United Kingdom Real Estate Area Guide

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It is important to understand that this guide should not be relied upon as the only basis to decide where to buy property. This is because of considerable variations in desirability even between neighbouring streets, so that even if you choose a good general location , the precise choice of property may still be a bad one. For example, the property may be adversely affected by a proposed new road or undesirable new construction nearby, or even mobile phone masts. And even if the property is in a good location, there could be other problems, such as a poor lease or structural issues. So, our general area guide is only intended to get clients thinking about the general factors that are important to them in the location of their purchase . It is not a substitute for a detailed consideration of all the aspects of a particular property. Furthermore, our area guide does not include all desirable general locations in the UK. Due to limited space, it only focuses on some of them.


Prime Central London South Kensington Kensington Belgravia Chelsea
Other areas of prime central London Desirable locations outside Prime Central London Further desirable locations, but less expensive
Property investment for those studying at London Universities Cambridge Oxford Bristol
Outside London The “Home” Counties around London
Rental yields


Category A: Prime Central London (“PCL”)


There is no exact agreement about which areas constitute “Prime Central London” (  PCL for short), but most Londoners would agree that it covers at least the areas of South Kensington, Kensington, Chelsea, Belgravia, Mayfair, as well perhaps as St John’s Wood and Primrose Hill. It is within these parts of London that properties are most sought after – and most expensive. However, with the fall in the value of the UK pound, PCL has become cheaper for overseas investors looking for truly prestigious homes. Despite the favourable exchange rate foreign purchasers will still need to invest a large sum of money to buy in this area.   One bedroom flats could cost around 5 million Yuan (£500,000) and houses can cost 20 to 150 million Yuan (£2 – 15 million) or even more.


For those who have the money, PCL offers superb long-term returns with very little chance of prices falling, even during difficult economic times. For example, in 2011, despite economic uncertainty in Europe, PCL prices grew on average by 9%, with the growth much higher in some property types .Steady growth is virtually guaranteed by the restriction on the availability of land for further building in the area, combined with enormous and constant interest from international investors, including many wealthy Chinese who are a growing presence in this market.. Indeed, there is clear evidence that PCL is being seen internationally as an investment safe-haven in times of global economic uncertainty, but without the volatility of traditional safe-haven investments such as gold, the US Dollar or Swiss Franc. This explains why values are still strengthening even in challenging economic times.


As well as excellent property, PCL is characterised by excellent transport links, superb restaurants and shopping facilities, several great parks and open spaces and very many museums and other cultural attractions.  This combination, plus the prospect of near certain price growth and very good rental demand, should ensure that the area retains its enduring popularity with wealthy purchasers from all over the world.

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South Kensington (postcodes SW7,SW3, SW5)


South Kensington lies at the heart of PCL, bordered to the north by the famous Hyde Park and to the south by fashionable Chelsea. The area incorporates some of London’s finest and most expensive housing. The majority of properties here date back to the Victorian (19th century), , or Georgian periods (18th century). The area is dominated by imposing buildings from those periods, including town houses, detached houses, period conversions and mansion blocks. But there are not many modern high-rise residential apartment buildings.


South Kensington is also considered to be highly desirable for cultural pursuits, with excellent concert venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and museums such as the Science and the Natural History museums.


Shopping and dining out opportunities are plentiful, with the world famous Harrods department store at the north eastern end of the area and many hundreds of superb bars and many Michelin starred restaurants catering for every conceivable international taste.

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Kensington (postcode W8)


Lying to the west of Hyde Park, this is another area of superb housing, mainly from the Victorian and Georgian eras and is particularly popular with wealthy professionals and families. Demand is always strong within this area, regardless of economic circumstances. Some of the grandest homes can be found just off Kensington High Street. There are also attractive Victorian terraced houses on Camden Hill Square and its surrounding streets.


Excellent cultural and recreational attractions are nearby including Hyde Park. Running through the heart of this area is Kensington High Street, which offers some of the best shopping in London, with a wide range of shops ranging from small designer boutiques to major department stores.

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Belgravia (postcode SW1)


The world famous Belgravia is located in central London in the City of Westminster and is bordered by Hyde Park and Green Park to the north and the somewhat cheaper (though still desirable) Pimlico area to the south. The area is home to several embassies around Belgrave and Eaton Squares.


Belgravia features some of the most elegant and expensive homes in the world, and is one of the most fashionable places to own a home in London. There is a selection of terraced and mews houses, along with converted and purpose built apartments, including portered apartment blocks and penthouses. But housing supply is restrictive, as homes placed on the sales market are often snapped up in a short space of time, and often for an extremely high price.


