'Prop Int' - Two Richards, Property Vision

Perhaps the best part of my job involves meeting many of the key individuals in the property world, and I'll use this blog to share what I call 'Property Intelligence' with readers.

So here goes with the main points from a lengthy interview with Richard Sharples and Richard Marsh, two leading figures in the prime central London operation of top-end buying agency Property Vision. The firm specialises in finding properties valued at £1m to £20m-plus for wealthy clients.

PV admits to having had a tough time over the past two years – its client base interested in buying London properties is down as much as 50%, although (thanks to a small number of ultra-high value purchases north of £20m) the average ‘spend’ on each of its successful deals has risen during the recession.

These are the two Richards’ key points:

  • Many clients buy without a mortgage but then get finance on their new home to pay for a business project or to help restructure their personal finances or tax position;

  • About 50% of those seeking a home in London are from overseas. A lot of Americans, dominant while the City was on the rise, have been pulled back home by their companies but, to some extent, they have been replaced by a lot of Italian, Indian and even some Brazilian buyers;

  • PV reckons that (despite many selling agents making a lot of noise about non-dom taxes and recent 'anti business' statements by Labour) very few buyers are truly deterred by the fiscal regime in the UK, which in the company's view remains "pretty benign" to rich people;

  • London still beats Geneva, Paris and alternative European locations because of its schools, transport links, good communications and the dominance of English language;

  • Despite press stories (from people like me, I suppose) very few foreign buyers are interested in buying anything outside of London or the commuter belt – a few sporting estates have been snapped up by the super-rich who fly in for a day and then go back home, but that’s about it;

  • The mood music on bonuses may be hostile but PV reckons most banks and finance houses will still pay out. Bonus recipients, who of course go on to be buyers of some of London's prime properties, will be a bit more discreet than in the past;

  • There is perhaps unlikely to be any major change in how London property is viewed by wealthy buyers (domestic and foreign) whether Labour or the Conservatives win the 2010 election.

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