Playing the Monopoly house price game
Do not pass go. There’s no point – you probably won’t be able to afford it! In 1935, Parker Brothers produced the first British edition of Monopoly, the eponymous board game.
Back then the upper crust could probably pay the princely sum of £400 for a property on Mayfair out of their short change, whereas the hoi polloi had to make do with a place on the Brown set of properties, for which they’d fork out around £60. How times have changed.
Covent Garden is not on the Monopoly board, but it’s a stone’s throw from the Strand and Fleet Street. So the fact that a three-bedroom ex-council house in this famous location recently sold for £1.2 million goes to show that talk about ‘Monopoly money’ isn’t a cliché. That said, it’s worth seeing what you can get for your money in the Monopoly version of London compared with out there in the real world.
It’s not only easier to buy a house in Monopoly world, it’s also way cheaper, as a scoot around the board quickly shows. So let’s start at the beginning, travelling from ‘Go’ to the Brown set of properties with a car, an old boot, or whichever token you choose.
First up is the Old Kent Road, for which it will cost you £60 to secure the title deeds. This Monopoly site is the only one south of the Thames, and it features in literature by the likes of George Orwell and Charles Dickens.
Today, the Old Kent Road and its Brown-set companion north of the river, Whitechapel Road, are much sought-after areas.
You can expect to pay upwards of £300,000 for a one-bedroom flat on the Old Kent Road, while you won’t get much change out of £500,000 for a place on Whitechapel Road – their proximity to the City proving a draw for many.
The light blues
If you manage to swerve past the £200 income tax square and don’t get waylaid at King’s Cross station, you may alight on a Light Blue square, perhaps the Angel Islington.
If we take the Angel to cover Pentonville Road, Islington High Street, and adjacent fairways, it’s possible to conjure up prices. Sadly, anyone looking to spend between £100 and £120 for a plot on the Angel, Euston Road or Pentonville Road will find their plans scuppered. Today, you can expect to pay more than £1 million for a sumptuous four- or five-bed pad in this set.
The Light Blues can’t hold a candle to the Pinks. Here lies the seat of power, as the Pinks comprise Pall Mall, Whitehall and Northumberland Avenue.
In turn, Pall Mall is home to various gentlemen’s clubs. Who knows, perhaps this is the spot from which Phileas Fogg, Michael Palin and other adventurous types set off on their journeys around the world?
If you want to buy a one-bed flat here you can expect to spend upwards of £1 million. Elsewhere on the Pink set is Euston Road. This route links King’s Cross with Regent’s Park. Today it houses a YMCA, numerous hotels, the Wellcome Foundation and various flats, including a two-bed flat in Unison Place that could be yours for just under £900,000.
That’s a bargain compared to what you can expect to pay for a home on Northumberland Avenue, where places go for upwards of £10 million.
Skip past Marylebone Station and we’ve reached Bow Street, Marlborough Street and Vine Street. This is surely the strangest set on the board because, let’s face it, who’s heard of any of these beauties? But they all have a tale to tell.
We’re back to the Covent Garden district with the first slot in the Orange set.
Bow Street is perhaps best known for its Runners, who beat the Peelers to the title of Britain’s first police force, coshing the criminal classes for 90 years from 1749. You can get a flat on Bow Street for a steal these days, providing you have a spare £1 million or so and fancy a one- or two-bedroom flat within earshot of the Royal Opera House.
Marlborough Street and Vine Street complete the Oranges, and, like Bow Street, they are associated with the law. More recently, Great Marlborough Street, as it’s properly titled, is linked with fashion, having Liberty at one end and Carnaby Street off at an angle.
Vine Street is probably one of the most famous footnotes in history, as this dead-end location of a cop shop is where the Marquess of Queensbury was charged with libel by Oscar Wilde for insinuating that the noted wit was gay. The police station, once known as the busiest in the world, closed in 1997.
At this point we take a break from the coloured sets and stop on Free Parking, which is ironic given that it will cost you a small fortune to park almost everywhere in the real streets of London covered by Monopoly. Take the NCP car park at Judd Street, which is just over the road from King’s Cross train station, where parking for 24 hours will set you back £27.
If you fancy buying a parking space, rather than giving NCP your hard-earned cash, you could snaffle up a double parking place in Hill Street, Mayfair, for £375,000, plus ground rent of £700 a year (subject to change). This delightful location is close to Berkeley Square, and comes with a 900-year leasehold. That’s the clincher, surely.
Next up is the Red set. We kick off with the Strand, zip along Fleet Street and swing back to Trafalgar Square. None of these locations are blessed with many residential properties, but there are some within spitting distance, so let’s start with the Strand.
In February, a flat in nearby Floral Street went for £525,000, which is a bargain compared with the apartment in Southampton Street that cropped up on the market for a cool £4.5 million just a few months previously.
Fleet Street was once the home to a large slice of the British press, before it was absconded to Wapping.
These days it’s possible to buy a two-bedroom flat on or around Fleet Street, such as on Fetter Lane, for upwards of £1.6 million.
Trafalgar Square is a different prospect. If you want to buy somewhere with the chance of spying Nelson’s Column from your front door, your best bet is a flat in Whitcomb Street, which will cost you £750,000.
