London trends: who’s moving the prime market higher?

THE headlines are clear: core prime central London property – that is central London property at the very top of the market in places like Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Belgravia – is rocketing in value, keeping pace with gold as an asset class. Supply of these properties is now chronically low, adding even more upward price pressure. International buyers are purchasing these top end homes as investments. Last year, they were responsible for a whopping 50 per cent of all the £2m plus properties that were sold last year.

So who is buying what and where? “Europeans form the biggest single bloc of the buyers,” says Liam Bailey of Knight Frank, “although in terms of a single country no-one comes close to the Russians who are buying nearly 6 per cent of the all the £2m plus homes. Buyers from Asia Pacific are becoming more powerful too with four countries dominating the buying activity: Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia. China, of course, is the one to watch.”

Interestingly, each nationality has a particular taste. Ed Mead of Douglas & Gordon says: “Chelsea and South Kensington is really more of a European market. Middle Eastern and Russian buyers are far more interested in Knightsbridge and Belgravia.” These wealthy Eurozone punters are interested in red brick period homes and old fashion mansion blocks. The more quintessentially English, the better”. These folk are interested in good quality wood flooring and mouldings.

Middle Eastern buyers, however, are very different. Cliff Gardiner, from Buying Solution, says: “These guys are interested in ‘turnkey’ properties: that is those that don’t require any work and are entirely read to go.” Jo Eccles, from Sourcing Property, says she’s had clients in the past that wanted to buy everything in a show apartment, right down to the cutlery. “That proved to be an interesting inventory,” she quips.

Unfailingly ethereal, the Chinese like to be beside the water for “balance”. Carl Davenport of Chesterton Humberts’ Tower Bridge office says he recently presided over a grizzly property battle for a place close to Canada Water, where a Chinese gentleman came out on top.

Chinese buyers also like “lucky eights.” Davenport says, “I had an oriental client recently who inisted that he include two ‘lucky eights’ in his offer. This totted up to almost the asking price, so it was agreed straight away.”

When it comes to homes, Russians have cast off any Soviet sympathies. Gardiner says: “Russians love high ceilings and grand ballroom-style receptions rooms.”

Those with a property that suits the tastes of these nationalities could you sitting on a gold mine. Sell up quickly and move somewhere to start a new British buying trend.