What Can Derail London?

The top end of the housing market already hogs the limelight and estate agents fighting for a slice of this extremely rich cake want that to continue - hence Savills’ new concentration on research into homes for what it this week called “those ubiquitous billionaires”.

It is not alone. Strutt & Parker has opened two new central London offices and Christies, until now little more than a desk and a telephone in the UK capital, is likely to open a much more significant operation in the new year. Knight Frank’s Private View magazine, described by the firm on Twitter as “full of the best properties available worldwide” actually has details of 32 London homes on sale...and only 24 from the entire rest of the planet.

But what - in the darkest hours of the night when they might find themselves awake - do agents, developers and analysts fear might just possibly cause London to go belly-up? It is not likely, and for sure these property professionals hope it never happens, but what are the risks?

I asked 20 individuals from international and UK sales and letting agencies, and from developers. If there are no major political or economic changes, none of them can see demand dropping significantly and none of them can see supply rising significantly. As one agent put it to me “the same fools who are on the threshold of paying £7,000 a square foot for London will probably be paying £8,000 in a year’s time.” But what if...just what if...something was to happen.

The industry’s worries are simple, and three fold. And most players agree on all of them.

Euro Crisis: “Frankly no one’s worried about Greece defaulting. But if that happens and leads to Italy and then Spain, that’s Armageddon. British exposure is so great, no one from overseas will want to invest here, and no one from here will be able to afford to invest” says one UK sales agency;

Another 9/11: “So much of the London rental market is dependent on American corporate executives, a lot of harm would be done if they stopped flying” says one leading London lettings agency;

More Civil Unrest: “I was in the US when pictures were shown of the London riots. Suddenly the UK became a no-go zone. If that happens again, on a larger scale, where is central London’s buyers and investors?” is the question of a leading developer.

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