georgecparker

Wansteadium’s property blogger George C Parker writes:

During the bubble years, many speculators seemed to forget that a house is first and foremost a place to live. Nowadays it seems people are buying houses for the ‘right reasons’, and are more inclined to improve or extend them as their requirements change. For those planning a Spring project, now is a good time to be researching recommendations from friends and neighbours. Never be shy to ask! People seem to like discussing domestic construction work – it is one of those engrossing and emotive subjects like surviving a plane crash, or live-donating an organ.

When we extended the current Parker Towers into the loft space, several of our neighbours were extremely generous with their time and advice, passing on invaluable “dos”, “don’ts” and “not with a bargepoles”. Naturally these discussions took place in convivial surroundings, which always helps. To paraphrase the advert: Smoothing out the design, planning (if you’re in one of our Conservation Areas) and actual build experiences over a friendly g&t – priceless!

Perfect information
The very observant among you might have noticed that the Wansteadium top brass have been trying out something new in the line of property information. We’ve had it hidden away a bit, but from today, and thanks to our chums at Nestoria, we are offering you on our front page an up-to-date list, with pictures, of houses and flats on the market in Wanstead. For those of us who are mildly obsessive about the subject it is a bit like crack. I hope you enjoy it all as much as I have – any reactions welcome – georgecparker@wansteadium.com should reach me just fine.

Popcorn
Congratulations to local cineaste Helmie Stil! The silver screen is a passion of mine, and I’ve enjoyed discovering Helmie’s blossoming career online

Maybe one year Wanstead will support its own Film festival – possibly outdoors like the Stella Screen events – who knows?! George Green I’m looking at you!

Anyway, as our latest auteur continues to garner awards and critical acclaim, I’m beginning to wonder if the pavement outside the former Kinema should be inset with golden stars and cemented hand prints.

Pride of place would go to local lad Alfred Hitchcock. Mike Leigh also shot Another Year in Aldersbrook, as hardened readers will remember.

And late intelligence reaches me that movie scouts are going round some of the model 1930s semis on the Nightingale Estate, looking for a house to set a new film in. In my humble opinion, they’re nice enough roads round there – some houses still look perfectly preserved as 1930s examples, though low interest rates are leading to many a loft conversion. It’s not quite the Counties, naturally, but can feel like a slice of pure England there. I shall furnish you with more information about the film as I get it.

Harking back a couple of years, my erstwhile golfing buddy Robert Mitchum used Wanstead Park in his 1977 vehicle “The Big Sleep”. SeventiesRatPack.com!

I suppose I could say the movie looks dated now, but then its director might pass the same comment back at me! Michael Winner, Joan Collins, Edward Fox and Oliver Reed in Wanstead – those were the days. The High Street was like the Kings Road that golden summer. Of course it would be indiscreet of me to recall if Ollie had the odd skinful in the George, or if Winner was obnoxious to any local restaurateurs! Maybe I’d reveal all in Helmie’s next blockbuster biography of a Wanstead property tycoon and blogger …

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Wansteadium’s property blogger George C Parker offers his regular round-up.

The opulent Stratford City Westfield is coming, and I think it may bring a touch of retail therapy to the Wanstead property market.
Although the organisers of Tuesday’s opening ceremony were not able to secure my services in time, they were very wise to install Pussycat Nicole at short notice – she will be a most adequate stand in. Shortly before noon, amidst great pomp, the front doors will glide noiselessly asunder, ushering in a new realm of stores and attractions – all a mere three miles from our doorstep. I’m sure I’ll be along to visit shortly, be it to check out the sensible cardigans at the John Lewis, show the youngsters a thing or two about ten-pin at the All Star Lanes, or perhaps take the current Mrs Parker to the movies. Doubtless our local estate agents will be name-dropping Westfield at every opportunity now.

Some might say that Westfield’s emergence may be the re-making of Wanstead High Street. The village atmosphere that many of us appreciate, and would like to develop further, is a delicate and sometimes elusive mixture. Perhaps the emergence of this brash newcomer to the West, with its stark branding and chain outlets might counterpose the quieter and greener environs we enjoy closer to home. If it encourages more specialist small shops, eateries, perhaps a gallery or some studios to set up in the near future, then Wanstead benefits both ways.

