On Crystal Palace Road in East Dulwich, there’s a new resident: Albus Dumbledog. He’s the golden retriever puppy that Cat Hughes and Kieran Holmes-Darby, a couple in their twenties, bought last month — and one reason for their recent move to this area of south London.
“It got to the point where a one-bedroom flat wasn’t big enough, and we’d saved up some money with some help from the family so were looking around London for a two-bed with a private garden because we wanted to get a dog,” says Holmes-Darby, who moved with Hughes one month ago from Crouch End in north London.
Sitting just south-east of Brixton, Dulwich has excellent schools and an urban village environment — spacious period houses, woods, parks and even a golf club — which have given it a timeless appeal to those looking to settle down, upsize and have a slice of countryside life while keeping one foot in the big city.
In the third quarter of 2020, the average property price in Dulwich was £815,229, up 7 per cent from the end of 2019, according to Land Registry data. The Countrywide group, which owns Hamptons International and other agents, says it has sold 65 per cent more homes in Dulwich in 2020 than in 2019, largely thanks to a summer boom: between July and September, sales were up 100 per cent, but have dropped since.
“It’s so popular at the moment because we’ve seen this real need for a sense of community — a high street and outside space,” says Caspar Harvard-Walls, partner at buying agent Black Brick. “People want to be a part of the area they’re moving to. They want to know people on their high street — who the butcher is, say hi to the guy they get their coffee from.”
Mel Carter, head of Dulwich sales for Hamptons, says a number of buyers had been considering areas like Clapham, but switched to Dulwich for something “a bit more rural” after being cooped up over lockdown. The prime spot is Dulwich Village, with its white wooden fingerpost signs and enormous Georgian mansions.
Neighbouring East Dulwich attracts a slightly younger crowd, as more of the homes are smaller terraced houses or flats, and its organic grocery stores and cafés adjoin the buzzier Peckham.
While those spending millions for homes in the village are unlikely to be greatly affected by the UK’s stamp-duty holiday — saving buyers up to £15,000 — for Holmes-Darby and Hughes, it helped offset the cost of an extra bedroom and a garden for Albus Dumbledog.
“Being in lockdown in a one-bedroom flat without a garden made us really realise we do need more space, and the stamp-duty holiday really accelerated the process because it made it more financially viable,” says Holmes-Darby.
Many move to Dulwich so their children can attend its top public and state schools. But Sam Lloyd, a 25-year-old hockey player, needed to be close to them for a different reason — his girlfriend is a teacher at Alleyn’s, one of several well-regarded private schools, including Dulwich College and James Allen’s Girls’ School.
Lloyd, originally from Derbyshire, says it’s a “nice halfway house” between the countryside and the rest of London. “Dulwich is more hectic, obviously, than Derbyshire but it’s got a proper village feel about it, so it’s the best of both worlds.”
That village feel is largely maintained by the Dulwich Estate, a charity set up in 1619 that owns 1,500 acres of land and controls development in the area. “There’s a terrific shortage of property in Dulwich,” says Gareth Martin of Harvey & Wheeler, an independent agent. “There’s been a little bit of building but not a huge amount, and you’ve got these huge green spaces that will probably never be built on.”
One recent change has ruffled feathers in the village, however. To increase space for pedestrians and reduce air pollution, Southwark council has closed some residential cut-through roads, as well as the junction between Calton Avenue and Court Lane in Dulwich Village.
While some approve, others say it is a nuisance that increases congestion on already busy roads and has left some residents spending hours taking the long route round to access residential roads near the closure. “I have had one or two people saying I don’t want to be in that location because of the road closure,” says Carter, who’s hoping the scheme is disbanded.
Road closures aside, activity in the local market has slowed, with England in its third national lockdown and the stamp-duty holiday due to end in March. By the end of 2020, the average price in Dulwich was £816,418, only marginally up on the third quarter, according to Hamptons’ Land Registry data.
“It’s by no means dead but it’s perhaps a little quieter than we’d expect at this time of year,” says Carter. “Maybe a lot of people just don’t want to look at houses at the moment, they feel that it’s just not appropriate and they’d rather wait till after the vaccine,” she adds.
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