A personal tour of London’s South Kensington neighbourhood
South Kensington, one of London’s most sought-after residential areas, represents a microcosm of the greater city: with different nationalities creating their own enclaves on a street by street basis.
Simon Armitage, from Druce South Kensington and Chelsea gives us a tour of this stylish and highly-desirable area.
Gallic Gloucester Village
The ivy clad cottages and detached family homes of Gloucester Village, the collection of streets to the west of Gloucester Road and south of Kensington High Street, offer one of the safest investments in prime central London. Having attracted an increasingly European population, drawn in by the nearby Lycée and proximity to the City, an array of fashionable boutiques, cafes and restaurants are opening up – l’Etranger on Victoria Grove has been voted as possessing the best wine list in London and a number of European cafes now line previously run down Gloucester Road.
The artistic heritage of the area has bestowed upon it a certain intellectual gravitas, more commonly associated with the cafe culture of Paris. T S Eliot lived and died in the Victorian mansion block at Kensington Court Place and this intellectual heritage is maintained by the presence of Heythrop College, a specialist philosophy college, part of the University of London.
The properties on offer vary from handsome Victorian mansion flats to detached villas, prettily decorated with bright window boxes. Prices here reached £2,500 per sq ft 18 months ago, marking as one of the most sought-after areas of central London. The Grade-II listed properties in Gloucester Village prove consistently popular with European buyers, who can appreciate the period façade, safe in the knowledge they will be able to modernise the interiors. In contrast, we find that Chinese buyers tend to steer away from these listed properties – not because of the restrictions to what can be done to the property, but because they tend to favour contemporary developments. It does seem to be the case that buyers choose what they are used to at home.
Stucco student digs
To the east of Gloucester Road, the white stucco streets such as Queen’s Gate Terrace attract many Middle Eastern and Chinese buyers, who generally tend to prefer the grandeur of the regal white buildings to the ‘quaint’ cottages of the village. Estate agent have experienced considerable interest in properties along Queen’s Gate Terrace and Queen’s Gate from buyers looking for properties for their children to live in while they study at one of London’s most prestigious universities.
Imperial College is just a couple of minutes’ walk from these streets and the nearby Exhibition Road offers the chance to experience some of the world’s most well-regarded museums. Price per square foot on Queen’s Gate Terrace has risen by 40 per cent in the last year.
Musical mansion blocks
Moving further to the east of Queen’s Gate, the roads around the Royal Albert Hall comprise Victorian mansion blocks and stylish art deco apartments. Although the properties here are generally less spacious than those of Gloucester Village, the proximity to the park and Knightsbridge keeps prices high.
It does seem to be the case that buyers choose what they are used to at home. Our Russian buyers covet the grand Grade-II listed buildings which offer the grandeur of the buildings back in Moscow. We tend to see Russian buyers preferring the streets around the Great Albert Hall. Often these will be their fifth or sixth homes and so the ability to ‘lock-up-and-leave’ is of paramount importance.
These streets to the east of South Kensington are particularly popular because they are closest to the all-important Harrods. The price per square foot of an apartment here has just tipped £2,500.
And what is in store in 2015?
In 2014, demand has consistently outstripped supply, in particular for large family homes in Gloucester village and pied-a-terre apartments and this market is set to remain constant in 2015. However, we do tend to see a levelling off of the market for the four or five months before and after an election as buyers and vendors wait to see exactly how the Westminster agenda is set to have an effect on their purchase or sale.
The prospect and potential inception of mansion tax is set to cause ripples in Prime Central London, it certainly isn’t called a tax on London for nothing. A significant proportion of our buyers are from Europe and the Middle East and it may be the case that these buyers, familiar with a similar tax in their own countries, will become less interested in investing in a city which similarly charges the tax they are seeking to avoid. As a result, there may be a shift in the different nationalities investing in South Kensington.”
Images courtesy of Druce, Christian Richters and Harrods
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