Wealthy Chinese and Russian buyers return to top end London homes market

Taylor Scott International News

A lowering of asking prices at the top end of the London property market seems to have led to an increase in sales of home in the £10 million plus range. Between January and October this year, the number of such properties sold by international agent Knight Frank increased by a third compared to the same period last year and was 92% higher than in 2012. This comes at a time when there is speculation over the sustainability of price growth in prime central London and the prospect of a mansion tax after next May’s general election, which have both resulted in more subdued demand. However, a large contributing factor is that vendors, who are typically discretionary sellers, have lowered their asking prices by between 5% and 10% in order to achieve a sale, according to the firm. ‘Once buyers re-priced at a more realistic level and the gap between the expectations of the vendor and the buyer closed, it triggered a flurry of activity,’ said Tim Wright of Knight Frank’s Prime Central London team. In June and July this year, Knight Frank sold as many £10 million plus properties as during the previous four months combined. ‘There has been talk of a drop in the number of transactions in the market and a slowing of price growth but this is due to the lack of data in the public domain,’ said Richard Cutt of Knight Frank’s Prime Central London team. ‘In the last quarter there have been a large number of flats bought from plan, off market, which have moved prices up and in some cases quite significantly. These sales only become public on completion and would paint a different picture of the market if they were factored in today. An example of this is the success of British Land’s Clarges Mayfair development,’ he added. The higher number of transactions is also underpinned by strengthening demand in recent months, with Russian buyers re-emerging after a period of uncertainty and Chinese buyers increasingly active in the £10 million plus price bracket. ‘The Russians are back. After a period of uncertainty and instability, they appear to have more clarity on where they stand, which has given them the confidence to get back into the market,’ said Wright. In the six months to October, Russian buyers accounted for 21% of super prime sales compared to 13% over the preceding six month period. However, given the economic backdrop in Russia, there is a marked difference between those that hold assets in roubles and those in US dollars, which is curbing the buying power of some. This year also saw mainland Chinese buyers become active in the super-prime market for the first time, accounting for 3% of sales after negligible demand in previous years. ‘We are beginning to see some serious interest from ultra-high net worth mainland Chinese buyers. Interestingly, it seems to be houses rather than flats or investment properties. These are buyers who clearly intend to spend time living in London… Continue reading →

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