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Boost for luxury London property prices as Russians locked in

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The development of One Hyde Park is seen London, May 2, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

 

LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) – The war in Ukraine is making it hard for even unsanctioned Russians to sell exclusive residential property in Britain, adding to a shortage of supply that has helped drive up house prices in prime locations, real estate sources say.

Russian oligarchs, Middle Eastern oil barons and billionaire Chinese entrepreneurs have been on a spending spree on London real estate over the past three decades, snapping up trophy homes and high-end commercial property.

But the four-month-old invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls a special military operation, has prompted Britain to slap sanctions on more than 1,100 Russians it says have ties to the Kremlin, spreading unease and freezing house sales in so-called Londongrad, agents say.

“There have definitely been a number of transactions that have not gone through, two in excess of 40 million pounds ($49 million),” said Charlie Willis, CEO of property broker The London Broker, adding that in both cases, the buyers were advised not to proceed “just because the seller was originally Russian”. He declined to give further details.

THE BIG SQUEEZE

A widespread shortage of available properties has pushed up prime London prices by 4.7% since the invasion, according to agents Benham & Reeves, although prices in Belgravia and Knightsbridge – popular locations for Russians – have climbed slightly less, at 3.3%.

“The market’s being fuelled by a lack of supply,” said Geoff Garrett, director at mortgage broker Henry Dannell.

The number of prime central London residential sales was down 30% between March and May compared with last year, though still up on pre-pandemic levels, according to property data firm LonRes.

Estate agent Aston Chase estimates there are over 150,000 Russians living in London who between them own eight billion pounds of real estate assets, businesses, and other investments in Britain.

But Mark Pollack, Aston Chase’s co-founder, says wealthy Russians are increasingly cautious about being caught up in the web of sanctions.

“Russians aren’t buying (in the same way) and they are not selling, not necessarily because they don’t want to in some instances, but because they probably can’t or it might be sensible to hope the … dust settles,” he said.

Britain in February scrapped its so-called “golden visas” for wealthy investors and last month announced plans for a new economic crime bill, intended in part to identify the owners of property in Britain and combat illicit finance, although critics say loopholes remain.

Henry Sherwood, managing director of The Buying Agents, which focuses on properties starting at around five million pounds, said the crack down had helped dash hopes the war and sanctions might lead to a flurry of cut-price Russian sales.

At the beginning of the war, “we had people ringing up saying: ‘Have you got any Russians selling?’,” he said.

But he added: “The more discreet don’t want to have anything to do with them. Our buyers don’t want to be associated with firesales – they don’t want to get into a transaction that will never happen.”

One unsanctioned Russian failed to secure three lawyers before finding one willing to help him sell an expensive London property, a senior executive at a property development firm on the other side of the deal told Reuters.

Russian tenants including students are also finding it hard to transfer funds due to sanctions, forcing them to withdraw from the market in London, said Marc von Grundherr, director at Benham & Reeves.

Unprecedented Western sanctions on Moscow, the withdrawal from Russia of scores of Western companies and pressure on London’s advisory companies to cut links with Russian clients have driven some Russian buyers to friendlier property hotspots such as Dubai or Istanbul. read more

One Russian client, Pollack said, had pulled out of buying an 18 million pound London apartment when Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine in February because they were nervous about the political rhetoric in Britain. They still want a London home, but have halved their budget, he said.

But buyers from other regions are helping to keep the London market buoyant.

International buyers have accounted for at least a third of property purchases in prime central London locations in every quarter between 2011 and 2019, according to data from Statista.

Vic Chhabria, managing director at agent London Real Estate Office, which specialises in new constructions as well as high-rise condominiums and luxury homes, said his appointment diary was full, with most interest from buyers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Mumbai willing to spend between two and 20 million pounds.

A prolonged war, tighter regulation, rising interest rates, raging inflation and brutal stock market drops could yet take the heat out of some of that growth, agents added.

“The property market has been flying over the course of the last two to three years,” said Garrett. “All of these cycles have to slow.”

($1 = 0.8164 pounds)

Aston Chase | 0207 724 4724 | enquiries@astonchase.com

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FORMER LONDON HOME OF 20TH-CENTURY PORTRAIT ARTIST JOSEPH OPPENHEIMER ASKS £6.35M

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Elm Tree Road, St John’s Wood, NW8 | Guide Price £6,350,000

 

The 3,096 square foot five bedroom house with walled garden, courtyard garden and roof terrace which was the London artist’s studio/home of renowned celebrity portrait painter Joseph Oppenheimer (1876-1966) on Elm Tree Road in St John’s Wood is for sale via selling agent Aston Chase.

