Connect with us

Current

London is now the biggest market in the world for top-end homes. So who buys them?

Voice Of EU

Published

on

As one of the most expensive residential property purchases ever made public, it was inevitable that Telis Mistakidis would hit the headlines when he bought his £46.1million London apartment.

The Greek tycoon’s 7,900-square-foot Belgravia duplex was one of six built by Candy & Candy in the capital’s former BT telephone exchange. 

From the extravagant staff quarters to the hefty £3.2 million stamp duty bill, every decadent detail of the sale was pored over in 2015.

Every detail, that is, apart from the name of the woman who brokered the deal.

In the background, guiding negotiations at every stage, was property agent Becky Fatemi, whose exclusive firm the retired mining mogul Mistakidis, 58, had enlisted.

‘He wanted something extremely “trophy” and unique,’ recalls sharply dressed Londoner Becky, 44, who says a small development was also paramount to protect his privacy.

‘He didn’t want to get in the lift and see a fellow billionaire every time.’

Guiding negotiations at every stage, was property agent Becky Fatemi (pictured), whose exclusive firm the retired mining mogul Mistakidis, 58

Guiding negotiations at every stage, was property agent Becky Fatemi (pictured), whose exclusive firm the retired mining mogul Mistakidis, 58

She closed the deal in just 48 hours. But in order for high-stakes property sales to happen at such breakneck speed, they require an army of staff. 

‘You walk into a boardroom to have these negotiations, working with six or seven lawyers,’ she explains. 

‘The team that works around this type of buyer and their spending power is huge.’

This week, it was revealed that the super-rich bought more homes in London than in any city in the world last year, spending around £3 billion on ‘super-prime’ properties — those costing more than £10 million.

And on Thursday it emerged that Nick Candy, one half of Candy & Candy, had put his own apartment in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, on the market for £175 million. Astonishingly, he is already said to have offers.

Little wonder, then, that the services of prime property agents such as Becky, who source and sell homes for the world’s wealthiest people, are more sought after than ever.

This week, it was revealed that the super-rich bought more homes in London than in any city in the world last year. Pictured: Heathfield House UK Sotheby's International Realty

This week, it was revealed that the super-rich bought more homes in London than in any city in the world last year. Pictured: Heathfield House UK Sotheby’s International Realty

Their roles have come under the spotlight thanks to Selling Sunset, the popular Netflix reality television series documenting the roller coaster careers of glamorous agents at Los Angeles brokerage firm the Oppenheim Group, who bicker and scheme as they bag commissions on some of the most fabulous real estate imaginable.

So how does the lot of their London counterparts compare? And what is it really like scouring the capital’s most breathtaking homes and brokering multi-million-pound deals for a living?

From hiring private jets for whirlwind viewings to having a rapper client who believed Buckingham Palace ‘beneath him’ and selling a £40 million property whose master bedroom was the size of an ordinary house, Becky has seen it all.

‘I think we make it look glamorous,’ says Becky, whose prime estate agency, Rokstone, has made more than £1.4 billion of sales in ten years. 

‘We’re working in a glamorous environment — but we’re hustlers at the end of the day. It’s highly volatile.’

Gazumpings and bidding wars are just the beginning of the stresses these prime agents face.

But money certainly helps, as Mathew Walters, 35, (pictured) and Stuart Aikman, 42, founders of boutique prime property agency Story of Home

But money certainly helps, as Mathew Walters, 35, (pictured) and Stuart Aikman, 42, founders of boutique prime property agency Story of Home

‘Once, a very successful banker who missed out on a sealed bid for a £5 million home turned up to my office foaming at the mouth and asking how he was going to explain to his wife that he’d lost the house. 

‘It was frightening. We had to lock the door,’ says Becky, who was forced to call the police.

A post-Brexit price drop, low interest rates and lack of supply have led to the current ‘crazy’ market, she says, with three buyers competing for her most recent sale, an £18 million, 4,300-square-foot Knightsbridge home with four bedrooms, two kitchens and the ‘most unbelievable’ decor.

The sellers were a British couple who had outgrown the house after their children moved out, and the buyers were British too, something Becky sees a lot more of these days: ‘When I started I was working with a lot of Greeks and Iranians. Now I work a lot more with domestic UK buyers.’

