Many Londoners’ almost fanatical desire to keep fit is driving a boom in gyms within homes and developments
Words Nigel Lewis
Britain is gym crazy at the moment and London is leading the charge. The number of gym members recently exceeded 1.5 million for the first time in the capital and nationally one in eight people are now members, a growth of nearly 6% over the past 12 months. Most London high streets now have one, from the budget operations like Pure Gym to £200-a-month Equinox in Kensington.
But, while this may be helping people of all incomes to shed pounds, tone muscles and keep fit, it is also changing the shape of London’s property market.
“People are more aware of health issues than ever before,” says Rachel Thompson of property finding agency The Buying Solution.
“On the most part, free time is an ultimate luxury but the other thing I notice is how fit most are and nearly all do some form of competitive sport.”
This health focussed demographic varies from fitness-mad Millennials to the Generation Xers trying to fight the flab and one example is 36-year- old James Peel, who recently bought an apartment at the Ryewood development by Berkeley Homes in Sevenoaks. He describes himself as a fitness fanatic.
“The development’s onsite residents’ gym offers an added bonus for my training as keeping fit and body building are a really important part of my daily routine,” he says.
Faced with such demand, the new homes building industry has gone gym mad with almost every new block now sporting some sort of facility. And in the prime resales market for houses, it is becoming almost standard to have at least a fitness room downstairs, if not a full blown gym.
“For energetic high net worth leaders of industry fitness is a key factor in their lives,” says Richard Bernstone of agent Aston Chase.
“While many people in this demographic retain their own personal fitness instructors, when looking to buy a multimillion pound home an in-house gym is very high on the wish list.
“It is almost expected and if a well-fitted gym is in situ, without a doubt this will add to the saleability of a house over one which doesn’t.”
But it is in London’s new-homes sector where the gym craze is at its peak. A good example is the Atlas building in the heart of London’s tech city near on City Road. It’s a 38-floor apartment tower that will come with its own residents’ lounge, cinema, spa and gym.
“Our purchasers just want to look and feel better and be able to be more productive and that’s why they want gyms – I don’t think it’s anything more sophisticated than that really,” says Andrew Hawkins of developer Rocket Investments.
For the same reason, demand is being created by renters. Young Londoners faced with an average rent in London of £1,563 per property expect high-quality fixtures and fittings and good facilities including a gym. And this is having a knock-on effect on London’s property investment market.
Fit to rent
“High-quality leisure facilities continue to be a strong draw for buyers seeking to invest in new London homes,” says Tom Bryant of CBRE. “As a result, a high proportion of new build properties now incorporate hotel-style facilities that are available exclusively to their residents, with London Dock in Wapping a prime example of this trend.
“It not only offers a 20m swimming pool with sauna, steam room and spa but also a state-of-the- art gymnasium and one of the first residents’-only squash courts in London.”
But gyms are also a social and economic planning tool, according to Matthew Shefras of 40 Asset Management. His point is that gym operators struggle to find suitable locations for their space-hungry gyms and therefore jump at developers who offer them opportunity to set up shop. Also, planners like areas to have a mix of activities and not become mono culture dead zones.
“Having an on-site gym promotes a healthy, active lifestyle, ensures consistent daytime use of the facilities, and constant traffic around the development, and hence, is they are favoured by planners,” he says.
Health and wealth
Gyms also have a role in the world of property for high net worth individuals. In times past these people would have stayed in a hotel when working in London or visiting, but now many will instead buy or sign up to a short term rent for a luxury apartment.
“When it comes to facilities, we are seeing high-end residential schemes closing the gap between the traditional apartment block and five-star hotels,” says Camilla Dell of buying agency and property management firm Black Brick.
“The demand from ultra-high net worth individuals is for more than just a great flat, the building must also be able to fulfil their social, leisure, and business needs.”
“For example, residents at the Corinthia Apartments in Whitehall have access to one of the largest spas in Europe; spread over four floors, it includes 17 treatment rooms, a private spa suite, a nail studio, an indoor swimming pool, a vitality pool, an amphitheatre sauna, ice fountain, marble heated loungers, and private sleep pods, as well a 24-hour gym.”
And some developments are so fitness orientated, it’s fair to say they really gyms with apartment developments bolted on, rather than the other way round. One example is the Tipi lettings-only development within the new Wembley Stadium residential zone by Quintain.
“At Tipi we understand the importance of having unrestricted gym access to allow us to fit in exercise around our busy lifestyles and our customers feel the same way,” says Russell Markou, Head of Operations at Tipi.
“This is why we will provide 24/7, 365-a- day access to our gym facilities within the Tipi buildings free of charge for residents.”
It is clear that everyone in the property market is catching on to this gym craze, and Rachel Thompson from The Buying Solution is convinced healthy living is becoming more and more of a hook, particularly for developers. It would seem buyers agree.