Joseph Oppenheimer lived on Elm Tree Road between the 1930s to 1950s and his sitters include some of the most eminent figures of the 1890s to 1960s including British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, scientist Albert Einstein, conductors Otto Klemperer and Yehudi Menuhin, Russian painter Leonid Pasternak, German Chancellor Count Otto Von Bismark, South African President Paul Kruger, Cape Colony Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes, actress Deborah Kerr and artist George Salting. Some of his works are displayed at London’s National Portrait Gallery.

Brought to the market for the first time in 12 years, the elegant white-stucco three storey late-Georgian semi-detached house was originally built in 1825 and has a bright and airy principal reception room and adjoining study, both opening onto gardens. Between 1878 to 1940 the St John’s Wood School of Art was located directly adjacent to the house on Elm Tree Road (the art school now replaced by houses).

Because of its location adjacent to the St John’s Wood School of Art, and the bright and airy reception room and study, the house on Elm Tree Road has been owned and used as an artist’s studio/home by a series of notable artists including between 1881-1886 artist Ernest Parton, between 1890-1895 artists Caroline and Ethel Wright, between 1907-1908 artist Arthur Wellesley Noyes-Lewis, between 1910-1918 artist Miss Maud Earl and most recently renowned portrait painter Joseph Oppenheimer, who lived in the Elm Tree Road house between 1933 and 1953.

Born in Würzburg, Germany, in 1876 Joseph Oppenheimer started doing portrait paintings as a teenager including at the age of just 14 a portrait sketch of German Chancellor Count Otto Von Bismark when their respective families stayed in the same spa hotel. At 16 he was admitted to the Munich Academy where he studied painting. He travelled widely in Europe and the USA before opening an artist’s studio on the King’s Road in London from 1896 and from 1907 taught at the London School of Art.

In 1908, upon marrying Fanny, his second cousin, he relocated to Berlin, but he never gave up his love of England, visiting often to paint famous figures from English high society and landscape paintings. His paintings of high society ladies were often used by magazines including The Lady, Tatler and Harper’s Bazaar.

In early 1933, after Adolf Hitler came to power, the Oppenheimers chose to live once again in London, first renting (and from 1943 purchasing) the house on Elm Tree Road, the couple becoming British citizens in 1936 having been sponsored by an equerry of King George VI, Sir Louis Greig (the grandfather of journalist and former Daily Mail editor Louis Greig).

In 1953, when his daughter Eva moved to Canada, Joseph Oppenheimer sold the house on Elm Tree Road and relocated to Montreal. In July 1966 he returned to London for the last time to celebrate his 90th birthday, returning to Montreal after where he died on 31st August 1966.

Now the house on Elm Tree Road which has been the home of several notable artists over many decades is for sale. The ground floor reception hall opens onto the spacious principal reception room which has French doors opening onto a courtyard garden. It is this room that some of the artist owners used as a studio to do sketches and work on paintings. Beyond the reception room is a kitchen, separate utility room and integral garage with direct access into the house.

To the other side of the reception hall is a bedroom suite with ensuite bathroom and a study/home office where Joseph Oppenheimer would do his correspondence and prepare for his talks at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. French doors in the study open onto a private walled garden.

On the first floor is the principal bedroom suite, which has a sitting room, walk-in dressing room and main bathroom, with the sitting area opening onto a spacious roof terrace. There is a second bedroom with bathroom, which also opens onto the roof terrace. On the top floor there are two further bedrooms which share a family bathroom.

Mark Pollack, Co-Founding Director of Aston Chase says: “This notable late-Georgian house represents a rare opportunity to purchase a special home in one of   St John’s Wood’s most desirable locations. The house provides bright and spacious lateral accommodation with the rare ability to access private outside living space on both the ground and first floors. As a rare low-built period house in the area it is likely to be of equal appeal to both young families, down-sizers and potentially to the next generation Joseph Oppenheimer!”

Michael Sulkin, Director (House Sales) at Aston Chase says: “In 2006 the house was granted planning consent for an extension providing a further bedroom with ensuite at first floor level above the garage. The consent expired in 2009 but could be revived and used to create an enlarged six bedroom house should the new owners require additional accommodation.”

Elm Tree Road is a tranquil road yet located within close proximity to the stylish boutiques and restaurants of St John’s Wood High Street and within close proximity of St John’s Wood Underground Station (Jubilee Line).

