Balham tube down the side road next to Du Cane Court), this mid-century end of terrace house was a little boxy from the outside but was nicely proportioned and would have made for a manageable project if we’d gone for it. At £700k, however, it did seem rather expensive for what it was.

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Raleigh Court, Crystal Palace SE19

Raleigh Court, Crystal Palace SE19
Apartment block forming part of Dulwich Wood Park estate
Architect: Austin Vernon & Partners
Year built: 1959

I wasn’t planning to do a blog entry about this flat that we went to see in Raleigh Court last month (mainly because the photos I took were rubbish and dark) but I noticed the other day that it’d been reduced in price (click here to see the original listing with much better photos!) so thought it was worth a mention.

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As I’ve previously mentioned on this blog, I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to buy a flat on this estate on three separate occasions so I’m very familiar with the various issues associated with these flats and how good (and bad) they can look. This particular example wasn’t the best I’d seen but it wasn’t the worst either.

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Located on the second floor of Raleigh Court, it wasn’t on a high enough floor for it to have panoramic views but it was bright enough inside (even in the low early evening light) and didn’t face into one of the other blocks. It was relatively neutral decor-wise, retaining the original, open-plan layout that I’ve always liked and the original iroko floor in the main living area. The newish kitchen and bathroom were fine, if not exactly to my taste and the original 1960s hot air heating system that still features in a lot of flats on the estate had been replaced with a modern gas central heating system. The lease, sometimes a problem with flats on this estate, had been recently renewed and was of a decent length (around 120 years).

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I thought that the original asking price of £440k wasn’t too bad as I’ve seen flats of this type go for up to £475k on the estate at the height of the market. However, the stagnant property market appears to have caused prices to fall to mid-2015 levels as the seller recently reduced the price to £425k, the same price that a number of similar, slightly worse flats on the estate have gone for in recent months.

Unfortunately, my partner wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about these flats as I am so we didn’t put in an offer but I’d recommend going to see it if you like the estate, especially given the new price.

Exterior photos from The Modern House (because (i) it was getting dark when we had our viewing and (ii) it’s a really difficult building to photograph from the outside.