Football fever

The World Cup is in full swing in Germany but closer to home, as Arsenal sets the pace in the redevelopment league, buyers should ponder the benefits of living near football stadia, says Barney McCarthy

With the 2006 World Cup under way, football fever is set to envelop the nation for the next month, or possibly less if England makes its customary early exit after a contentious decision or the heartbreak of yet another penalty shoot-out defeat.

The media coverage in the build-up to the event has been such that Wayne Rooney’s fractured metatarsal has been front page news, pushing issues such as John Prescott’s latest scandal onto less important pages.

But while all attention will be focussed on Germany this summer there are football-related developments back home that should be of interest to anyone who operates in the housing market.

With land for development at a premium, particularly in built-up city areas, football stadia and their surrounding areas are offering novel redevelopment opportunities.

Beaten Champions League finalist Arsenal is moving to a new stadium this summer after spending 93 years at Highbury. The Emirates Stadium, situated at Ashburton Grove, is a stone’s throw from its previous ground and the move should bring substantial benefits to the local community.

Although the proposals for the new 60,000-seater ground were met with vehement opposition from Islington residents, the regeneration surrounding the stadium will create 2,500 homes, of which at least 25% will be affordable housing. There will also be a substantial amount of key worker housing. The stadium complex will create 2,600 jobs and transport links in the area have been improved.

As well as the housing made available by the construction of the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal’s old ground Highbury is set to be converted into flats. The pitch will become landscaped gardens and the stands will have properties built into them. Much of Highbury is listed because of its stunning Art Deco features so bulldozing the stadium and starting again is not an option.

With flats at The Stadium, Highbury Square starting at 290,000, the properties seem to be an option for well heeled Arsenal fans only.

In east London, another football-related development is taking place, albeit at a slightly smaller club. Leyton Orient, recently promoted to English football’s third tier, sold the corner plots of its Brisbane Road ground to developer Bellway Homes to generate funds in an attempt to secure the financial future of the club.

Although Leyton is not one of London’s most glamorous postcodes it provides easy access to the City and will probably benefit from the wider regeneration of east London ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games. The flats will also provide good views of the pitch, although only hardcore fans will be interested in purchasing property affording a view of League One football.

Perhaps the most high profile of the football-related housing construction programmes is the redevelopment of Wembley. Although the project has been beset by increasing costs, contractor disputes and lengthening delays, when the regeneration of the surrounding area is complete it will be one of the most significant developments in the London area in recent years. There are plans for more than 3,700 new houses, 40% of which will be affordable homes.

There will also be accommodation for 554 students, 90 nursing care bed spaces and 20 bed spaces for people with special needs.

More than 6,000 jobs will be created in addition to the 1,600 construction jobs generated by the project. There will be shops, restaurants, bars and community facilities alongside 678,000 square feet of office space. The transport infrastructure serving the area is also set to be enhanced.

Given that the proposed opening date for the stadium has been and gone and with the contractors not willing to confirm a finish date, it is probably wise not to hold your breath.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of living close to a football stadium? Along with the construction of new stadia or the redevelopment of existing ones are bound to come improvements that will benefit the local community and help proposals get past the planning stage, but when it comes to stadia that have remained the same for many years, are there any tangible benefits for those living in the shadow of the floodlights?

The most obvious advantage of living near a Premier League football stadium is high class sporting fare on your doorstep. While this may seem more like a dream for teenage fanatics rather than serious buyers, it is a consideration.

Tim May, regional sales director of haart, is clear that it is a factor.

“It means that when it comes to selling your property you have 40,000 potential buyers straight away,” he says.

May also contends that established stadia do not have a great effect on prices and on people’s decisions to buy in a particular area because they are already aware of a stadium’s presence when they are making their decisions. But new stadia are a different matter.

“Residents don’t like change in their area and there is a tremendous fear of the unknown,” he says. “Also, you have to factor in the disruption that will be a consequence of construction work which can take a couple of years.”

But once stadia are complete, May says the feeling towards them is positive and the regenerative impact they have is welcomed.

Another tangible benefit of high-rise developments in the vicinity of football stadia is the view they afford of the action. During last summer’s Ashes cricket series between England and Australia, a flat overlooking the Oval – where the final Test was held – was rented out for the last day’s play for a four-figure sum.

