What it’s like living next to Wimbledon, host of the world’s most famous tennis tournament

What it’s like living next to Wimbledon, host of the world’s most famous tennis tournament
Tennis ball decorations are seen on plant pots outside of a shop in Wimbledon village during day six of The Championships Wimbledon 2023 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 8, 2023 in London. — Patrick Smith/Getty Images, FILE

(LONDON) — For 50 weeks a year, the southwest London borough of Merton is regarded by many Londoners as an almost-sleepy area of the hulking capital city that offers peaceful open spaces and – often expensive – family-friendly housing to just 200,000 of London’s estimated 9 million residents.

But when more than 500,000 people — a group matching the population of Atlanta, Georgia — descend upon the world-famous Wimbledon tennis tournament for two weeks at the start every summer, the impact on the properties nearby is, somewhat predictably, immense.

But for those homeowners and renters living in the local area where the event has been held nearly every year since 1877, the tournament is often seen as more of a showcase — even a financial opportunity for some — rather than a hindrance that steamrolls their neighborhood for a fortnight.

“The enduring popularity of tennis has kept the local property market in the forefront of people’s minds for a very long time,” said Cory Askew, head of Savills Estate Agents in Wimbledon. “Although there are a variety of factors why people choose to live here, it’s fair to say that one of the reasons that international tenants and buyers in particular are drawn to or made aware of the area is down to The Championships and references to Wimbledon in popular culture.”

By population, Merton is the sixth smallest of London’s 32 boroughs but the 12th most expensive, according to a report from the Office of National Statistics in 2023. While the name “Wimbledon” might draw many people to the area, it is the reputable schooling system, the tree-lined streets, the feeling of community, as well proximity to central London — just a 16-minute train ride away — and that little bit of extra space that you might not get elsewhere in the city that keeps interest in properties high and inventory low.

“Ultimately, Wimbledon is a global event in a local setting,” said Laura Watts, head of lettings at Knight Frank Estate Agents. “There’s a real community spirit and a sense of pride, locally. There’s just such a charm, honestly, and it’s so British.”

“Wimbledon has always been a desirable place to live given its proximity to central London along with excellent schooling and green spaces at Wimbledon Common,” said Askew. “Away from the buzz of the town center, Wimbledon Village is very close-knit in feel and that’s why it often scores highly with families wanting a taste of the country while being conveniently located for all that the capital has to offer. We see a real mosaic of nationalities that want to base themselves locally with people coming from Europe and Asia Pacific as well as many North American clients who feel Wimbledon ticks a lot of boxes for them from a lifestyle and property perspective.”

It is perhaps the quiet provincial nature and feel of Wimbledon that draws people to the area year-round but local residents — owners and renters alike — know there is opportunity to capitalize on their locale when the world’s tennis elite make the sleepy hamlet their temporary home for several weeks.

“People will often rent out their properties to many of the well-known tennis players, their coaches, their physios,” Watts said. “Many people, especially on the main road leading to the tennis grounds, will absolutely rent out their driveways to food trucks as well. Then you’ll also get the broadcasting companies who will look to rent properties for a longer period of time.”

“It’s a hive of activity,” Watts continued. “And when the larger houses are taken, the residents will go away for a couple of weeks and the money that they make on that rental will pay for a new kitchen, school fees, a holiday or whatever. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

The Championships at Wimbledon are what the world sees for two weeks a year every summer, but it is important to remember that it is home to a thriving community the rest of the year when viewers aren’t on the edge of their seats watching the best tennis players in the world go toe-to-toe.

“The Championships certainly add to the area’s appeal and there is a real sense of excitement and spirit locally in the lead up to the tournament,” Askew said. “Any impact that is felt as a result of The Championships, such as more footfall, is far outweighed by the benefits it brings, particularly for local businesses thanks to the influx of visitors. The All England Club also involves the local community through a variety of outreach activities across the year, including an Open Weekend which is always well attended as it gives Wimbledon residents the chance to see the Championship trophies up close and for children to enjoy some mini tennis with coaches.”

For most people, having half-a-million people on your doorstep for two weeks a year would be incentive enough to live elsewhere but the historical and continued integration over the past 157 years between the tournament and the local community has turned what could be considered as a negative into a major positive for the community, according to Christopher Bruton, head of sales at Knight Frank.

“The vast majority of people in the area, as well as the huge amount of hospitality offered by the local community, welcome the tournament,” said Bruton. “They acknowledge the fact it’s there and that there is going to be a lot of hustle and bustle for a few weeks, but just really enjoy having it on their own doorsteps as an option to go see.”

“The overwhelming majority of residents love the buzz created around the tournament. It’s a smoothly run event for both visitors and residents and having multiple public transport options servicing the tournament also ensures traffic is controlled,” Askew added. “And for those that aren’t interested in tennis or would prefer to avoid the high number of crowds in the area, the tournament offers an excellent opportunity to short let their property or even their driveway to capitalize on the event.”

And, for those lucky few, you might even get a famous player or two staying in your home during the Championships.

“Some of the tennis players are very superstitious so they’ll take the same properties every single year. Some don’t mind at all as long as it is close to the grounds,” said Watts. “There are even tennis players who are high-profile and well-known who jump around a lot. It’s funny because Americans often want air conditioning in their rentals but the Australians typically don’t care because the English weather feels cold to them. So everybody’s got their little quirks.”

“Somebody who is tall might want a walk-in shower,” Watts continued. “Some want to stay with their coaches and their physios and their girlfriends or boyfriends and their trainers. Others want to be separate from them. So it’s very individualized. There’s no set rule on what they want for that championship period.”

The competition on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon may end once the champions have raised their trophies on Centre Court each year, but, just outside the gates, you can be sure that a whole other competition on the property market is only just getting started.

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