Prohibited by an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) from revealing to whom she sold her most expensive home, which cost ‘in excess’ of £100 million, she has clients in entertainment and law, finance and technology.

She’s housed a former prime minister and searched for properties for singers Rihanna, Beyonce and Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy.

‘Puffy wanted to be surrounded by acres of land in the middle of London,’ smiles Becky. ‘We actually drove past Buckingham Palace and he said, “I love that, but everyone can see inside.” ’

Sellers and buyers come to her via her 65,000-strong contact database. ‘Everything we do is referral work,’ says Becky, who started her career at Foxtons, where she became the highest banking agent in the company’s history — a title she still holds.

The super rich are estimated to have spent around £3 billion on ¿super-prime¿ properties last year¿ those costing more than £10 million. Pictured: Anchor Brewhouse UK Sotheby's Realty

The super rich are estimated to have spent around £3 billion on ‘super-prime’ properties last year— those costing more than £10 million. Pictured: Anchor Brewhouse UK Sotheby’s Realty

‘She has a staff of six female agents at Rokstone, which she founded in 2011. ‘I don’t advertise. I don’t send touting letters.’

Once she’s found a potential buyer, she assesses whether their money is ‘clean or dirty’. 

Around 10 per cent are vetoed on account of not being able to prove where they made their money.

‘Understanding where the money comes from is a big issue for us. If you can’t provide a paper trail to show the source of your wealth, you can’t buy a property.’

Becky brings many prospective buyers who live abroad to Britain on a private jet.

‘I work closely with a private jet company and have all the hotels on speed dial — [clients] usually stay in the Connaught, Lanesborough or Berkeley,’ she says, adding that most bring a security team to viewings to assess ‘fire exits, points of entry, to see if a panic room can be installed, before the offer is put in’.

While her twentysomething technology entrepreneurs and YouTuber star clients seek new-builds on the River Thames — ‘they all want the same thing: river views, underground parking, balconies’ — some of her sales, such as the converted Knightsbridge church that sold for £40 million to a ‘high-profile Middle Eastern’ client, beggar belief.

‘It had a glass cylinder hydraulic lift, three kitchens, a swimming pool and a 2,500-square-foot master bedroom — the equivalent size of a three-bedroom flat,’ she says.

¿Their privacy is so key that they only want one point of contact ¿ me,¿ says buying agent Hannah Aykroyd, (pictured) managing director of Aykroyd & Co, who advises high net-worth individuals on prime London properties.

‘Their privacy is so key that they only want one point of contact — me,’ says buying agent Hannah Aykroyd, (pictured) managing director of Aykroyd & Co, who advises high net-worth individuals on prime London properties.

She earns around 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent commission per sale — so £140,000 on a £7 million deal — but if it doesn’t go through, she doesn’t get paid a penny.

It’s stressful, she admits, ‘especially when you spend four years trying to sell and then the owner changes their mind’.

Her own home is a relatively modest two-bedroom flat in Marylebone, North West London, which she shares with her seven-year-old son.

‘I would love to move to a house with a garden, but can’t afford it because of the stamp duty,’ she says. Not that she envies her billionaire clients. 

‘They usually feel displaced. There is no simplicity to their lives.’ True. 

But money certainly helps, as Mathew Walters, 35, and Stuart Aikman, 42, founders of boutique prime property agency Story of Home discovered recently, when a Swiss banker flew by private jet to see a £5 million, eight-bedroom Georgian property they were selling — with a swimming pool and off-street parking — before buying it and flying home the same afternoon.

With demand so strong, they recently brokered a bidding war on a house ‘over £6 million’ between international clients who had only seen the property via video link.

Stuart once agreed a £9.35 million offer from a Middle Eastern princess for a Georgian townhouse in Marylebone, before flying to Las Vegas for a wedding and handing over the sale to Mathew to complete.

‘When I landed, I asked how it was going,’ recalls Stuart. ‘He said contracts had been exchanged — but not with my buyer.’

