Tuesday, June 2, 2009

London luxury homes prices fall 20% in May

They may not return to their 2008 highs for another five years: Knight Frank

(LONDON) London luxury-home prices fell about 20 per cent in May from a year ago and probably won't return to their 2008 highs for another five years, Knight Frank LLP said.

The average value of houses and apartments costing more than £1 million (S$2.4 million) in the most expensive neighbourhoods has fallen on an annual basis for 11 straight quarters.

The pace of the decline slowed in May and prices gained 1.6 per cent from April, the London-based property broker said in a statement.

'The uplift we are currently experiencing in the London market could be short-lived,' said James Hyman, a partner for residential sales at London-based broker Cluttons LLP.

There are 'few convincing signs of an upturn in the wider economy', he added.

Thousands of bankers, the main buyers of luxury homes in London, are at risk of losing their jobs as a result of the global financial crisis.

Financial companies may cut as many as 60,000 jobs by the end of 2010, according to Oxford Economics, a research company.

London luxury home prices will probably fall by a total of 30 per cent from the market's peak in March 2008, Knight Frank said.

The decline in May was the smallest since a 16.9 per cent drop in December.

Home prices across the UK fell about 11 per cent in May from a year earlier, compared with a 15 per cent drop in April, Nationwide Building Society said on May 29.

On a monthly basis, prices unexpectedly rose 1.2 per cent, the mortgage lender said.

Still, Liam Bailey, Knight Frank's head of residential research, said he sees increased competition for the few available prime properties for sale from domestic buyers, as well as rising interest from foreign buyers lured by the pound's decline against the dollar.

'The falls in capital values, cheap debt and overseas investors with dollars and euros have encouraged buyers back into the market,' Mr Bailey said.

The pound has lost 25 per cent against the dollar in the past year and 11 per cent against the euro, making homes in London more affordable for foreign investors.

That helped boost Knight Frank's Kensington branch to its best April in three years for the number of signed contracts, said Tim Wright, who heads the office.

In the Notting Hill, Holland Park and Kensington neighbourhoods, Mr Wright said two family houses went to a 'best bid' contest in which multiple buyers submitted their best offers at once.

He's had three cases in which a last-minute bidder stepped in with a higher offer for a property and scuttled a previous deal at a lower price, a tactic known as 'gazumping' in the UK.

'Supply is still thin across the price ranges,' particularly for properties worth £1 million to £2 million, Mr Bailey informed.

Luxury-property values in Mayfair rose 2.9 per cent in the two months through May, more than any other neighbourhood, Knight Frank said.

Marylebone was second with an increase of 2.7 per cent. Homes valued at £10 million or more gained 0.8 per cent during that period.

Prices may drop as little as 5 per cent in the whole of this year, less than Knight Frank's last forecast for a 10 per cent decline, Mr Bailey said.

Knight Frank compiles its luxury index from estimated values on properties in the Mayfair, St John's Wood, Regent's Park, Kensington, Notting Hill, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Belgravia and South Bank neighbourhoods of London. -- Bloomberg

Source: Business Times, 2 June 2009

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