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James Vernor-Miles comments on the prime London property market in Tatler

  • August 08, 2023
  • By James Vernor-Miles, Partner

James’ comments were published in Tatler, 8 August 2023, and can be found here.

The super-rich are returning to the prime London property market

Bigger, better and more expensive homes are being snapped up in 2023

A recent report from Beauchamp Estates suggests billionaires have been busy buying even larger, more luxurious and valuable homes in prime central London (PCL) during the first half of 2023.

‘Throughout 2023 we have seen a steady increase in enquiries. This changed most noticeably over the past month when we saw a significant positive switch in client sentiment and keenness to transact,’ Toby Johncox, Head of Sales at Enness tells Tatler.

Alex Woodleigh Smith, Managing Director of AWS Prime, echoes the sentiment. ‘Buyers feel that the market is shifting to their advantage now – it’s active, stock levels are improving and where sellers who were thinking of selling, but didn’t in the previous couple of years, they’re now likely to view this as a good chance to do so, ahead of the fast-approaching general election.’

While inflation rates are still high, it seems the gradual return of buyers from Asia has prompted a return to normal international trading patterns post pandemic. ‘We continue to see massive demand from International buyers from Asia and the USA, who look to London as a safe destination to invest in, with a world-class education system and clients who can take advantage of the strength of the USD,’ Johncox tells us. Although many buyers are still cautious.

‘The super-rich are not immune to the economic ripples caused by high inflation, rising rates, and political uncertainty,’ says James Vernor-Miles, Partner at Hunters. ‘Most buyers need little encouragement to “wait and see” instead of piling in. Having said that, asking prices seem set to continue their decline; and sage investors often find that’s the right moment to step in.’

So, what kinds of properties are the super-rich buying in London?

Woodleigh Smith says that he’s seen a huge shift in interest for apartments this year, in contrast to 2022 where clients were almost entirely interested in large, family houses. ‘Cash buyers, which is almost always the case with our clientele, might view this autumn as a good time to make their cash status work for them. Certainly, we’ve seen less commitment and more ‘hedging’ this year so far, but we have two new overseas clients with budgets of £10m and £7m as well as a UK buyer search at £8m. We also have a buyer who is looking for a top floor mansion flat up to £3.5m, and a US downsizer from a house in Notting Hill who just wants a circa £2m, one or two-bed pied a terre,’ Woodleigh Smith reveals.

The Beauchamp Estates survey revealed that Mayfair and Hyde Park were among the most favoured neighbourhoods, beating the previous prime hotspots of Belgravia and Knightsbridge, while Vernor-Miles tells us that John’s Wood has also been among some of his most recent high-value transactions.

Of course, most properties snapped up by the super-wealthy tend to be private sales. ‘These properties are often unique and extremely unlikely to be seen again on the market for many years,’ Johncox tells us.

‘At our end of the super prime market, I’d advise against buying anything that is on the open market, i.e. generally available – those properties have probably been in the market for longer than you think,’ Woodleigh Smith says.

The experts all agree that anyone with very deep pockets who fancies snapping up prime London property needs to ensure they have the right team helping them. ‘I would include a great property agent that can get you access to the best in class property sales, an excellent mortgage advisor who will give you the greatest chance of successfully completing on your transaction and superb Lawyer and Tax Advisors who can make sure the transaction completed smoothly and efficiently,’ says Johncox.

‘The super-rich are often looking to buy a piece of London heritage, which means rare, prestigious, highly-sought-after homes which might only become available once in a generation. As a buying agent, we do all this extra leg work to find homes – a good buying agent can navigate the entire process for you and help the buyer to be empowered with the right information and presentation to the vendor, to close a deal,’ Woodleigh Smith adds.

Vernor-Miles advises all buyers to never underestimate the power of a good lawyer as early as possible. ‘Get properly prepared so “lawyer up” before you start hunting. Do not simply call the most appealing selling agent or the most persuasive buying agent. Call a good lawyer who will only act and advise in your interests, we can tick all the compliance boxes, prepare a game plan and stand by for you so that, when the right property comes along, we’re ready to move straight away.’

For more gold-standard guidance on property, wealth management and tax and trust, visit the Tatler High Net Worth Address Book.

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