On Thursday it emerged that Nick Candy, one half of Candy & Candy, had put his own apartment in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, on the market for £175 million. Pictured: Stuart Aikman property Belsize Park Firehouse

On Thursday it emerged that Nick Candy, one half of Candy & Candy, had put his own apartment in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, on the market for £175 million. Pictured: Stuart Aikman property Belsize Park Firehouse

In the space of Stuart’s ten-hour flight, Mathew took a call from a representative of a San Francisco technology entrepreneur: ‘He said, “I hear this building is under offer. My guy wants it.” He told me to ask the owner what he needed to do to acquire it,’ says Mathew.

‘The owner said if the second buyer paid the asking price of £10 million and exchanged contracts today, he’d swap buyers.’ And so he did.

While pools and off-street parking are de rigueur, some properties come with unexpected quirks, such as a fish tank built into the floor of one client’s bedroom and en-suite, ‘so the fish were swimming round the bath,’ says Stuart.

Even the most stylish designer finishes are subject to the whim of the buyer. ‘You’d be amazed how many people spend £10 million on an amazing property then rip it out completely,’ says Mathew.

Given concerns around their privacy and the cut-throat nature of the market, increasing numbers of wealthy clients hire buying agents to act in their interests, scout out the best homes and secure viewings.

‘Their privacy is so key that they only want one point of contact — me,’ says buying agent Hannah Aykroyd, managing director of Aykroyd & Co, who advises high net-worth individuals on prime London properties.

‘People don’t want the entire world looking at the internals of their property. An incredible art collection can be worth far more than the property itself, so there’s no way that sellers are going to allow pieces of art to be photographed,’ says Hannah, 35, who lives in West London with her husband and two small children.

From hiring private jets for whirlwind viewings to having a rapper client who believed Buckingham Palace ¿beneath him¿ and selling a £40 million property whose master bedroom was the size of an ordinary house, Becky has seen it all. Pictured: Ovington Square UK Sotheby's International Realty

From hiring private jets for whirlwind viewings to having a rapper client who believed Buckingham Palace ‘beneath him’ and selling a £40 million property whose master bedroom was the size of an ordinary house, Becky has seen it all. Pictured: Ovington Square UK Sotheby’s International Realty

She adds that she often doesn’t reveal the names of celebrity buyers to agents until they put an offer in — and then ‘we can make it a condition of sale that it’s not to be talked about’.

Pre-Covid, Hannah, whose clients’ £2,500 retainer fee is deducted from the 2 per cent ‘success’ fee she receives from the purchase price, says 70 per cent of her buyers were from abroad. But post-Covid, 70 per cent are British, most in their 40s and entrepreneurs or working in finance, law, or technology, and looking for bigger family homes.

‘To get a really cracking family house with off-street parking, you’re looking at the £15 million to £20 million mark,’ she says. ‘Most of these houses have a separate flat for a housekeeper or nanny.’

Hannah says she sometimes sees herself as ‘marriage counsellor’ with buying couples — ‘you’ve got slightly different briefs you have to merge together’.

If a buyer is ‘focused’, she hopes to find them a home within four months. Is she ever intimidated by their wealth?

‘Definitely not. You can’t advise your client if you’re intimidated.’

In any case, she says: ‘Ninety-nine per cent of our clients are wonderful and happy to have us on board during what is a stressful part of their lives.’

Source link

Current

How do you feel about the new carbon budgets?

Voice Of EU

Published

on

We want to hear your views on the proposed new carbon budgets which, the Government says, will change how people live and work. The proposed budgets, published by the Climate Change Advisory Council, will apply to every sector of the economy and will outline a limit for total emissions that can be released.

The first carbon budget, which will run from 2021 to 2025, will see emissions reduce by 4.8 per cent on average each year for five years. The second budget, which will run from 2026 to 2030, will see emissions reduce by 8.3 per cent on average each year for five years. The council says the budgets will require “transformational changes for society” but that failing to act would have “grave consequences”. Environmental campaigners say the budgets will provide a cleaner, healthier and safer future but some rural groups such as the Irish Farmers’ Association say they will have “serious repercussions”.

How do you feel about the new carbon budgets?

Now we’d like to hear your views: Do you support the budgets or are you against them; do they go too far or not far enough?

