Brexit has caused widespread caution among the prime London buying and selling community – few could argue otherwise. Prices, transactions and new housing stock are all down while the time it takes to sell a property is up. It’s been and continues to be a challenging time. Markets don’t cope well with uncertainty and uncertainty is something we’ve had in spades.
But for some uncertainty creates opportunity and over the last six months or so there’s been a corner of the market that has been quietly getting on with business. For me, as a buying agent, the height of the downturn has coincided with some of the busiest times I’ve seen in over 18 years in the business.
There seems to be a sense that the prime London market is bumping along the bottom and that if you want to bag a bargain, now is the time to act. And the buyers are wide-ranging – from Europe, South American and yes, the UK too.
But this is an off-market market – a tried and trusted route of testing both pricing and strength of interest when stock and transaction levels are low. Marketed quietly the properties I’m seeing are new to the market and that’s important because buyers are being choosy, they’re looking for quality – exceptional properties in the very best locations.
It’s the best home on the best street, the house that has the slightly larger garden, the most impressive view. And in Notting Hill – the area of choice for many of my buyers – it’s off-street parking, period homes and green spaces that are always the draw.
It’s the same whether someone is looking to spend £2m or £20m, best-in-class is what counts. And these are buyers who are prepared to pay – but not at any price!
They’re savvy and while they see the opportunity, these buyers also want to minimise their risk –access to the best properties is one part of the equation but buying well is the other.
It’s been widely reported that prices in some of London’s prime areas have been among the hardest hit in recent years, and this coupled with favourable exchange rates has meant that for international buyers, in particular, a home on one of London’s most prestigious roads, has never looked such good value. In some cases, the currency exchange in itself is enough to offset the stamp duty charges which are frequently an onerous barrier to purchase - particularly for homes at the top end of the market.
In the long-run London has proved time and again that it’s resilient to the worst that financial and political uncertainties can throw at it. In the scheme of things Brexit uncertainty – whatever the outcome – will pass. But throughout London will remain a culturally diverse, historic and vibrant world-class city, that attracts buyers from across the country and around the globe. For anyone thinking of making the move to prime London, now might just be the time to take a look.
Laurent began his property career in 1992 where he worked in the 7th arrondissement first as an estate agent and then setting up a property department for Michelez Motel LLP, an established firm of notaires.
In 2000 he moved to London to open a South Kensington office for a top-end agency, before setting up FPL in 2001. Today, Laurent, together with his business partner Louise Baladi, buys and sells prime London properties for both investors and private individuals from across the globe.