Alternatively, you could opt for an apartment on Whitehall Place if you have £8 million to spend.
If we push our top hat, dog, or other token past Fenchurch Street train station, we land on the Yellow set. First up is Leicester Square. Now famous for its movie premieres, Leicester Square was laid out in 1670.
Back then it was a posh residential area, then it went downmarket, descending to the extent that it became an entertainment hub.
If you fancy rubbing shoulders with Hollywood types, you could get a studio apartment on nearby Rupert Street for little more than £550,000, or opt for a new-build penthouse suite for a touch over £6.5 million on nearby Charing Cross Road.
The Yellows also feature Coventry Street and Piccadilly, where residential properties are not usually available. If they were, I think we can guess at the prices!
Can you buy a prison cell?
You may have spotted that we missed the ‘Just visiting, in Jail’ square, which is lodged between Pentonville Road and Pall Mall, and before we pass to the Green set we face the stern-looking gent with the blue cap and whistle, who yells “Go to jail”.
As it happens you can pay for the privilege of going to jail. Pentonville Prison in Islington, not far from King’s Cross, may soon be on the market, with numerous one-bed flats reportedly floating for around £500,000, while two-beds should be changing handcuffs for around £700,000.
Presumably it will be nothing like Alcatraz, where today you can go on an interactive tour of the prison and listen to the screams and arguments of former inmates – that would certainly not make for a good night’s sleep.
The air is rarefied for those of us who have designs on the fourth side of the Monopoly board. Let’s take the Green set, which comprises Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street.
Regent Street has properties for sale, although it’s fair to say you won’t get anything for £300. In fact, properties rarely crop up on Regent Street, although if you’re content to walk around the corner to Haymarket, you can pick up a one- bed flat for the princely sum of £1 million.
Shop around and you could get a lower price one-bedroom place on Haymarket for a snip at £750,000, though it will probably be a studio apartment.
Surprisingly, Oxford Street has a number of residential properties on it, although you’d need to have £2.5 million spare to buy a three-bedroom duplex penthouse in a Victorian former hat factory, Beaver Buildings.
Bond Street is peculiar – as there is no such road in central London. Sure, there is a tube station of that name, but on the ground there is Old Bond Street and New Bond Street. Putting this anomaly aside, if you want to won a place in this part of town you are looking at around £5 million for a three-bedroom flat.
Okay, you may not live on Bond Street – wherever that is – but you are within spitting distance of the Tube station, on the likes of Bourbon Street or Bloomfield Court.
The dark blues
Pass Liverpool Street railway station, the entry point to the City of London for many a banker and insurance expert (and nowhere near either New or Old Bond Street geographically), and you hit the Dark Blues. Park Lane is the last street on the Monopoly board – Mayfair being a district.
You can forget about paying £350 or £400 for a house on these squares – try upwards of £12 million for a spacious flat near Hyde Park. Yes, it’s a lot more than the Parker Brothers priced the area up in the 1930s, but if your neighbour is the Queen, some might say it’s worth it.
What about the future of monopoly?
The prices may be out of date, but that doesn’t bother everyone. Former European Monopoly Champion and renowned broadcaster Gyles Brandreth told us: “I think it’s good that the prices on the Monopoly board remain as they were when my dad bought the first Monopoly set sold in Britain in Selfridges, in Christmas 1937.
“You’d have to reprice every property every few weeks to keep pace with London property prices,” he added. “Then, of course, it’s fun – while playing the game – to mull over the fact that these days all you could buy for £400 in Mayfair is a single paving stone.”
Despite what Gyles Brandreth said, Monopoly may change. Certainly some of the tokens – such as the iron and the cannon – have fallen by the wayside, and it’s possible that as other areas of the capital emerge as more popular than, say, Vine Street, the board game may see further amendments.
Sophie Church, from estate agents Savills, said: “The catalysts for rising average property prices are often organic expansion, regeneration, infrastructure improvements, or a combination of all three.
“Many prime market newcomers have benefited from being next door to a high-value housing market, and regeneration has bolstered prices in Old Oak Common and Greenwich, for example, while South Acton has seen an uplift in anticipation of Crossrail.”
On top of all that, the manufacturer Hasbro has licensed Monopoly out to all manner of other firms, countries and councils, in order for them to produce their own versions of the Monopoly board.
Thus we’ve had Star Wars Monopoly, an Isle of Wight set, a Coronation Street edition, a Coca-Cola Monopoly set, the James Bond version, a Hello Kitty edition, and a New York Giants board. Inevitably, a Game of Thrones version was also released this year.
The right to hold or use assets (generally property, but also vehicles) for a fixed period of time at a given price, without transfer of ownership, on the basis of a lease contract. Leasehold ownership of a residential property is simply a long tenancy, the right to occupation and use of the flat for a specified period – the ‘term’ of the lease, which is fixed at the beginning and so decreases in length year by year and the property can be bought and sold during that term. When new, leases are for 99 or 125 years until its eventual expiry, whereupon ownership of the property reverts to the landlord.
Everything you own: all your assets (property, cars, investments, savings, insurance payouts, artwork, furniture etc) minus any liabilities (debts, current bills, payments still owed on assets like cars and houses, credit card balances and other outstanding loans). When you’re alive this is called your wealth; when you’re dead, it becomes your estate.