We will publish a selection of your responses online (If you are reading this on the Irish Times app, click here to access the form for submissions).

Source link

Continue Reading

Current

House sales shoot up a THIRD in September amid fears of mortgage rate hike

Voice Of EU

Published

on

The number of homes bought and sold in Britain rose by two thirds in September compared to August, with experts believing buyers are seeking to get ahead of a potential rise in mortgage rates. 

There were nearly 161,000 property transactions in September on a seasonally-adjusted basis, a 67.5 per cent increase on the previous month, according to latest figures from HMRC. 

They also increased by 68 per cent compared to September 2020, and 63 per cent compared to the ‘normal’ market average in September 2017 to 2019.

The cost of a mortgage could be set to increase, if the Bank of England base rate rises

The cost of a mortgage could be set to increase, if the Bank of England base rate rises

Experts say the sharp rise was only partly a result of the Government’s stamp duty holiday, which has fuelled price growth of around £25,000 in the last year but finally ended on 30 September. 

It initially allowed buyers to save up to £15,000 in taxes as they did not need to pay stamp duty on the portion of their property purchase under £500,000. 

But in September, the tax break would have had a more subdued effect.

In England and Northern Ireland, it was tapered down between July and September so that buyers could only save £2,500.

And the holiday had already expired in Scotland and Wales, on 31 March and 30 June respectively. 

Given that the impact of the stamp duty holiday was lessening, some suggest that other factors have become more important in maintaining high levels of activity in the housing market. 

There are a number of things at play, according to Lawrence Bowles, senior research analyst at Savills.

‘There’s more to this activity than a stamp duty holiday: record-low mortgage rates, desire for more space, and a core of unmet pent up demand all continue to push up transaction volumes,’ he says. 

Although it is one of several reasons why the housing market remains hot, the desire for a cheap mortgage has become more of a pressing issue for buyers in recent days and weeks. 

This is because speculation about a rise in the Bank of England’s base rate has threatened an increase in the current super-low rates.

At the moment, rates are available as low as 0.89 per cent – but they are already rising. At its lowest, the cheapest fixed rate on the market was 0.84 per cent.

Major lenders including NatWest, HSBC and Barclays have all moved to increase rates on some mortgages, after months of sustained falls. 

With a base rate rise being predicted by some for December, experts are suggesting that the threat of mortgage rates going up is the ‘new stamp duty holiday’ and that the rush to complete sales before rates rise is now keeping the housing market buoyant.

Simon Bath, chief executive of technology company iPlace Global which created the property advice app Moveable, says: ‘We have reached another crossroads in which following the stamp duty holiday, there is another potential deadline for Brits to prepare for.

‘It seems likely that house prices will continue to rise before demand slows down, as Brits race to obtain lower mortgage rates.’

Rising costs: Those buying homes have seen the typical sale price increase by £5,000 in the last month alone, according to data from the property platform Rightmove

Rising costs: Those buying homes have seen the typical sale price increase by £5,000 in the last month alone, according to data from the property platform Rightmove 

Early statistics back his price rise theory up. According to Rightmove’s latest house price index, which covers the first half of October, the average house price jumped £5,000 compared to the previous month. 

In addition, every UK region broke asking price records for the first time since March 2007.

The property portal noted in its report: ‘The continued fast turnover of property for sale and a window of opportunity to buy before a potential interest rate rise seem to have overcome the final expiry of all stamp duty incentives and are keeping activity robust.’

This trend is keeping the market buoyant for now, but could it really lead to another buying frenzy? Iain McKenzie, chief executive of The Guild of Property Professionals, says so. 

‘With demand for properties still high, and a potential mortgage rate rise on the horizon, this could be the perfect storm to see another frenzy to buy, so long as the shortage of stock doesn’t continue,’ he says. 

There is also the simple fact that people who were trying to meet the September stamp duty deadline, but failed, are unlikely to abandon their purchases, and will continue to add to the totals over the coming months. 

But others are less sure about talk of another buying boom. With the base rate rise only tipped to be from 0.1 per cent to 0.25 per cent, the difference in people’s mortgage payments may only be a few pounds per month. 

