A Property Investment Guide by a Singaporean living in London

I went on a Woolwich Arsenal site visit organised by one of London’s largest developers, Berkeley Homes last week. This visit and site tour was organised by a department within Berkeley called the “Sustainability” department, to ensure local key government stakeholders including Councillors, Architects and Housing Association members were engaged during the development process. The tour started off at 5pm in the evening aboard a specially chartered Thames Clipper departing from Westminister Pier.

A high speed clipper along the river Thames

The host of the night, Historian Ian Bull explained the Woolwich Arsenal’s heritage as a key gun and ammunition manufacturing site, servicing the World War One war effort. In those days before 1914, the huge site had its own internal railway system and employed 80,000 workers, many of who were women who were called upon to serve their country while the men were away overseas at war, and worked for the first time out of the home.

A presentation on the history of Woolwich Arsenal in WWI.

Upon arrival to the Woolwich Arsenal Pier, we were escorted to the Greenwich Heritage Center, which serves as a museum dedicated to the history of Royal Borough of Greenwich. One unique feature of this museum is the service it provides which allows visitors to research the family history of Greenwich’s residents who served during WWI, and leave messages honouring their names on our war memorials.

Networking and drinks at the Greenwich Heritage Center

After a short talk and presentation by the Chairman of the Berkeley Group, Tony Pidgley, we were lead onto short walking tours which took us around the area, curently being redeveloped for housing and community use with over 2,000 new housing units to be released as part of Berkeley Home’s Woolwich Royal Arsenal Riverside Development. .During our walk around the area, residents of ‘The Warehouse’, one of the first housing blocks to be completed, were sitting on their balconies enjoying the fresh air and warmth of a summer evening. Some friendly residents even stopped to wave at our group as we passed by!

‘The Warehouse’, a completed development in Woolwich Arsenal by Berkeley Homes.

While the Royal Arsenal is certainly a very pleasant neighbourhood and relatively close to London city, would I consider it a good place to invest in? Here’s my take on the pros and cons of this area:

PROs: – Potential for capital appreciation

Compared to established areas in the West such as Chelsea and Kensington, regeneration sites such as Woolwich Arsenal are in the process of being developed, which means the investor who gets in early will reap the benefits of capital appreciation once local communities are established and the neighbourhood acquires a “trendy” status

– Historic Heritage For a buy-to-let investor, the appeal to a local market must be considered, as many British people want to live in areas which have a historical significance rather than ‘cookie cutter’ new build flats. Woolwich Arsenal will certainly check this box, and the conservation of several historical buildings in the neighbourhood certainly adds to its charm.

– CrossRail With the completion of the CrossRail by late 2018, residents in Woolwich Arsenal will be able to reach Canary Wharf in 8 Minutes and Bond Street in 15 minutes. This means investors will be able to tap a rental market of not only financial industry workers but also a much broader audience to those in the City.

CONS: – Prices are no longer low

With the announcement of the CrossRail station to stop in Woolwich Arsenal, prices have risen accordingly and Woolwich Arsenal is no longer considered a ‘bargain’. In fact, a 3-bedroom flat is currently listed for £635,000 on Rightmove.

– Remaining Safety Concerns around Woolwich Arsenal

As the area is still undergoing regeneration, safety is still a concern and I would be concerned about walking home from the DLR station after dark.

Recent examples of violent crime include the high profile stabbing case of a British army soldier and left to die along the road in broad daylight. Certainly living in Woolwich Arsenal is not for the faint hearted… or anyone adverse to a more diverse community. Woolwich Arsenal in Greenwich has one of the largest rich vs poor gaps, where a family of Somali refugees with 6 kids could be cramped in a one bedroom flat in the next street over, quite another world away from your £1 million new-build lofty penthouse overlooking the Thames river.

With all this in mind, would you consider investing in Woolwich Arsenal? If not, what other areas in London would you consider instead? Leave your comments and let me know!

Comments (19)

  1. James Young said on 02-07-2014

    Have been looking at London properties for a while and this is the most detailed analysis I’ve seen for Woolwich Arsenal. Thanks!

    • harnho said on 02-07-2014

      Thanks James, do let me know if there are any further areas you’ll like to see us feature in the WalkingProperty blog!

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