* Multiple occupancy of property has been getting a bad name recently. Especially when large numbers of squatters are involved!

According to the resurgent Wanstead Guardian Redbridge Council are reviewing their legislative options on this hot topic. Spokesmen talk earnestly of preserving a village atmosphere by ensuring that any future applications for ‘homes in multiple occupation’ are less likely to be approved.

Fortunately the vast majority of Wanstead properties are used and cherished as family homes, but it’s good to hear that such bases are being covered. Perhaps at the end of the discussions there may be time for the Planning and Regeneration committee to discuss enforcing a solution to the site of the former High Street chocolate shop! That would be a great welcome to the incoming restaurateurs on the site of the former Russell’s Bar.

* One of Wanstead’s most distinguished properties is the splendid, Grade II-listed The Shrubbery. Comprising of three elegant blocks, some of the 42 apartments in this 1935 Art Deco gem boast original features such as the tiled fireplaces and beautiful wood block flooring. Now beloved of senior Wansteadians due to its excellent access to the High Street and Christchurch Green, the Shrubbery is also only a short dash to the diversions of the Library and Wanstead House. A dear departed old aunt of mine lived through the latter part of her dotage there, and loved the ‘dolls-house’ fitted kitchens that they originally came with. You could almost imagine Q himself designing the near-lethal folding out ironing board contraption. This ground-floor apartment would be an ideal base for someone who wants to be near the centre of town – perhaps near relatives – without the worry of managing a house or even using the stairs. With a garage included in the price, this seems a wonderful way to continue enjoying Wanstead life.

Summertime – and the living’s easy, or so Gershwin would have it.

However, busy estate agents would probably beg to differ, as they try to unite growing families with their dream property during the school summer holidays.

You’ve probably noticed the late flowering of signboards peeping over gateposts in the streets of Wanstead over the past few weeks (three visible in this photo, below, in Cowley Road alone). For the agent, the viewing days are longer, the list of potential buyers swells, and of course people disappear off on holiday at various crucial stages of the dreaded ‘chain’.

But on the positive side, houses certainly sell better when it’s warm; open windows and sunny gardens sell the property better than any sales chatter.

It also certainly helps that people moving just a short distance to gain that extra room or garden space often have a good idea of what they are looking for. Friendships, schools, kids sports and activities clubs, not to mention the convenience of commuting are all very comfortable habits once acquired.

With that kind of buyer in mind, I particularly liked the cut of this Sylvan Road property priced at £549k, and on sale with Petty Son and Prestwich. Five bedrooms means the place could comfortably accommodate a large family, with perhaps a spare room devoted to visitors or home working.

Better still there’s an entire basement floor in which the teenage members of the brood could avoid their elders. The downside – it’s close enough to Snaresbrook station to smell young Dan’s excellent coffee. This does seem fairly reflected in the price, and it’s worth bearing in mind that one’s inner ear soon gets used to reassuring, regular rail noise. I’d just turn the Gershwin up to 11…

First rung on the the ladder

Renting in the capital has probably never been more expensive, and mortgage deposits have rarely been so high. Mortgage lenders are beginning to re-introduce reasonable first-timer rates into the wild, but are girding their profits via ever chubbier fees. It’s a very frustrating situation for those hoping to save enough to enter the property market, especially in more desirable areas.

All hope is not lost: for those looking to fly the nest, or perhaps the landlord, here is an interesting starter apartment with attractive outdoor space (Selsdon Road, for £220k). I also like how well the vendor has marketed this towards couples – counterposing the yin (attractive interiors for her) with the yang (a natty little shed for him). Good luck to all who sail in her.

Pax Wansteadia

During the recent period of urban unrest, Wanstead was well protected. Winston Churchill glared from his perch across our High Street as ere he did in days of yore. The danger was met and passed with no resort to his ‘We will fight them on the beaches’ (updated for 2011 with references to the Co-Op, the Larder, or even one of the tanning parlours).

Since a number of our cherished local traders were requested to close early by Police, I’ve made sure to show them my continued support and appreciation. As Mrs Parker noted this week, I’ve been particularly appreciative and supportive of the barbecue skewers from AG Dennis – heaven – though each time I’ve forgotten to ask whether or not they missed out on any trading hours. Perhaps next time I pop in ..

Any property spots tickle your fancy? Let George know; georgecparker@wansteadium.com