But British buyers are quickly becoming more appreciative of apartments and penthouses. Prime property agent Harrods Estates has seen a cautious return of British buyers to the super prime London market, although it admits that, for now, it is still dominated by European and Middle Eastern buyers.
The limited supply of high-end properties in prime locations means that even at the top end – properties between £5m and £7m – there is increased interest, says Shirley Humphrey, sales and marketing director at Harrods Estates. She adds that Knightsbridge, Mayfair, and Belgravia have proved particularly popular.
There are plenty of reasons why flats are superior to houses. Where luxury apartments really come into their own is the convenience and practicality that such places afford, without compromising on quality. They are decorated to a high standard, often with bespoke fittings, and offer the buyer advantages above and beyond a spacious flat in central London.
Simon Barnes, who runs the Simon Barnes buying agency, says that the demand is for big apartments with very good porters and security. “If you’re going to be in London for two weeks at a time twice a year, then you want somewhere to rock up, somewhere comfortable to stay and where you know that any maintenance problems will be sorted,” he points out.
In the better buildings, you get looked after as you might be in a hotel. It is common for your mail to be collected for you and a cleaner to come regularly to ensure the property remains in good condition. Such convenience means that owners do not need to worry about security or problems while they are away, making it the perfect pied a terre for frequent business travellers.
Barnes says that the size of the apartments is important to a lot of his clients who travel regularly on business, but who are accompanied by their families. Unlike Paris and New York, London does not have many very large apartments, which puts a premium on those that do exist, and explains why complexes such as One Hyde Park and Chelsea Barracks will be so popular when they are finished.
And forget about that back garden. These properties often come with large balconies and communal gardens, and if you desire even more greenery, then central London has more open space than your back garden ever could. For now, houses remain the focus of many London buyers, but this is all about to change: the age of the luxury apartment is not far away.
SUSSEX GARDENS, W2
This first-floor flat is within striking distance of Hyde Park and has plenty of period features. An ideal pied a terre.
Contact: Kay & Co on 020 7262 2030, www.kayandco.com
IMPERIAL WHARF, SW6
Three-bedroom penthouse with river views.
Contact: Imperial Wharf Marketing Suite on 020 7610 9693
TEN ROCHESTER ROW, SW1
Luxury apartments and penthouses in the heart of London, with an emphasis on modern design.
Contact: Barratt Homes on 0845 6080100, www.tenrochesterrow.co.uk
PORCHESTER GATE, W2
This luxury four-bedroom flat has uninterrupted views of Hyde Park and the London skyline.
With a real emphasis on bespoke design, the flat is ideal for working from home.
Contact: Harrods Estates on 020 7409 9001, www.harrodsestates.com