The areas that constitute prime central London (PCL) – Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Kensington, Chelsea, Belgravia and Marylebone – have always appealed to international buyers. But right now the marketplace is “extremely busy”, says Alex Christian, head of Savills Private Office, with “international discretionary money coming into the market as buyers seek to take advantage of a weak sterling”.
1. AMERICAN BUYERS ARE BACK
Ten years ago PCL purchasers came from Europe, China and the Middle East. Now US buyers are back, with a well-heeled influx of East Coast private-equity financiers and West Coast tech tycoons. “We’re seeing more Americans in the Mayfair market than ever before,” says Claire Reynolds, co-head of Savills PCL division. “They’re typically looking for turnkey trophy properties for about £20m-£30m.”
2. THE IT CROWD
In PCL property, it’s digital first. “There has been a notable increase in tech multimillionaire buyers in London,” says Christian. “Some are looking for large houses with gardens, parking and pools in Chelsea, Kensington and Holland Park, but others want the lock-up-and-leave lifestyle of Mayfair’s new-builds.” Statement buildings such as the King’s Cross Gasholders can “lure buyers outside the normal comfort zone”, says Pete Bevan, co-head of Savills PCL.
3. HIGH-QUALITY STOCK
The bounce back is helped by stock that positions PCL as a global contender. The OWO, in the Old War Office on Whitehall, is attracting buyers who love history, and blue-chip developments such as Park Place in St James’s, No 1 Grosvenor Square, 60 Curzon, Holland Park Gate and Twenty Grosvenor Square are faring well. Bayswater has significant developments in Park Modern and The Whiteley, while properties in the Cadogan Estates, the Boltons and Kensington’s garden squares are evergreen.
4. GOOD VALUE
“Good value” is a relative term, but if you’ve got several million to spend, London seems like a decent bet. “With the pound falling to a record low against the US dollar, it certainly feels like there is an opportunity for dollar-based investors to take advantage of the exchange rate and purchase property in London,” says Rory McMullen, head of the North America desk at Savills Private Office. “With property prices 18% below their 2014 peak, many areas of prime central London are looking even more favourable for dollar-based buyers.” PCL is also forecast to see higher capital value growth than outer prime London this year.
5. REMOTE BUYING
Video calls have been a boon for remote buying. Savills has seen a huge amount of virtual browsing, though “fully remote deals are still rare”, says Reynolds. International buyers do remote homework with advisers, then visit before full purchase. Occasionally, however, they leap into the void. “We had one buyer in the Middle East purchase a house from his sofa, with his family sitting alongside,” says Bevan.
6. POST-PANDEMIC TRENDS
Lockdown saw domestic buyers head to the country, but London is regaining its pull – to the point where some are regretting their decision to go rural. The trend for combining country living with an urban pied-à-terre, and the post-pandemic idea of the “15-minute city” – where life’s necessities can all be found close to home – are giving Chelsea, Marylebone and Belgravia a boost.
7. BECAUSE IT’S LONDON
Add up all of the capital’s parks, shops, galleries, restaurants and schools, and you get an immense urban proposition. “London’s got something for everyone,” says Reynolds. Transport links are good and “the British education system is world-class”. Security is a factor too. “There’s a reason people move from New World economies, often with starker divides between rich and poor,” says Bevan. Most of all, London has a unique urban buzz. Its villages – from Marylebone to Hampstead, Chelsea to Primrose Hill – add up to a patchwork city unlike any other. All these reasons, and more, make London eternal.
Pictures from top: London at dusk (Alamy); a colourful terrace in west London (Alamy); Holland Park, west London (Alamy); mews houses in Chelsea (Alamy)