Life is returning to the Docklands property market

Nowhere gratifies the spirit of the property doom-mongerers like Docklands &ndash; loaded as it is with architectural emblems of the boom years; a development graveyard of flats left empty as banks fell and buyers took fright. In other words, a homebuyers&rsquo; nightmare.<br /><br />This, however, is proving an unfairly dim view to take. Charlie Fisher, sales manager at Savills&rsquo; Wapping office, says: &ldquo;There has been a feeling of nervous anticipation in Docklands area, what with people losing their jobs and fears about repossessions. There has been some of that but not nearly at the levels that the pessimists have been expecting.&rdquo;<br /><br />The market is coming back to life but, for now, there are still plenty of good deals. Fisher says: &ldquo;We&rsquo;re certainly seeing a lot more activity in terms of buyers coming back to the market. There have been good deals out there but they&rsquo;re going quickly. Properties that are now selling within a week or two used to be selling in months.&rdquo;<br /><br />The time is ripe to make a smart buy before the market recovers. Examples include a flat under offer in the Naxos Building for &pound;895,000 &ndash; the price-tag four years ago was &pound;1.25m. Or a two-bed warehouse conversion at Telford Yard in Wapping &ndash; now on for &pound;650,000 but it would have been over &pound;800,000 at the peak of the market. In general, prices have dropped 10-20 per cent since 2005. But while last year buyers were hoping to get 20 or 30 per cent off the asking price, now between two and ten per cent is realistic.<br /><br />Narrow Street in Limehouse is as popular as ever and pricing has evened off, but Limehouse is still cheaper than Canary Wharf or Wapping. Fisher says you can pick up lovely two bed on the river for under &pound;500,000: &ldquo;a year or two ago that wouldn&rsquo;t have been possible anywhere.&rdquo; There&rsquo;s added value from the area becoming one of London&rsquo;s foodie hotspots &ndash; Gordon Ramsay has been joined by many exciting newcomers: Jamie Oliver&rsquo;s Jamie&rsquo;s Italian and Roka are due to open in Canary Wharf in the autumn.<br /><br />Developments in some areas such as West India Quay and St Katharine&rsquo;s Dock haven&rsquo;t seen any fall in prices at all, particularly in the &pound;2m and above bracket. Fisher says there have actually been record offers on penthouses in the last month in St Katharine&rsquo;s Dock. &ldquo;The vast majority of properties are going to people who already own places,&rdquo; he says, indicating the strength of the appeal for those looking to bulk up investment portfolios.<br /><br />Investors should expect around 4 per cent yield on their properties &ndash; Fisher says that&rsquo;s about what&rsquo;s being achieved in Docklands properties: a penthouse in St Katharine&rsquo;s should earn about &pound;1250 a week and in West India Quay, &pound;700 per week.<br /><br />Buy now or forever hold your peace.<br /><br /><strong>BASIN APPROACH, LIMEHOUSE</strong><br />&pound;2.1m<br />Penthouse occupying the entire top floor of the development; lots of outside space with great London views. <br />Contact Knight Frank on 020 7512 9955<br /><br /><strong>APOLLO BUILDING, CANARY WHARF</strong><br />&pound;795,000<br />Three-bedroom duplex penthouse with river views in a portered block.<br />Contact Knight Frank on 020 7512 9955<br /><br /><strong>COLD HARBOUR, CANARY WHARF</strong><br />&pound;995,000<br />Five bed townhouse with superb views and a conservatory.<br />Contact Foxtons on 020 7133 7777<br /><br /><strong>TELFORDS YARD, WAPPING</strong><br />&pound;650,000<br />Two-bedroom warehouse <br />conversion.<br />Contact Savills on 020 7456 6805<br /><br /><strong>COMMERCIAL WHARF, LIMEHOUSE</strong><br />&pound;1.5m<br />Luxuriously finished three-bedroom flat set on the riverbank in the heart of Limehouse.<br />Contact Foxtons on 020 7133 7777