The house on Elm Tree Road is for sale priced at £6,350,000 with selling agent Aston Chase.

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SALES OF HOUSES WITH GARDENS IN NORTH LONDON HAVE DOUBLED POST-PANDEMIC

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Steele's Road, Belize Park
Steele’s Road, Belize Park, NW3 | Guide Price £8,350,000

 

The demand for houses with gardens in North West London addresses including Hampstead, Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park has boomed post-pandemic says a new survey by Aston Chase; since January 2020 there have been 87 sales for homes in North West London priced over £5 million, with the number of deals almost doubling last year – there were 55 sales in 2021 compared to 32 sales in 2020.

Aston Chase has looked at house and apartment sales over £5 million in North West London in 2020 and 2021 using deals data from LONRES for the postcodes of NW3 (Hampstead, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage), NW1 (Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill and Camden) and W9 (Little Venice, Maida Vale and Maida Hill).

The Aston Chase survey found that between January 2020 and December 2021 there were 87 sales of North West London homes priced above £5 million – with over £720 million worth of property sold, with 2021 accounting for £465 million worth of sales, up 82% on 2020. Aston Chase has been involved in over £250 million worth of deals across North West London, reinforcing the firm’s reputation as the leading independent residential sales agency operating in Central and North West London.

The average price of a home sold in North West London in 2021 was The average price of a home sold in North West London in 2021 was £8.46 million, up 3% on the £8.2 million average sale price in 2020.The gap between asking and achieved prices has also narrowed with the percentage of homes sold on/close to asking price being 27% in 2021, compared to 18% the year before.

Since the start of 2022 Aston Chase calculates that this figure has risen even more, with the majority of homes being sold by the agency now selling on/close to asking price, and a significant number of properties selling above asking price due to deals becoming competitive/sealed bidding situations with two or more buyers putting in best bids in order to purchase a coveted property.

The Aston Chase survey found that the NW3 postcode NW3 (Hampstead, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage) is the top postcode in North West London for sales above £5 million. Over the last two years there have been 52 prime sales in the NW3 postcode, followed by the NW1 postcode (Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill and Camden) with 26 deals, and 4 deals in W9 (Little Venice, Maida Vale and Maida Hill).

Aston Chase sold a substantial unmodernised residence featuring an exceptional rear garden with tennis court and swimming pool for £14 million in Greenaway Gardens, Hampstead, as well as the former London home of War of the Worlds author H.G. Wells, a £12.75 million Nash townhouse directly overlooking Regent’s Park.

The Aston Chase survey found that the market for £5 million plus sales in North West London is dominated by house and villa sales rather than the sale of apartments. Between 2020 and 2021 the number of houses sold in North West London nearly doubled, with 49 sold in 2021 compared to 29 in 2020.

An analysis of all house deals over 2020 and 2021 shows that the average size of houses being purchased across North West London was 5,200 sq ft, with apartments being purchased averaging 2,900 sq ft. However, the most expensive homes sold in North West London over the last two years are invariably over 10,000 sq ft in size, typically large detached houses set in large gardens with excavated lower levels containing leisure facilities routinely including swimming pools, gymnasiums and media rooms / private screening rooms.

Aston Chase highlight that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the prime London housing market with buyers wanting to purchase homes offering more space, ideally with a home office and leisure facilities and plenty of private outdoor space. Before the pandemic affluent buyers were happy to purchase houses or apartments offering no or little outside space in prime central London but are now frequently electing to live further out and are looking at the leafy addresses of North West London where they can purchase more space for their money and benefit from homes with private gardens, better air quality and enjoy city-village life.

Aston Chase observe that the local high streets, shops and cafes of St John’s Wood, Hampstead, Belsize Park and Primrose Hill have all flourished post-pandemic with queues outside the coffee shops and delis during the week and especially at weekends.

Mark Pollack, Co-Founding Director of Aston Chase says: “Our new North West London housing market survey shows that the volume of sales for homes priced above £5 million in NW1, NW3, NW8 & W9 has effectively doubled between 2020 and 2021, with properties now hitting or exceeding their asking prices. The market is being driven by domestic UK buyers, and there has also been a significant number of purchasers from continental Europe (Germany, arising from concerns as to the possibility of a wealth tax under the new socialist government) and notably from both the United States and Canada. Buyers want homes that provide them with outside space in the form of gardens or generously sized balconies or terraces and North West London has the advantage of having a large supply of these homes complimented by exceptional recreational amenities such as Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill, Hampstead Heath and Kenwood. This is why North West London has become the most sought after area to live in the capital.”