March 25, 2011 6:31 pm

Chinese are top spenders on prime property

Buyers from mainland China are now the biggest spenders in the prime central London property market, overtaking Russians as the buyers of the most expensive houses over the past year, according to new research.

Chinese buyers spent an average of £6.5m on top-end property purchases in the 12 months to the end of February, outspending the 60 other nationalities that have bought in London over the same timeframe.

According to figures from Knight Frank, investors from Malaysia and Hong Kong were the next biggest spenders, paying average purchase prices of £6.2m and £5.5m respectively.

Russian buyers fell to fourth place in the property agent’s league table of biggest buyers, spending an average of £5.4m over the past year.

“Until two years ago, the most affluent buyers in the central London market were Russian – on average they outspent every other nationality by far,” says Liam Bailey of Knight Frank. But the average purchase price paid by Russian buyers has been dragged down by the growing pool of millionaires joining the billionaire buyers.

Russians are still the most numerous overseas buyers in prime London locations, purchasing nearly 6 per cent of all £2m-plus properties over the past year. But estate agents now say that the Chinese are the ones to watch.

While Chinese buyers bought a smaller proportion of top-end property in London – just 2 per cent over the past year, ranking them ninth among overseas buyers – agents have reported a strong increase in interest since the beginning of the year, particularly in trophy homes.

Kay & Co, a London-based estate agent, has registered eight Chinese buyers since January with budgets of between £8m and £15m. Of particular interest are homes facing Hyde Park, those in Mayfair or the garden squares of Marylebone and Portland Place, according to Martin Bikhit of the estate agent.

Mohamed Nurmohamed, director of Chesterton Humbert’s Mayfair office, says
it has had a number of “heavyweight” wealthy Chinese clients, looking for properties of between £15m and £25m in Mayfair and St James’s.

Two properties in Avenue Road, St John’s Wood, have been sold in recent months to Chinese purchasers for £11.75m and £25.75m, reports Mark Pollack of Aston Chase, the estate agents.

He says the weakness of sterling has boosted demand – effectively offering a discount of nearly 20 per cent to Hong Kong dollar-based Chinese nationals, who primarily trade through Hong Kong because of China’s restrictions on overseas currency transactions.

Bailey believes Chinese buyers will follow the Russian trend. “The early adopters are the super-rich, they are here in small numbers, but will be rapidly joined by compatriots of more modest – although still very comfortable – means,” he says.

Property experts have long been predicting an influx of Chinese buyers at the top end of London’s property market because of the growing wealth of the country’s population and the soaring prices of China’s domestic property market.

However, some argue that demand is unlikely to rival that of buyers from the Middle East and Russia. Jeremy Davidson, a buying agent, says the Russians, Middle Easterners and Indians remain omnipotent at the top of the market.

According to Knight Frank’s figures, buyers from the UAE bought 4.4 per cent of all £2m-plus properties over the past year, followed by US investors with a 3.7 per cent market share.

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