Belgravia has long been home to many rich and famous people, along with high profile politicians and international high net worth families. Examples include, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich (Lowndes Square), former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Chester Square) and Gamal Mubarak, the son of Hosni Mubarak, former Egyptian president (Wilton Place).


Like other areas of PCL. Belgravia is well served with an abundance of cultural, recreational, shopping and dining attractions, all extremely close at hand.

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Chelsea (Postcodes SW3, SW10)


Chelsea, located along the River Thames, is one of the most fashionable and affluent areas in London and incorporates Sloane Street and the King’s Road. To the north, Chelsea meets Knightsbridge and South Kensington, and runs as far northwest as Fulham Road.


Chelsea is an excellent place to shop, particularly along the famous King’s Road which runs south west from Sloane Square. There are a huge range of fashion stores, smaller independent clothes and shoe shops, plus a wide selection of contemporary furnishing stores and antique shops.


Chelsea’s trendy cafes, bars and restaurants, which appeal to all ages, are amongst its most popular attractions. The region’s stylish image and excellent geographical location makes it one of the most expensive places in London.


Chelsea offers a wide choice of beautiful townhouses and mansion flats, including prestigious riverside flats along the Thames, such as those at the Chelsea Harbour development. Perhaps the most exclusive and expensive place to buy and rent property in Chelsea is around Sloane Square and Knightsbridge tube stations.

Some famous people with homes in Chelsea include: Bob Geldoff (musician), Hugh Grant (actor), Mick Jagger (musician), Kylie Minogue (musician).

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Other areas of prime central London


Another highly desirable area of central London is Mayfair (Postcode W1) which is bordered by Hyde Park to the west, Green Park to the south and the world famous Oxford Street shopping district to the north. There is perhaps slightly less residential property here than in other prime areas, but excellent mansion blocks can be found in the vicinity of Grosvenor Square . To the west of the area is Park Lane, containing many of London’s most popular luxury hotels.


There are also highly desirable streets north of Hyde Park (Postcode W2) where many elegant Georgian properties are to be found, such as the large town houses and apartments around Connaught Square, where former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has his London home.


Finally, further north in the areas known as Primrose Hill and St John’s wood (Post Code NW8) there are many fine properties to be found. One of London’s finest parks, Regent’s Park, is a major recreational feature of the area, incorporating the very popular London Zoo.

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Category B: Desirable locations outside Prime Central London:


There is perhaps a second category of highly desirable London locations which do no command quite such high prices and popularity as PCL. This second tier, includes locations such as Fulham (SW6), Putney (SW15), Richmond (TW9), Wimbledon (SW19) and Wandsworth (SW18) to the south and west. To the north and north west, there is Marylebone (W1 and W2), Paddington and Bayswater (W2) and the very fashionable Notting Hill (W11). To the north east there is Camden and Islington (N1) and Hampstead and Highgate (NW3 and N6).


While these areas may be behind PCL in price, they still comprise some of London’s most sought after districts in which to live and so are very popular with professional and financial workers (though they are less well known to overseas buyers, this is changing with more foreign investors moving in recently). Indeed, parts of north Hampstead for example, such as the Bishop’s Avenue, boast properties that would easily rival PCL for price and prestige.


Notting Hill would also match PCL for attracting a fashionable crowd, including a long list of celebrities.


Although these category B areas are not quite as well connected as PCL, they still generally benefit from very good transport links and numerous social and cultural advantages. They also contain perhaps a greater variety of properties to choose from compared to PCL – including a large number of excellent modern riverside apartments in Putney and Wandsworth.

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Category C: Further desirable locations, but less expensive


Areas within this category might include Acton (W3) and Hammersmith (W6) to the west, Vauxhall (SW8) and Southwark (SE1 and others) to the south and London Docklands (E14) and Greenwich (SE10) to the east.


The most developed part of Vauxhall is the enormous St George’s Wharf estate of modern riverside apartments. The same developer is also in the process of building a new residential tower-block on the St George’s site (called “the Tower”) which is likely to be one of the most prestigious (and expensive) riverside developments in South London with outstanding riverside views from all apartments.


The London Docklands is another area rich in investment opportunities for those looking for modern riverside apartments and many such properties are owned by overseas investors. Numerous such blocks have been built in recent years, with more still under construction.


