There are just 20 cities throughout the world that billionaires have chosen to purchase property in, and of those, London, New York, Moscow and Hong Kong are the most popular. There are numerous advantages to owning a London home: The British capital is an exclusive location with consistently increasing house prices, and it’s one of Europe’s most influential financial centres. However, there is one apparent drawback: The city’s properties are considerably smaller than others of equivalent value in the Middle East, North America and Russia.
Billionaires moving to London from other cities often find that their new home provides rather less space than they’re used to. Mansions in the city are, on average, around 8,000 square feet in size, which can seem diminutive compared to the stately 150,000 square foot properties on sale in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. However, the issue of space hasn’t discouraged buyers from investing in London homes. Instead, it has inspired them to think creatively about their purchases and how to increase the size of a property while adhering to stringent building regulations.
Traditional home extensions are made difficult by the restrictions naturally imposed by living in a populous city, so residents are choosing to remove walls, turning multiple mansions into one, or to develop commercial properties into grand residences. Many Georgian and Victorian buildings, originally built as homes, were used as offices and embassies following the destruction of the city centre during World War II. Now these occupants are moving to the newly regenerated Nine Elms area, leaving the palatial properties available for residential owners once more.
Cambridge House, Mayfair, is a former royal residence that overlooks Green Park and is situated just ten minutes from Buckingham Palace. It was the home of Lord Palmerston, who was Prime Minister during the Victorian era, but most recently this Georgian Grade I listed building housed the £50,000 per year In and Out private members’ club. Its new owners, billionaire brothers Simon and David Reuben, are planning to transform the building into a 45-room residential property and are building an underground swimming pool and a wine cellar with capacity for more than 35,000 bottles. When the three-year redevelopment is complete, the home’s value is predicted to reach £250 million.
When making a property purchase, it’s paramount to check the local planning regulations to ensure that your plans will be possible. One owner who has had to rethink their development is Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of the Qatari royal family, which purchased three adjacent properties for £120 million on Grade I listed Cromwell Terrace. Their plan was to combine the three terraced houses, creating one spacious luxury home, but development has been put on hold as it contravenes Westminster council’s policy against reducing the number of homes in the borough.
As London councils introduce increasingly strict regulations, such as Kensington and Chelsea’s veto on basement extensions, those seeking to purchase and extend property in the city must be willing to consider new, innovative methods. If you’re searching for your own home in London’s centre, whether you intend to increase its square footage or simply enjoy its location and charm, speak to Engel & Völkers. Agents at our Chelsea office will be pleased to present you with the finest homes in Belgravia, South Kensington, and Knightsbridge.