For example, for someone with a £120,000, two-year fixed rate mortgage on a £200,000 home, the difference between a 0.89 per cent rate and a 1.04 per cent rate would be just over £8 a month, or just under £200 across the fixed period. 

Office for National Statistics data showing house price increases over the past 15 years

Office for National Statistics data showing house price increases over the past 15 years

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: ‘People will still move without stamp duty holidays and will continue to refinance their homes, whether mortgage rates are below 1 per cent or around 2 per cent.

‘Borrowers are keen to secure these historically-low mortgage rates but if the right property comes along, they are still likely to buy even if they have to pay say 15 basis points more and won’t qualify for a stamp duty holiday.’

But as the stamp duty holiday proved, the psychological impact of thinking you are saving money can be powerful, even when the actual cash saving is negligible. 

While buyers did indeed ‘save’ up to £15,000 in tax, house price rises during the stamp duty holiday were upwards of £20,000, eclipsing the actual saving.   

The true impact that the mooted rise in mortgage rates will have depends on myraid factors, including whether there is further clarity on if and when the base rate change might actually happen, and how mortgage lenders continue to respond to the situation. 

All eyes will be on the October transaction statistics and house price indices to see whether the market is remaining buoyant. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

Source link

Continue Reading

Current

Covid grips Europe’s unvaccinated east

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Hospitals are struggling to cope as Covid-19 sweeps through large unvaccinated populations in central and eastern Europe, where low levels of trust impeded acceptance of inoculation programmes.

Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and others have teamed up to send oxygen supplies, medicines and ventilators to Romania after it appealed for help from the European Union to cope with a crushing fourth wave of the pandemic.

Just 36 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated in the country, according to EU figures, the second-lowest level in the union after Bulgaria, where the rate is just one in four adults, far below the pan-EU rate of 75 per cent.

Both countries are suffering a brutal surge of infections, hospitalisations and deaths. Romania has seen an average of more than 400 deaths a day for the past week, in a population of 19 million, the highest rate in the EU according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In Bulgaria, in a population of seven million, more than 100 people have died on average each day for the past week.

Romania on Monday imposed a night-time curfew, shut schools and introduced mandatory Covid-19 passes for most public venues in a bid to curb the soaring infections as its intensive-care wards ran out of beds.

Reimpose restrictions

Infections are also soaring in the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia, which became the first European country to reimpose sweeping restrictions last week by shutting schools and all non-essential shops, and imposing a curfew from 8pm to 5am for a month. Restrictions were also tightened in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia.

In neighbouring Russia, daily Covid-19 infections reached a record high of 37,930 in 24 hours on Monday, and some regions shut workplaces in response.

World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that with 50,000 Covid-19 deaths a week the pandemic was “far from over”, but he said it would end “when the world chooses to end it”.

“It is in our hands. We have all the tools we need,” he said. “Unlike so many other health challenges, we can prevent this. Complacency is now as dangerous as the virus.”

 In Austria, where 73 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated, chancellor Alexander Schallenberg warned that restrictions could be placed on the unvaccinated if Covid-19 patients began to take up the country’s ICU capacity.

“The pandemic is not yet in the rear view mirror,” Mr Schallenberg said. “We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

He warned that if Covid-19 patients took up a quarter of national ICU beds, then only the vaccinated or people who had recovered from the virus would be allowed entry into restaurants and hotels. If the percentage reached a third, the unvaccinated would be allowed to leave home only for specific reasons.

Vaccination rates have reached above 90 per cent for those eligible in several countries in western Europe including Ireland, though coverage is lower in some cities and particular populations.

Hospitalisations

This is helping to keep hospitalisations under control, but infections are still rising and many countries have opted to continue with some precautions including mask-wearing, working from home recommendations, and mandatory Covid-19 passes in public settings. Last week, Italy made the passes mandatory for workplaces.

The WHO warned last week that Europe region was the only region in which Covid-19 cases were rising, led by surges in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

Emergencies chief Dr Mike Ryan appealed for the unvaccinated to come forward for jabs, and said the rise in infections came as restrictions were dropped in many countries, coinciding with “the winter period, in which people are moving inside as the cold snaps appear”.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!