Pick up a pad in London's smartest areas on the cheap

Timothy Barber
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THERE’S living in London, and then there’s living in a London area with a truly sought-after postcode. It’s not just about status – it really is smarter, and nicer.

Of course the problem with London’s poshest parts is that they cost the earth, plus a bit more. But for those considering splashing some bonus-fuelled cash on a London pied-a-terre, there’s a great way of snagging properties in such parts on the cheap. Large swathes of areas like Mayfair, Chelsea and Knightsbridge are owned by ancient aristocratic estates, with properties sold on a leasehold basis. Normally, leasehold properties are sold with a 99-year lease, which can be extended as necessary. But on occasions where the estates want to keep more immediate control of the property, they’ll put units on the market with much shorter leases, and at a lower cost.

“Buying a short lease property enables you to live in a highly sought-after area at a discount,” says Robert Windsor of Mayfair estate agent, Wetherell. For example, an average two-bedroom apartment in Mayfair with a long lease (99 years) would cost you around £1.25m. But the same property with a 20-year lease could cost you as little as £375,000. Short lease properties aren’t necessarily great investment opportunities, especially if the lease can’t be extended. They’re traditionally favoured by people like retirees and parents setting up student-age children, and they’re also an option for those with spare cash who are looking for a status buy. But they also have potential as a viable alternative to long-term renting, says Windsor. “You are effectively buying the right to reside in the area for 20 years by paying upfront – that equates to £390 per week for a £375,000 Mayfair flat, whereas a similar property would normally rent for between £900 and £1,000 per week.”

Price: £575,000 (59 years unexpired)
Two bedroom ground floor flat with a south-facing balcony on Chelsea Manor Street, between the King’s Road and the river.
Call Douglas & Gordon on 020 7225 1225, www.douglasandgordon.com

Price: £375,000 (20 year lease)
Two-bedroom apartment in a building dating from the 1820s in the heart of Mayfair, with access to a private communal garden.
Call Wetherell on 020 7493 6935, www.wetherell.co.uk

Price: £325,000 (20 years unexpired)
Ground floor pied-a-terre in a portered block on Chelsea Green. A 90-year lease extension can be purchased.
Call Douglas & Gordon on 020 7225 1225, www.douglasandgordon.com

Price: £895,000
A raised ground floor, two bedroom flat, with beautiful bay windows and a large sitting room, a short walk from Harrods. Call Douglas & Gordon on 020 7225 1225, www.douglasandgordon.com