4 June Knightsbridge Tops Britain’s Most Expensive Locations To Live
According to research published today by global property advisor Savills, “prime central London is looking more fully valued than other prime markets” and is expected to grow by a total of 22.7% in the next five years. By contrast, property in the London suburbs is expected to see a 26.3% rise in value between 2014 and 2018. “The gap between prime central London and its prime commuter markets has probably peaked and wealth has finally begun to flow out of the capital,” explains Savills’ analyst Sophie Chick. “We have already seen the predominantly domestic markets of outer prime London outperforming prime central London over the past year. We expect 2014 to be the year of the super suburbs.”
Nonetheless, the yawning chasm in prices between the very top locations and the rest of the country looks unlikely to close any time soon. According to Lucian Cook of Savills, the aggregate worth of real estate across central London’s most sought-after boroughs, Kensington & Chelsea and the City of Westminster, totals £187 billion—that’s £11 billion more than the value of property across the whole of Wales. Indeed, even within the luxurious haven of the capital’s two top boroughs—which are home to nine of Britain’s ten most expensive postcodes, according to Savills—differences in property prices can be staggering.
Britain’s single priciest location is fashionable Knightsbridge & Belgravia, a district within the City of Westminster borough. Here, Savills figures put the five-year average price for a property (2008-2012) to a cool £2,663,256—nearly one and a half times the cost of a home in the second most expensive address, Norland Place, in the borough of Kensington & Chelsea.
Gulf sheikhs, Russian oligarchs and African oil tycoons are all rumoured to live in swanky Knightsbridge—especially at the glitzy One Hyde Park development, a sequence of contemporary, iconic buildings designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour and developed and interior-styled by brothers Nick and Christian Candy. One Hyde Park made history a few years ago when a penthouse reputedly sold for almost £140 million to the holding company belonging to Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov. Prices for apartments at the highly exclusive development travel in the region of £6,000 to 7,500 per square foot and this, says Rachel Thompson, a buying agent for The Buying Solution, has had a knock-on effect on the entire area. “Developments that would have cost £3,000 per square foot in the past are now fetching £ 4,500. However, she adds, Knightsbridge already had much to offer international buyers before the launch of One Hyde Park. “It has lateral conversions with lifts, caretakers, underground parking—everyone understands this kind of property. It has restaurants, cafes and shops and it’s extremely well located—it’s easy to reach everything.”
Neighbouring Belgravia, which makes up the rest of the district, looks very different—“it’s very calm, leafy, with beautiful white stucco buildings,” says Thompson—but still draws many international buyers, especially from Russia and the CIS countries. Both Belgravia and the most sought-after addresses in nearby Kensington & Chelsea capture the essence of historic London that’s so prized by the globally wealthy. “If you look at London’s top ten areas, many have white-stucco Italianate buildings,” Thompson notes. “With the exception of the very best new developments, this is what most buyers want. And because you cannot build it, it’s not really replaceable anywhere in the world.”
Central London’s hold on top real estate prices is only broken up by the beautiful Wimbledon Village, a collection of pretty streets studded with high-end boutiques and large period mansions in southwest London, close to the world-famous All England Lawn Tennis Club. Here, properties cost in the region of £1,439,809, according to Savills, making it Britain’s seventh priciest location. Wimbledon Village is the jewel in the crown of the mainly domestic market that stretches from the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham to the border between London and Surrey. Price growth in this area has already outpaced that of the city centre in the last twelve months, recording an 11.8% rise against central London’s 5.6%. Savills are now forecasting a further 6% increase for next year across this and other prime outer London areas, against a more modest 3% in the city centre, although the two growth rates should roughly equate by 2018 (22.7% in outer London against 23.1% in the city centre).
Real estate values drop significantly once you leave the capital, but two suburban addresses broke the £1 million barrier in recent years, according to Savills: the five-year average price for properties in Oxshott & Stoke D’Abernon is £1,103,730, while in Cobham Fairmile it’s £1,015,850. Both locations are situated in the affluent, verdant borough of Elmbridge, in the county of Surrey. “These are the first areas outside London and offer a stepping stone between “true” country and the City,” explains Paul Frost of property buying agents Prime Purchase. “They give owners the enjoyment of being in the country without sacrificing the good links into London.”
Both locations also have luxury properties of significant scale—“8,000 square foot houses are not unusual,” explains Frost—while a crop of excellent local schools adds to the draw for affluent families. Along with other top London suburbs, this is the prime market that’s expected to show the greatest growth in the next five years, with Savills forecasting a 26.3% rise.
Nonetheless, when compared with prime London, even the priciest homes in these suburban areas offer, and are likely to continue offering, good value for money. “An 8,000 square foot house with half an acre in [London’s borough of] Richmond would cost in the region of £7 to £8 million but in Oxshott it might be £5 million—this makes the area seem relatively good value,” says Frost.
Of course, this figure is still vastly larger than what you’d pay in parts of the country further out of London. In prime locations away from the capital “the ripple effect is taking longer to arrive,” with Savills expecting increases of between 18.1% (for the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland) and 21% (for the South of England outside of the London commuter area) in the next five years. As the market stands today, the average price of a prime property in Knightsbridge would buy you almost five properties in the Cotswolds’ costliest postcode, Ampney-Coln, almost six homes in Edinburgh’s Murrayfield & Ravelston, and nearly seven in Wales’ priciest village, Shirenewton, in Monmouthshire.
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