First-time home buyer in Acton, London: Zone 2/3 district with good-value property, great transport links and huge investment on the horizon
Back in the 18th century, Acton was the weekend getaway of choice for wealthy Londoners looking for fresh air and pastoral pursuits. Today it is regarded as a sprawling no man’s land crammed somewhere between Shepherd’s Bush, Chiswick and Ealing.
However, billions of pounds of investment is on its way with a promised transformation that will include the regeneration of council estates and the repurposing of everything from civic buildings to DIY stores. Thousands of new homes will be the result.
Its existing brilliant transport links and relative affordability — given its location on the cusp of Zones 2 and 3 — make Acton an obvious choice for first-time buyers in search of a good deal on a new-build flat, and for family upsizers looking for more space and value for money.
“Because Acton is bang in the middle of everywhere, people tend to get on the bus for five or 10 minutes and do their shopping in Chiswick or Ealing,” says Harry Hammonds, senior sales manager at Aston Rowe estate agents. “In the evenings you are more likely to jump on a train and go into London.”
The area’s biggest changes are happening at the South Acton Estate. Since 2012, housebuilders L&Q and Countryside have been working on turning the post-war concrete jungle into Acton Gardens. They will spend £600 million on building 3,300 new homes, almost half of which will be lower-cost, aimed at renters and priced-out London buyers.
Acton Gardens: a new urban village
The 52-acre estate, once a byword for drugs, crime and gangs, is being turned into a new “urban village” that will eventually be home to about 8,000 people, with shops, offices and open space. Almost half the homes are already complete or under construction and the first Acton Gardens residents moved in during 2013. A one-bedroom flat starts at £410,000, with two-bedroom flats from £550,000. Countryside is offering to pay the stamp duty, legal fees and removal costs on selected homes, and Help to Buy London is available.
Ealing council granted permission in December for 1,950 more homes at Acton Gardens, plus shops, offices, allotments and open space. Some 200 homes will be built this year, and the entire site is set to complete in 2027.
This most recent application met with some controversy because it involves the demolition of Nelson Mandela House — real name Harlech Tower — home to Del Boy, Rodney and Uncle Albert in the vintage TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Sir David Jason, who played lovable rogue Del Boy Trotter, voiced opposition to the proposal, describing the tower as a landmark.
New homes in East Acton
Western Circus in East Acton: by Barratt London, will offer 364 homes and ground-floor shops
Barratt London is about to start work on another 364 homes for Acton, on the site of a defunct Homebase store in Western Avenue, East Acton. About a third of the homes, in low-rise blocks with ground-floor shops, will be lower cost. Preparation work at Western Circus is under way, and construction is due to start next month. The first homes will be completed by 2021.
Also in Western Avenue, in the pipeline are plans for a 42-storey tower by Kohn Pedersen Fox architects, more usually associated with lavish central London schemes. The skyscraper is being proposed for a site now occupied by a Holiday Inn, and an application, with space for flats, offices and a new hotel, is expected to be lodged later this year.
The Crossrail effect on Acton
Almost a third of all the Acton homes on the market at the moment are new build as developers large and small flock to invest in the Crossrail effect. In Warple Way, close to the eastern boundary with Shepherd’s Bush, Long Island House is the swish development of a former Art Deco office building into loft-style flats. The largest, a three-bedroom penthouse, is for sale with Savills for £1.95 million.
Half a mile from Acton Central station, two-bedroom flats at Acton Square by Bellway Homes start at £574,995
Overall, Acton prices are inching upwards in a difficult market. According to Rightmove, the average price in W3 stands at £535,000, up £20,000 in the past two years.
What to do in Acton
While the price differential is impressive, what Acton lacks is much to do. This rambling suburb is one of London’s largest, covering almost 18 square miles. But though it was the birthplace of Waitrose in 1913, this early retail promise has yet to be fulfilled.
Its main shopping street is a dreary strip of pound stores, estate agents and bookies. However, the Oaks Shopping Centre is getting a £135 million facelift, due to complete this year with more shops, a gym and 178 flats. Anchor tenants signed up so far include Wilko, Lidl and M&S Simply Food, suggesting it will be useful rather than interesting.
Buying in Acton
Callum Sims and his girlfriend Cydney Paupiah decided to buy a home together after having what he now describes as a “light bulb moment”. They calculated how much they were spending renting a flat in Chiswick and realised they could afford to buy their own home instead.
Acton is changing: new independent coffee shops are arriving, says Callum Sims (Tim Anderson)
House hunting led them to the slightly less trendy but certainly more affordable Acton and in September last year Callum, 28, and Cydney, 25, moved into a two-bedroom flat at Acton Gardens along with their mini dachshund Hugo.
Using Help to Buy they needed to put down a £30,000 deposit on their £600,000 home, and a combination of a Government loan and a mortgage took care of the rest.
Callum, 28, is a chartered accountant, while Cydney, 25, is a business consultant and they find their mortgage easy to manage, while they were able to cover their deposit with savings.
“We saw that there was a lot of investment going on in Acton and we wanted to jump on the bandwagon,” says Callum, who says he has discovered some good neighbourhood restaurants in the area. The couple also often go out in nearby Chiswick.
“Even over the past 18 months we have noticed it really change. There are new independent coffee shops and some of the ugly buildings are being replaced by modern flats.”