Who knows the inside track on Britain's prime addresses? The long-standing local agents – of course – so each week we pin a different one down for an insider's walk around their manor.
This week: Jeremy Tarn of family firm Tarn & Tarn
Where: Up-and-coming Spitalfields in East London.
Viewing property with Jeremy Tarn is a sociable experience. My tour of Spitalfields is punctuated by waves and greetings from residents of this small district, just two minutes from Liverpool Street station.
But it's not too surprising that he is well known as Jeremy been selling property in Spitalfields for more than 20 years and almost everyone who lives locally bought their home from him.
We stroll down Brushfield Street past Verde, the organic deli owned by author Jeanette Winterson, and through the former fruit and veg market. Until five years ago it was the haunt of fashion students and artisan stallholders but glossy redevelopment has stolen its character. Despite this, behind the designer boutiques and chain restaurants, the spirit of 18th-century London lives on.
Most enquiries Jeremy gets are for Spitalfields' historic quarter, a small grid of prime roads sandwiched between the market and Brick Lane. It's an enclave of such perfectly preserved Georgian houses that it feels as though you've stepped back 300 years. Unfortunately, the prices, which start at £2m, are very 21st-century.
Starting at the imposing building of Christ Church, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1714, we head along beautiful Fournier Street. The road is popular with celebrities, including artists Gilbert and George and actress Samantha Morton (pictured, right). Homes here rarely come up for sale, though Jeremy points out one double-fronted residence that recently went for £4m.
Single-fronted houses generally sell for upwards of £2m but the cheapest Georgian property Jeremy currently has is No 11 (pictured, below). The five-storey house has two bedrooms and one bathroom and costs £750,000. He thinks there'll be plenty of takers. "You're buying into a unique conservation area."
In the early 1700s, Spitalfields was popular with wealthy Huguenot silk merchants, who built these grand houses. When silk went out of fashion, so did the area, which was gradually abandoned by the middle classes.
Over the centuries, Spitalfields became increasingly decrepit, populated mainly by criminals including Jack the Ripper who committed murder in Hanbury Street. By the early 1970s, the whole district was slated for demolition. Only a fierce campaign saved the Georgian terraces from becoming a tower block and a few brave souls, led by historian and TV presenter Dan Cruickshank, who embraced the neighbourhood's 'edgy' reputation and moved in.
Now Spitalfields is desirable again and the Grade II listed residences attract increasingly wealthy buyers. Glittering office and apartment blocks have gone up on the fringe of the area and Broadgate Circus, the dull precinct adjacent to Liverpool Street station, is scheduled for redevelopment plus the new East London rail line will soon run via Shoreditch station.
Finding renovation projects is almost impossible, though one work in progress on Princelet Street, is currently selling at £1.95m (pictured, bottom). A victim of ugly 1950s rebuilding, the entire property is being restored to its 18th-century glory by local architect Chris Dyson and will offer three bedrooms, a courtyard garden and a 'new' Georgian facade.
In adjacent Wilkes Street, Jeremy points out the residences of artist Tracey Emin (pictured, right) and chef Angela Hartnett, but asks me not to give away their addresses. He then shows me No 6, a gorgeous house he expects to fetch "in excess of £2.5m".
Filled with beautiful original panelling, floorboards and fireplaces, it's a spacious property, with huge basement, four bedrooms, two bathrooms and courtyard. The library fills me with envy and the slipper bath may be repro but adds to the antique ambience.
For those with less cash, there are chances to buy on the periphery of the district. One-bedroom flats and studios on Commercial Street, for example, start at around £375,000, while converted warehouse space and little flats above the shops on Brick Lane and in nearby Shoreditch or Whitechapel start at around £295,000.
You won't get Georgian splendour but you will have a foothold in one of London's most vibrant neighbourhoods. Spitalfield's historic houses may have reached a market high but the East End looks like it's still on the up. Buy in now and you'll be ready to rise with it.
Most enquiries Tarn gets are for Spitalfields' historic quarter, a small grid of prime roads sandwiched between the market and Brick Lane. It's an enclave of such perfectly preserved Georgian houses that it feels as though you've stepped back 300 years.