Russian economic meltdown sparks wave of panic buying London homes
Russians protect their wealth from currency crisis by sinking it into London property
A mansion on Avenue Road, near Primrose Hill, a favourite address and style of home for Russian buyers. Estate agents have seen a surge in Russian investors over the last few days.
Wealthy Russians, desperate to get their money out of Moscow in the wake of the Russian economic crisis, are panic-buying in London this week, according to high-end estate agents.
Russia has lost control of its economy in the last few days after an interest rate hike by the central bank failed to stem the collapse of the rouble, accelerating the trend of Russian buyers in the UK capital.
Beauchamp Estates said it has seen as much as a 10pc uptick in sales of luxury London homes to Russians since the rouble started to spiral a year ago.
"I currently have half a dozen Russian clients urgently looking to spend over £20m each on buying a new home in central London. For them the address must be Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Regents Park, it's got to be a prestigious postcode and ideally a park side or leafy address," said Gary Hersham, founder of Beauchamp Estates.
There has also been a rise in Russians looking at investment properties, he continued.
"Previously it was all end use real estate, but now that their commercial ventures in Moscow have slowed, they are seeing London real estate investment as a commercial opportunity, so like the Chinese they are now starting to purchase rental investment property and commercial assets, this has not been seen before in London by them in large numbers," he said.
Estate agents at Knight Frank have seen an uptick in super prime sales in the second half of 2014, suggesting Russian buyers have been proactive against the background of economic and political instability by investing in the safety of UK bricks and mortar.
“Knight Frank web traffic shows the number of Russians looking at London property was 13pc higher in November 2014 than the same month last year. The figure was 9.5pc up from October, a monthly rise that bucks a trend of previous years when traffic has slowed over the final quarter of the year,” said Katya Zenkovich, Knight Frank Russian desk.
For Becky Fatemi, managing director of estate agent, Rokstone, the number of Russian clients on her books has doubled this year.
"There has been a big upturn in Russian buyers since the collapse of the rouble and the slowdown in the Russian economy due to international sanctions. The Christmas season has not stopped them looking, currently I have several Russian clients looking to spend up to £100m on a home in London.
Buyers tend to be families and business people who originate from Moscow who buy big detached homes not basement or ground floor flats, for security reasons, she added.
"They are not abandoning Russia as they are frequently back and forth from Moscow. What's changed significantly in the last 8 months is a rise in Russians buying investment properties in London – both residential and commercial properties."
The top Russian addresses in London include Kensington Palace Gardens, One Hyde Park, the Knightsbridge Apartments (pictured below) and Holland Park.
However, as the rouble depreciates London could see this trend reverse over the long-term as the UK becomes more expensive to Russians.
"Given that the influx of Russian money to prime central London significantly contributed to an overheating market, it surely follows that a reversal in demand from cash-strapped Muscovites will potentially have a significant adverse effect on the likes of Kensington, Belgravia and Mayfair," said Russell Quirk, founder of online estate agent, eMoov.
"A plummeting Russian stock market will effectively freeze previously liquid assets and a tumbling rouble will have the effect that London has just got dearer."