In terms of the teams that will make up next season’s Premier League it is no surprise that the team that has dominated affairs on the pitch in the past two season’s is also top of the pile when it comes to property prices in its immediate vicinity.

The average property in the SW6 postcode that is home to Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge is worth a staggering 667,500, while the Blues’ west London neighbour Fulham comes second in the price league with an average property price of more than 500,000.

Property in the N5 postcode that is home to Arsenal’s old and new stadia is worth an average of 368,900 although this may be distorted in future indices by the cost of the properties in the Highbury Square development.

Propping up the property premier league is Everton. The average price of property in the vicinity of Goodison Park is just 45,800, with Manchester City (47,000) and Liverpool (49,900) making up the house price relegation zone.

Many of the older grounds in England are right in the heart of the communities that the football clubs embody and can hardly be seen between the rows of the houses, whereas many newer stadia are built in out-of-town complexes because of the cheaper land available. This phenomenon of stadia located in built-up areas is pretty unique to the UK. Most continental clubs base themselves in less residential areas.

Miles Shipside, commercial director of Rightmove, says that while the regeneration of areas through football stadia being built or improved is undoubted, it isn’t the only factor.

“The conversion of Arsenal’s Highbury stadium is an excellent investment which means the area has quickly picked up,” he says. “Other factors which affect the housing market and must be considered include transport links, amenities and Council Tax.”

Yolande Barnes, head of research at Savills, says the regeneration of football stadia can help increase the values of surrounding areas but only in conjunction with wider improvements.

“The renewal and improvement of stadia can cause value uplifts but only if the populations of the areas involved can reap the benefits of improvements made,” she says. “It depends on the quality of the area to start with, but in the case of the Wembley redevelopment the whole area should be enhanced.”

Investing in property in areas that are set to benefit from redevelopment is a sure-fire way of seeing the price of your property rise, but only if you get in early.

Those who bought in the Stratford area of east London before the ann-ouncement was made that London will host the Olympics in 2012 have already seen marked increases in the value of their homes.

Although Chelsea tops the table both on the pitch and in terms of property values in the surrounding area, there doesn’t appear to be a direct correlation between teams’ performances and the desirability of local property.

According to figures from the Land Registry, properties in the West Ham postcode area have performed best with house prices increasing by 307% (see tables opposite). Although the beaten FA Cup finalist’s 2005/06 campaign was its best in recent years the club was relegated from the Premier League in 2003 and spent two years in the Championship. Another important consideration is that while homes in the area may have seen the biggest percentage price increase they are still not worth even half the average price of those in the Arsenal area.

By the same measure, if you compare the performance of property in the Chelsea and Sunderland stadia postcodes over the past year – bearing in mind that Chelsea won the league and Sunderland finished bottom of the pile with a record low number of points – the former rose by 3% while the latter saw a 17% increase. But the difference in prices is so vast as to make the statistic practically meaningless.

And when you compare house prices in the immediate areas surrounding football stadia to those of properties a bit further away, the difference is negligible.

As May points out, the positive influence a stadium has tends to be localised.

“The presence of a stadium is only likely to affect the streets directly surrounding the ground,” he says.

“It usually has a positive impact. People may argue there is the nuisance factor of having 40,000 fans streaming past your window but this only happens once a fortnight, so it’s not much of an issue.”

Mike Fitzgerald, sales director of Brentchase Financial Services, says some estate agents may look unfavourably on properties on the doorsteps of football grounds but living in the general vicinity of sporting stadia can only be a benefit.

“The area around the Millennium Stadium, as part of a wider redevelopment of the Cardiff Bay area, has had a dramatic effect on local house prices,” he says. “The effect isn’t limited to football stadia either. The redevelopment of England’s rugby stadium in Twickenham including the construction of a hotel is bound to see house prices in the area rise.”

Fitzgerald adds that the cachet for football fans living near the stadium of the team they support cannot be underestimated.

“Football clubs know that if properties become available near their grounds fans will want to snap them up. Similarly, several supermarket developments in the South-East are incorporating flats into their construction. It means there is an immediate supply of potential customers.”

