The High Street has always been the heart of UK communities, shaping not just social life but also property values. As online shopping, urban regeneration, and lifestyle shifts redefine High Streets, how does this affect your property's worth? 

This guide explores the evolving role of High Streets and its impact on property values, with a spotlight on Wanstead, East London.

The traditional role of High Streets

The High Street has long been the heartbeat of British communities, serving multiple functions that extend far beyond mere commerce. 

Traditionally, High Streets were social hubs where people congregated for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Markets, independent retailers, pubs, and cafes made up the typical High Street landscape, each contributing to a lively atmosphere that attracted families, tourists, and business people alike.

The High Street also played a significant role in boosting property values. 

Homes that were situated near thriving High Streets often commanded higher prices due to the convenience and social cache associated with such locations. A bustling High Street was seen as an indicator of a community's economic health, making nearby properties more attractive to prospective buyers.


Changes over time


However, the role of High Streets began to evolve in the late 20th century, reflecting broader societal changes. 

One significant shift was the erosion of independent shops. Once the stronghold of local artisans, bakers, and butchers, many High Streets saw their unique character diminish as these businesses were replaced by large chain stores. 

This trend often led to a sense of homogenisation, as High Streets in different towns began to look increasingly similar.

In some cases, the infiltration of large chain stores had a dual impact on property values. On the one hand, well-known brands could attract more foot traffic (think, The Waitrose Effect), potentially boosting local economic activity. 

On the other hand, the loss of unique, independent shops sometimes led to a decrease in the area's desirability, thus negatively affecting property prices.

Modern factors reshaping high street and nearby property prices

As we move further into the 21st century, High Streets across the UK are undergoing significant transformations.


Rise of online shopping


The advent of the internet has reshaped how we shop, and High Streets have felt the brunt of this evolution. 

E-commerce giants like Amazon offer a level of convenience that traditional brick-and-mortar shops often find hard to match. The consequence? Reduced foot traffic on High Streets, leading to decreased sales for local businesses. 

With more vacant storefronts, the appeal of these areas as prime property locations begins to wane, potentially affecting the value of nearby property.


Urban regeneration projects


In response to the decline of traditional High Streets, various urban regeneration projects have been initiated. These are designed to modernise the High Street environment, making them more pedestrian-friendly, integrating green spaces, and even adding features like free Wi-Fi. 

Such initiatives aim to boost local commerce and create a more attractive and functional public space. Properties near regenerated High Streets often see a rise in value, benefitting from the improved amenities and aesthetic appeal.


Gentrification and changing demographics


The character of many High Streets is further evolving due to gentrification. 

As younger, often more affluent, populations move into an area, the High Street adapts to their tastes and needs. Organic grocery stores, artisanal coffee shops, and boutique fitness centres may replace older businesses. 

While this change revitalises the area and can lead to a significant uptick in property values, it's often accompanied by concerns about the displacement of long-standing residents and businesses.


Changing consumer behaviour and preferences


The modern consumer is not just looking for products but also experiences, convenience, and sustainability. 

A rise in experiential retail spaces, farmers' markets, and eco-friendly stores reflect this shift. High Streets that successfully adapt to these changing consumer preferences not only see a revival in foot traffic but also make the area more desirable for living. 

Properties near such adaptive High Streets can enjoy a stable or even increasing value over time.

The COVID effect

COVID-19 has accelerated several trends impacting High Streets, including the rise of online shopping and the increased importance of local community spaces as people spend more time closer to home.

While some High Streets have thrived by adapting quickly and offering essential services, others have declined due to reduced foot traffic and economic challenges. The pandemic has also created a mixed bag of results regarding property values. 

In some cases, the increased focus on local living and amenities has boosted the attractiveness of homes near well-adapted High Streets. In other cases, the uncertainties brought by the pandemic have led to a softening of property prices, particularly in areas with declining High Streets.

An example of a High Street done right

Our very own Wanstead offers an intriguing blend of traditional High Street appeal and modern amenities. Well known for its green spaces, like the Flats, Park, and nearby Epping Forest, Wanstead is a community that cherishes local heritage while adapting to contemporary consumer needs. 

As such, the High Street here has sustained a mix of independent shops and cafes alongside well-known retail chains. This combination caters to a broad range of consumer preferences, making the area attractive to different demographics.

Local events (such as the upcoming Fringe Festival, now in its 10th year), farmers' markets, and community-driven initiatives have also played a role in keeping the High Street vibrant. These activities not only boost local business but also create a sense of community that is attractive to residents.

As a result, Wanstead has seen a steady increase in property values over recent years. 

The well-maintained balance between modernity and tradition on our High Street contributes to this uptick. The area continues to be desirable for families, young professionals, and retirees alike, suggesting a positive outlook for future property valuations.

How your High Street can impact the value of your home

As we’ve just seen with our Wanstead example, being near a flourishing High Street often has many benefits that can positively influence property values. 

From the convenience of local shops to the appeal of community events, these factors can make an area highly desirable to live in. Increased foot traffic often equates to better safety and more vigilant community-watch practices. All these elements contribute to a boost in property prices and a stronger overall property market.

Conversely, areas near struggling High Streets can face various challenges that may impact property values negatively. 

Empty storefronts, reduced foot traffic, and a lack of community activities can make an area less appealing to potential buyers or renters. Over time, this can lead to a decrease in property values, making it a less attractive investment for homeowners and investors alike.

If you want to enter the property market, either as a buyer or seller, and want to find out why we’ve been E11’s number-one choice of estate agent since 1908, call us. 

Our friendly team are always on hand to answer questions and offer advice on all things property. 

We look forward to hearing from you! 

Article By: Kinga Masianis

Kinga has been in sales since she was 17 and she already has both Negotiator and Sales Progression qualifications under her belt. She is bilingual, has a weakness for chocolate, and cites Robins Pie & Mash and The Cuckfield as her favourite Wanstead haunts.

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