From Bob Hope’s futuristic home to David Frost’s Hampshire mansion, 2013 was when the housing market finally recovered. We look back on a year of amazing properties and eye-watering prices…

The great property lottery: highs and lows of 2013!

From Bob Hope’s futuristic home to David Frost’s Hampshire mansion, 2013 was when the housing market finally recovered. We look back on a year of amazing properties and eye-watering prices..

It seems like a long time since homeowners celebrated Christmas in such fine spirits. British house prices were rising faster this autumn than at any time since 2010. With the economy starting to recover, and the new Governor of the Bank of England playing a blinder, there were grounds for cautious optimism. There have even been a few crumbs of comfort for first-time buyers, too.

In general, it has been a year of extraordinary highs and lows. The top of the market has never been higher, and the bottom never lower, with a new-build home in Hampstead fetching a record £50million. Meanwhile, a woman is living in a house that cost just £150 to build.

There are always winners and losers in the great property lottery, and 2013 has been no exception.

The year’s winners include the Beckhams, actress-turned-landlord Fiona Fullerton, an obscure suburb of Birmingham and the Californian estate of the late Bob Hope. Losers include Hong Kong, where prices have fallen, and some first-time buyers, who despite Help to Buy are still finding it difficult to get on the ladder. Here are the highlights from a roller-coaster year in the property world.

1 World’s most desirable home

Bob Hope must have been chuckling in his grave at the $50 million (£30.7  million) price put on his former home in California. The house was almost as witty as the price tag: a stunning space-age home, designed by architect John Lautner. It looks like a cross between an extinct volcano and a giant mushroom.

2 House prices bounce back

For a few years in the wake of the 2008 crash, it looked as if we might never again see those kinds of price increases. But in 2013, the market came surging back, with prices across the country up 7.7 per cent, according to Halifax. Even Scotland, which had been lagging, enjoyed a 6.85 per cent increase. In London, that figure was nearer 10 per cent. Figures from Zoopla suggest that the average value of a home in Britain is increasing by almost £30 per day. These are happy times again for property owners, who will be hoping that the good news continues into 2014.

3 Buy-to-let landlord of the year

Former Bond girl Fiona Fullerton has several strings to her bow. When selling her £2.75 million vicarage in September, she admitted to owning a dozen buy-to-let properties in London and Oxford. Quite a portfolio for a woman best known for a dalliance with Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. Not to mention her recent foray into Strictly Come Dancing, which was more suggestive of frivolity than a hard business head.

4 More good news for mortgage-holders as interest rates stay low

The new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, in August pledged not to raise interest rates until unemployment had fallen to at least seven per cent. They are not projected to rise again until 2016. The surprise announcement seems to have been one of the key factors contributing to the revival in the housing market.

5 A bursting bubble in the Far East?

Property prices in Hong Kong, having risen vertiginously in the past few years, but are about to plummet, according to analysts. Barclays predict that prices will fall by at least 30 per cent by the end of 2015. Perhaps savvy buyers should reinvest in unfashionable Southend-on-Sea in Essex, where prices have been increasing by 15 per cent.

6 Upsizers of the year

David and Victoria Beckham, who, having sold their “Beckingham Palace” mansion in Hertfordshire for a reported £12 million, are spending more than £40  million on a new west London property. The house is said to include a hair salon and a special room for Victoria’s shoes.

7 Most improbable millionaires’ row

Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, a sleepy Chilterns town where the only tourist attraction of note is the model village. But, as revealed this year, it also has the highest proportion of £1 million-plus properties in the country – a staggering 47 per cent. Eat your heart out, Monte Carlo.

8 A last peep through the keyhole

The death of Sir David Frost in August robbed the country of one of its most charismatic broadcasters. And the sale of his former home – an exquisite Queen Anne house in Hampshire, listed at £5.25 million – was a reminder of the immaculate taste in property of the erstwhile presenter of Through the Keyhole.