All in all, it seems that the many benefits of living near football stadia outweigh the minor inconvenience of hordes of fans making their way to the ground once a fortnight.

Public transport and the amenities in the local area have to be adequate to handle the additional match day traffic and this means they are often more than convenient for people living in the area.

With a number of new-build apartments popping up around London and the South-East, those situated near football stadia or on the site of old grounds have special selling points that the contractors can lure potential buyers with.

The performance of clubs does not appear to have a massive impact on the prices in the immediate areas surrounding stadia, but if England put in a good performance in Germany and bring home the trophy, a house in the Wembley area – home to the world champions’ stadium – would certainly have a ring to it.

Arsenal move is likely to be first of many
Kevin Duffy is managing director of Hamptons Mortgages

After a 93-year residency at Highbury, Arsenal FC has just relocated a goal-kick away to Ashburton Grove where, partly thanks to a sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines, a 60,000-seater stadium has been built.

Living close to football stadia is pretty unique to this country and explains why the game has always had a strong grass roots appeal. Our football teams are part of their local communities, despite the construction of several out-of-town stadia recently. The intimacy between football grounds and the Victorian dwellings that surround them can put many buyers off. But in Arsenal’s case there are compelling reasons for bucking this trend.

Even before a brick was laid at Ashburton Grove, property inflation in London’s N5 postcode was rampant. Our office in Islington is the Thierry Henry of our network simply because property there is generally of solid Victorian and Edwardian structure, with the City of London walkable in 25 minutes. It has long been the quarter of choice for politicians including Tony Blair, legal eagles and luvvies from the arts world. Well known Arsenal fans include Clive Anderson, Roger Daltrey, Dido and Melvyn Bragg.

Hamptons was privileged to secure the agency instruction on the Arsenal development, branded Vizion7. This comprises a whopping 467 units of which 50 are for shared ownership. Features include a 24-hour concierge, a gymnasium and landscaped gardens. Since off-plan marketing started 12 months ago values have increased by 15%. Rental yields are consistently between 5% and 6% so a meaningful proportion of buyers are investors who see the area as a long-term prospect, particularly if Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger continues to produce entertaining and winning formations of his own.

Holloway Road is the development’s nearest station. This is two stops from Kings Cross which will be just one stop from Paris from 2007 – although this year the team had to go via Madrid, Turin and Villareal before arriving at Gare Du Nord for the Champions League final.

But the transition is not without pathos. What makes our national sport so emotional is that it reflects the societies that spawned it. Anyone who has ever been to grounds like Upton Park, Anfield or Sunderland’s old stadium at Roker Park will know what I mean. Row upon row of houses that would not be out of place in Get Carter or The Likely Lads. But time marches on and if the aspirations of football clubs and property buyers are to be realised, projects such as Arsenal’s will be repeated in other crowded conurbations where demand for both match tickets and living space outstrips supply.

West Ham tops the table for rising house prices in the past 10 years
Alex Barnett is spokesman at Halifax Estate Agents

In the past 10 years, properties in the West Ham area have performed best with house prices increasing by 307%. But further north, properties around Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium have not fared as well with house prices increasing by 95% – the lowest rise of all the Premiership clubs.

Arsenal may have ended the season well above Aston Villa but the Midlands team is way ahead of its London rival when it comes to house prices, with properties in the Birmingham area seeing a huge increase of 182% over the past five years. Homes around Highbury saw a more modest 35% rise.

Chelsea and Sunderland may be poles apart in the Premiership with the London side looking down at the last place team from top spot, but in the past year house prices in the postcode area of Sunderland’s Stadium of Light increased by more than five times those near Stamford Bridge (17% and 3% respectively).

Only four of the 20 Premiership clubs’ areas have house prices above the national average of 189,698, all in London (Chelsea – 196,304, Arsenal – 341,869, Charlton – 210,285 and Fulham – 487,404).

The teams that finished in the top two positions have seen house price rises of more than 200% in the past 10 years with Chelsea recording a rise of 223% and Manchester United 251%. While players in the Premiership have been busy performing on the pitch, house prices near their home grounds have also been performing and some have risen significantly. But footballing success does not always equal success where property prices are concerned. House prices at some clubs at the bottom of the table outperformed some in the top five between 2004 and 2005.