Many of these riverside apartments are owned by or rented out to the many thousands of workers at London’s second major finance and banking district known as “Canary Wharf”, which sits at the heart of the Docklands area. While this does mean a ready supply of buyers and renters for the area to keep prices growing for the future (with rental yields being very attractive in this area), we believe that investors in the area need to choose their apartment block (and apartment) very carefully. Some apartment blocks are better located than others and there is a risk of over-supply given the great number of units that have been built. Indeed some apartments in this area have fallen behind general London trends in terms of price appreciation in the past 10 years. In addition, the volatility of the financial institutions sited nearby can mean changes in demand which may not be easy to predict over the next few years.

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Property investment for those studying at London Universities


As most of London’s universities are quite centrally located (particularly Imperial College, University College London, King’s College London and the London School of Economics), there are a wide variety of areas where property could be purchased that provide easy transport access to such institutions. However, the best locations in terms of price and transport convenience are not always obvious and we are able to provide our clients with more detailed advice about popular areas for purchase in London, where the intention is to combine the provision of student accommodation with investment.

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Outside London


There are many investment opportunities in cities outside of London. Here we have space to list only a few. Our focus here is on 3 cities in the south of the UK with popular and prestigious universities. We give these cities by way of examples. There are other cities in the UK which could also merit investment, And , even within good cities, there are still areas where investment is less attractive for one reason or another, and we would be able to provide more detailed tailored advice to individual clients.


More northerly UK cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool also have potential for growth in the long term, particularly given the extent of regeneration taking place in certain discrete districts of those cities. However, we think the chances of significant, solid and stable growth is even greater in London and the south in the shorter term, but of course everything depends on the precise circumstances.


Where clients are looking to invest in certain northern locations, for example, because of university education for themselves or their children, we would be happy to advise on those areas which appear to us to offer the best prospects.

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The City of Cambridge is located some 50 miles north of London and approximately 50 minutes by train. It is regarded as a highly desirable place to live, with many fine houses which come close to rivalling the kind of prices seen in Category B and C London districts. However, there are other cheaper areas too, so buying for student accommodation, depending upon the exact choice of location, could be an excellent investment.


Cambridge has a very international feel about it, with people from many nationalities , who are there either to work or study. There is also a strong Chinese community in the city, including at Cambridge University.


Cambridge is famous for its world class university, divided into a number of prestigious colleges which are mainly located in the historic centre of the city. There is also the less well known and less prestigious Anglia Ruskin University which is nonetheless highly popular with international students seeking a good quality university education.


Cambridge has an abundance of excellent restaurants catering for many different nationalities. There are also excellent shopping facilities, with some precincts which would not look out of place in the classier shopping areas of central London.


Cambridge is also a very popular tourist destination. Many tourists come to central Cambridge to enjoy the fine architecture of its colleges and the pleasant walks along the river which divides the city – the river Cam.


The most expensive area of Cambridge is probably the Newnham district, which lies to the west of the City. There are also highly sought after areas close to the city centre near to green spaces called “Parker’s Piece” and “Christ’s Pieces” as well as Midsummer Common. The north of Cambridge comprises the cheaper Chesterton area. An extremely popular area for student accommodation is “Romsey Town”, an area to the West of the City Centre, but still within easy reach of it, which consists of streets off the Mill Road. The Mill Road contains many international restaurants and cafes which are extremely popular with both residents and the student population alike.


Most of the investment opportunities in Cambridge are established houses, however there is currently a mini-boom in the building of apartment blocks as the last few remaining areas for development in the central Cambridge areas are built-upon. An example of such a new development is ‘Cambridge Riverside’, a development of 195 flats and 10 townhouses near the river and Midsummer Common. This development has apparently attracted considerable interest from far eastern investors, but the price of a 1 bedroom flat there could easily equal the price of a house in some parts of Cambridge, so rental yields will not be so high compared to other available options.

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The city of Oxford is located some 60 miles to the north west of London and some 55 minutes by train. It is home to some of the most affluent people in England, rich in culture and offers a combination of excellent schools, plenty of green spaces, proximity to the attractive Cotswolds rural area and good public transport links.

Oxford has many similarities with Cambridge. It is also dominated by a highly prestigious and world leading university – the University of Oxford – and also has a somewhat less elite, but very popular second university called Oxford Brookes. Like Cambridge, Oxford also has its high value areas which rival Category B and C London prices, as well as somewhat cheaper areas. It also has excellent shopping and dining facilities and like Cambridge, is a highly popular tourist destination with an international feel, with its ancient colleges and river walkways.


