Its Neighbours Bombed or Razed—the Last in a Row of Thames-Front Townhouses Heads to Auction
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Its Neighbours Bombed or Razed—the Last in a Row of Thames-Front Townhouses Heads to Auction

By LIZ LUCKING
Tue, Feb 21, 2023 8:39amGrey Clock 2 min

A unique riverside home in London with panoramic views of some of the city’s most famous landmarks is headed to auction on March 1.

The property, directly on the River Thames in Rotherhithe and overlooking Tower Bridge, The Shard and Canary Wharf, will go under the hammer with a guide price of £1.5 million (US$1.8 million) with estate agency Savills.

Today, the detached home, known locally as The Leaning Tower of Rotherhithe stands unusually isolated in jam-packed London, but that wasn’t always the case.

The industrial-style, waterfront residence was once part of a row of buildings, and is the last remaining after its neighbours were destroyed by bombs in World War II or sold off and demolished over the years, according to Savills.

As well as its streak of luck, its history also includes a stint as the office of Braithwaite & Dean, a barge company, and as the home of one of the infamous Mitford sisters. The sibling aristocrats became well-known for their contrary political views. The Times newspaper once described them as “Diana the Fascist; Jessica the Communist; Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur.”

It was Jessica, the Communist, who called this place home from 1937 to 1939, along with her husband, Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchill’s nephew.

The house “presents a rare opportunity to acquire a one-of-a-kind riverside property which is a well-known landmark in the local area,” Steven Morish of Savills Auctions said in a statement.

“Offering 180-degree uninterrupted views of many of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including Tower Bridge, and with approximately 2,131 square feet of accommodation over four floors, this is without doubt one of the most unique properties to come to auction in recent years,” he added.

The property, according to the listing, is a “complete blank canvas spread.”

The sellers have called the building home for 28 years, according to Savills. They reportedly first occupied the whole building, but now rent the top two floors and use the bottom two as a live/work space.



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Stronger demand in some areas is pushing unit rents up faster than houses

By Bronwyn Allen
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Renters are returning to the apartment market, leading to higher growth in weekly rents for units than houses over the past year, according to REA data. As workers return to their corporate offices, tenants are coming back to the inner city and choosing apartment living for its affordability.

This is a reversal of the pandemic trend which saw many renters leave their inner city units to rent affordable houses on the outskirts. Working from home meant they did not have to commute to the CBD, so they moved into large houses in outer areas where they could enjoy more space and privacy.

REA Group economic analyst Megan Lieu said the return to apartment living among tenants began in late 2021, when most lockdown restrictions were lifted, and accelerated in 2022 after Australia’s international border reopened.

Following the reopening of offices and in-person work, living within close proximity to CBDs has regained importance,” Ms Lieu said.Units not only tend to be located closer to public transport and in inner city areas, but are also cheaper to rent compared to houses in similar areas. For these reasons, it is unsurprising that units, particularly those in inner city areas, are growing in popularity among renters.

But the return to work in the CBD is not the only factor driving demand for apartment rentals. Rapidly rising weekly rents for all types of property, coupled with a cost-of-living crisis created by high inflation, has forced tenants to look for cheaper accommodation. This typically means compromising on space, with many families embracing apartment living again. At the same time, a huge wave of migration led by international students has turbocharged demand for unit rentals in inner city areas, in particular, because this is where many universities are located.

But it’s not simply a demand-side equation. Lockdowns put a pause on building activity, which reduced the supply of new rental homes to the market. People had to wait longer for their new houses to be built, which meant many of them were forced to remain in rental homes longer than expected. On top of that, a chronic shortage of social housing continued to push more people into the private rental market. After the world reopened, disrupted supply chains meant the cost of building increased, the supply of materials was strained, and a shortage of labour delayed projects.

All of this has driven up rents for all types of property, and the strength of demand has allowed landlords to raise rents more than usual to help them recover the increased costs of servicing their mortgages following 13 interest rate rises since May 2022. Many applicants for rentals are also offering more rent than advertised just to secure a home, which is pushing rental values even higher.

Tenants’ reversion to preferring apartments over houses is a nationwide trend that has led to stronger rental growth for units than houses, especially in the capital cities, says Ms Lieu. “Year-on-year, national weekly house rents have increased by 10.5 percent, an increase of $55 per week,” she said.However, unit rents have increased by 17 percent, which equates to an $80 weekly increase.

The variance is greatest in the capital cities where unit rents have risen twice as fast as house rents. Sydney is the most expensive city to rent in today, according to REA data. The house rent median is $720 per week, up 10.8 percent over the past year. The apartment rental median is $650 per week, up 18.2 percent. In Brisbane, the median house rent is $600 per week, up 9.1 percent over the past year, while the median rent for units is $535 per week, up 18.9 percent. In Melbourne, the median house rent is $540 per week, up 13.7 percent, while the apartment median is $500 per week, up 16.3 percent.

In regional markets, Queensland is the most expensive place to rent either a house or an apartment. The house median rent in regional Queensland is $600 per week, up 9.1 percent year-onyear, while the apartment median rent is $525, up 16.7 percent.

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