January 13, 2012 10:03 pm

UK property: Stuccoed but not stuffy

Its central location draws the rich and famous to Belgravia where garages go for half-a-million pounds

Belgravia has long been renowned as one of London’s most prestigious neighbourhoods. Since the early 19th century, when master builder Thomas Cubitt was commissioned to develop the area with the white stucco-fronted houses it is now famous for, Belgravia has been a desirable residential location for the rich and famous – and remains so today.

Bordered by Knightsbridge and Sloane Street, Belgravia includes some of London’s most coveted residential streets, including Eaton Square, Belgrave Square, Wilton Crescent and Chester Square. It remains one of the most expensive places to buy: over the past six years, average house prices in Belgravia have risen by 94 per cent, while values have risen by as much as 130 per cent around Eaton Square, according to Savills.

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Average prices for Belgravia now stand at £1,982 per sq ft – only Knightsbridge is more expensive at £2,007 per sq ft. However, the very best houses will sell for much more. In September, a white stucco mansion on Wilton Crescent was sold to an overseas buyer for £42m – equating to around £4,000 per sq ft.

While Belgravia’s central location and Regency architecture continue to attract rich international buyers, some criticise the area for being too staid compared to its next door neighbour, Knightsbridge.

“People who talk about Belgravia being stuffy and out of date are out of date themselves,” argues Stuart Bailey of Knight Frank. He admits the location is lower key than Knightsbridge, home to One Hyde Park, but notes that this is a major part of its appeal to residents. “Buyers like that it’s a subtle place to live and you can live here relatively anonymously,” says Bailey.

A map of Belgravia

The village lifestyle is also a big draw. Belgravia has two key streets – Elizabeth Street and Motcomb Street – that offer a great choice of boutique shops, restaurants and bars. The neighbourhood is set to change further in the next few years with two new residential developments on the cards: 3-10 Grosvenor Crescent and Ebury Square. Both hope to extend the list of Belgravia’s sought-after streets with their developments.

The first to be launched is Grosvenor Crescent, a refurbishment of a Grade II listed terrace into 15 high-end apartments – including five grand apartments arranged over several floors, three duplex penthouses and four lateral apartments – that will be completed by the end of this month. The developer Grosvenor has sought to restore the building to its former 19th-century glory after years of being used for institutional purposes – most recently as the London headquarters of the British Red Cross.

Helen Green, of Helen Green Designs, who recently did the interior design for Siddons House, a five-bedroom property on London’s Cornwall Terrace, says she was asked by Grosvenor to create a sophisticated interior that still feels like home. The apartments range from a light, modern palette of colours in the penthouses to more earthy tones in the lateral apartments. The grand apartments, arranged over three or four storeys and ranging in size from 4,570 to 10,800 sq ft, have high ceilings and outdoor terraces.

Despite attracting the upper echelons of London society when it was first built in the 1860s, Grosvenor Crescent suffered after the buildings were converted into offices in the post-war period. Jeremy Davidson, a property consultant, says he was sceptical about the location of the development at first. “I’ve lived in Belgravia for 25 years and I’ve always regarded Grosvenor Crescent as the busy road that’s always full of taxis running up to Hyde Park Corner,” he says. “My initial thoughts were probably like most people who know Belgravia very well – will it work in that location?”

Chart of Belgravia property prices

However, many agree that the high specification of the refurbishment has provided a boost to what was considered a less prime part of Belgravia.

Three units have already sold, including two show apartments, says Jonathan Wyatt of Grosvenor. While prices are expected to be around £3,600 per sq ft for the smaller apartments, it is believed Grosvenor is targeting the bigger ones at the high end of the Belgravia market at £4,000 per sq ft.

Grosvenor has also striven to ensure the apartments appeal to discreet purchasers. Owners can enter at the back of the buildings via Wilton Row, where there will be parking for 21 cars in a secured underground garage and all apartments will be serviced 24 hours a day by a back-of-house concierge team.

Prospective buyers will have to wait a bit longer for Berkeley’s new-build development of 71 high-end apartments in Ebury Square. Set to complete in spring 2014, the project is being kept closely under wraps but Paul Vallone, director of Berkeley Homes, says the exterior of the building will be very traditional to fit in with the surrounding area but with a modern interior. It will also offer 24/7 concierge services, a gymnasium and underground car parking.

For people who want to buy now, Savills is marketing Belgrave Mews South, a mews house that has been redeveloped behind its period front façade, at £18m. The 5,100 sq ft property, tucked away behind Belgrave Square, is one of the largest low-built houses in Belgravia. And a terrace period townhouse on Chapel Street is up for sale at £8,995,000 with Beauchamp Estates. It encompasses 4,541 sq ft with five bedrooms and a south-east-facing terrace.

Tanya Powley is FT Money’s mortgage and property reporter

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Buying guide

Pros:

● less flashy than Knightsbridge

● offers a laid-back village lifestyle in the centre of London

● contains some of the most sought-after residential addresses such as Eaton Square

Cons:

● home to several foreign embassies and noisy protests

● fast cars roaring around Belgrave Square

● can be perceived as staid and stuffy

What you can buy for ...

£100,000: Nothing. Even garages go for up to £500,000 in Belgravia

£1m: A one-bedroom duplex apartment in Eaton Square currently on the market for £995,000 with Savills

Contacts:

www.grosvenorcrescent.com

http://www.berkeleygroup.co.uk/berkeley/ebury-square

www.knightfrank.com

www.savills.com

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