Oxford is a highly desirable place to live with a strong and stable market. North Oxford is typically the most popular and expensive area. Central north Oxford, which attracts a lot of London buyers, is made up of a network of streets that meet with Woodstock and Banbury Roads, surrounded by the canal to the west, the River Cherwell to the east and Marston Ferry Road to the north. Some of the popular streets to live in are located east of Banbury Road by the Dragon School, and include Bradmore, Crick, Bardwell, Norham, Charlbury, Linton and Garford Roads. Other popular areas include Jericho and Headington.


More affordable homes can be found in East Oxford, in areas like Kennington, Littlemore and Blackbird Leys.


Like Cambridge, Oxford also has a strong rental market due to its strong student and young professional population, but successful rental of your chosen property, as always, depends on precise location and features of the property.

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Bristol is a thriving centre of tourism and commerce and is Britain’s seventh largest city, with around 400,000 inhabitants. It is considered one of the best cities in the UK to live and work, as it contains many areas of high quality housing, good transport links, beautiful countryside within a short distance of the city centre, one of the UK’s top ten universities (the University of Bristol), excellent shopping, eating out and cultural facilities and a thriving economy based around high tech industries such as aerospace.


Almost every type of property can be found in Bristol, from waterfront studio flats and new dockside terraced houses, to large apartments and luxury family homes, all within, or only a short walk from, the city centre. There have been many developments constructed in the centre of town, mainly in the form of one- and two-bedroom apartments, so a careful evaluation of rental potential is required before making any purchase of this type of property.


Generally, families tend to choose property outside the city centre, and there are plenty of popular suburbs. Clifton is the most exclusive of the areas which overlook the city, and flat conversions and Victorian terraced houses there are extremely sought after. The Redland area is popular with students, but there are also family properties available there too, so the area may be a good one for investment. Other popular areas are Kingsdown, Henleaze, Abots Leigh, Long Ashton, Downend and Frenchay.


Throughout the old floating harbour area off the city centre, there are waterfront properties in modern developments at Harbour Walk, in the recently-converted wharves and in some of the traditional waterside areas, which have become more sought after as a result of regeneration and enhancement.

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The “Home” Counties around London


The Home counties around London include Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent to the south of London and Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex to the north. Within these counties, permission for substantial new development is difficult to obtain, while demand for new housing remains very high. Many of these counties are highly attractive to professionals and their families looking for property outside London but which is within commuting distance to the capital. On the whole, transport links and journey times are steadily improving, which makes many towns within the home counties ever more popular.


Furthermore, a growing number of overseas investors are buying houses in the home counties, often as a UK base which they may use as a second home – or sometimes as a permanent residence following emigration.


The home counties are distinguished by their relative abundance of rural green open spaces, good schools, availability of detached houses with good-sized gardens while still being within commuting time to central London. When restricted availability for new house building is also taken into account, it is easy to see why the potential for capital appreciation remains high.


There are many high quality and popular towns in the home counties. In Surrey, Guildford and surrounding areas are popular, as are Cobham and Oxshott for those with slightly bigger budgets. In Kent, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells are favoured. In Berkshire, Beaconsfield, Ascot and Chalfont St Giles are highly sought after. In Hertfordshire, there is St Albans. In Essex, which is a cheaper county, towns such as Chelmsford are popular and have relatively quick journey times to central London despite being further away. These are just a few quality towns in the Home Counties to note. There are a number of others of similar standing.

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Rental yields


It is often the case that areas with the highest rental yields tend to have lower capital growth prospects. Unsurprisingly therefore, some of the northern regions of the UK and Wales to the west, currently have the highest average rental yields ranging from 6.5 to 7.7%. Meanwhile, in London rental yields currently average 5.7% and the home counties 6.6%.


However, we do not believe that this is currently a strong argument for our clients to invest in the northern cities or Wales compared to London and the south east of the UK. Firstly, these regional averages disguise substantial variations in yield for specific properties. Thus, it is perfectly possible to obtain yields of 7% or more in London and the south east, but it does require a more careful search. Secondly, the difference in rental yield between the south and the north is not, in our opinion, sufficiently high that it compensates for the expected lower near-term capital growth in the north.


Of course, the most desired objective is to invest in those areas where capital growth and rental yield are both strong and through careful selection, we seek to locate such areas and properties for our clients.


With regard to Prime Central London, rental yields are inevitably somewhat lower given the high prices in such areas. 3.5~ 4.5 % rental yield is to be expected. This lower yield does not put off purchasers, because they buy in this area for the prestige value of the property and to have the prospect of exceptionally solid capital growth prospects. Also, this rental yield still compares very favourably to other high value areas in major cities around the world such as the yields in Beijing and Shanghai.

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