9 Dry wit of the year

The planning inspector who gave the go-ahead to new student accommodation at University College London, despite the fact that many of the rooms overlooked brick walls. His argument was that the lack of daylight was “unlikely to be perceived as overly oppressive by the occupiers”. The building won the annual Carbuncle Award presented by Building Design magazine.

10 Castle in the air?

The property world was agog when it was announced in November that Dublin businessman Tom Ryan had bought the site of an office block in Canary Wharf. He is planning to build a 75-storey residential tower block at a cost of £850 million. Hertsmere House will be the largest such building in Europe.

11 The European health and safety award

The ultra-conscientious planning authorities of Jukkasjaervi in Swedish Lapland have insisted that a local ice hotel must install fire extinguishers just in case. Protests are expected from the Amalgamated Union of Ice-Sellers and Igloo-Manufacturers.

12 Interior of the year

A semi-detached house in Hillingdon, Middlesex, which came on the market for £400,000 this autumn. From the outside, it was indistinguishable from every other home on the street. Inside, every wall, carpet, pair of curtains and piece of furniture was the same vivid mauve colour. House-hunters were gobsmacked.

13 Turkish delights gone mad

When Toprak Mansion in Bishop’s Avenue, Hampstead, was sold for £50  million, it smashed the record for a new-build London property. The standout feature in the seven-bedroom mansion is a Turkish bath for 20. The new owner, reportedly from Kazakhstan, is said to be planning £30 million worth of improvements.

14 Where was the wisteria and the duck pond?

When Agatha Christie’s former home came on the market, most people probably pictured a wisteria-covered cottage in a classic English village. Just the kind of place where Miss Marple could have done her knitting in a tea shop. So it was a surprise to learn that the £2.6million mews house was in the heart of Chelsea, not far from Stamford Bridge.

15 Low-cost builder of the year

Michael Buck of Oxfordshire, who, for £150, built a woodland dwelling worthy of a hobbit. Straw thatched and constructed according to ancient “cob” techniques, the cottage is as long on charm as it is short on mod-cons. Buck has even found a lodger – a dairy farm worker who pays rent in milk and cream.

16 Is the wine cellar included?

Fans of the late lamented Oliver Reed raised a glass in his memory when an apartment in one of his former homes came on the market for £1.65 million. Broome Hall, a grand Victorian mansion in Surrey, also featured in the film Women in Love, in which Reed played opposite Glenda Jackson.

17 Architectural statement of the year

Castle Mill development in Oxford threatens to impair views of the Dreaming Spires from Port Meadow. This development was earmarked for graduate accommodation, but is now the subject of a campaign to have the height of the building reduced. Only a community of very clever people could have concocted such a planning disaster.

18 Government initiative of the year

Twelve months ago, the 95 per cent mortgage seemed as distant as the stegosaurus or the Beach Boys. Now it is back, with HSBC leading the way and taxpayers’ backing provided through the Government’s Help to Buy scheme. One estate agent estimated that the average deposit required by first-time buyers would fall from £34,000 to £7,000.

19 The year’s most obscure property hot spot

A league table of the most lucrative places to invest in a buy-to-let property placed Nechells at the top. This little-known powerhouse was recording yields of more than 10 per cent. But the result had more people scurrying for atlases than saying: “Nechells? Charming spot. I knew it was on the up and up.” It turned out to be the B7 suburb of Birmingham.

20 The architect and the Tory MP

When retired Tory MP Toby Jessel put his Hampton Court house on the market for £4.25 million, it created a flurry of excitement. Not because Jessel had been a big player in Westminster, but because the house had once been owned by Sir Christopher Wren. A man who certainly knew his dados from his damp courses, Wren was given the house on a 50-year lease by Queen Anne. A mix of fascinating history and gorgeous architecture, with a multimillion-pound price tag: it summed up all that we loved about the market this year.

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