Changing times: moving on from Mayfair

PRICES of the Monopoly board favourite Mayfair, as well as other prime favourites, have rocketed to near 2007 levels (see graph below), leading to the emergence of alternative investment hotspots. Marylebone is being hailed as the new Mayfair, with residential favourites Pimlico, Hampstead and Fulham hot on its heels.

Mayfair prices have been drastically pushed up due to foreign investors coming thick and fast into the prime Central property market – with Arab, Russian and more recently, Chinese buyers leading the charge.

February saw a 310 per cent increase in buyers from Hong Kong – as well as a 320 per cent increase in Uzbekistani buyers, according to Knight Frank. With prices just off Curzon Street (known as hedge fund alley) being pushed up from £1,600 per sq ft to £1,900 per sq ft in the last few weeks, it’s not surprising that wealthy Brits are being forced to look elsewhere.

Despite being traditionally popular with wealthy buyers, house prices in Mayfair’s new satelllites of NW3, SW1, and W1U have not seen anywhere near as steep a climb. Even the uber-expensive Rosslyn Hill in Hampstead is £678 cheaper per sq ft than the £1,900 per sq ft generally found in Mayfair at the moment. In Fulham, buying a 4,000 sq ft property is half the price of what it is in Mayfair.

Indeed, imply crossing Oxford Street towards Marylebone (and away from Mayfair) shaves 20-30 per cent off the price of a property.

THE PROPERTY GOLD STANDARD
So why are foreign investors still so focused on traditional prime central London? Mohamed Nurmohamed, of Chesterton Humberts, says: “I think the Monopoly game has a lot to do with it, getting the purple Mayfair is sure to be a store of wealth at such an uncertain time.” In other words, Mayfair is the gold (or purple) standard of property.

Nurmohamed notes the peculiar nature of Mayfair prices: “It’s like an island – prices exist in a bubble, albeit a safe one. It’s sort of like Monaco.”

But for the Londoners who can’t afford Monopoly’s very best, its second best spots are exerting an ever-stronger pull, in part because of their ever more chic high streets. Marylebone’s is now a nightlife hotspot, with exclusive bars and restaurants to rival those of Mayfair. A chi-chi bakery or boutique opens on Hampstead High Street every week it seems.

They may not be Mayfair, but these more British alternatives are also prime, with prices that will reliably climb due to limited stock, high desirability and the diminishing prospect of attaining a home in W1 or SW1.

Indeed: experts predict prices to rise still further in prime central London, due to the instability of the financial markets. Nurmohamed says: “People want safety and at a time when stock markets are so volatile, investing in top properties is very appealing.”

Mayfair’s safe havens may have pushed Brits out, but the alternatives offer relative value for money.