Owning a house at Mayfair is the latest status symbol for India’s nouveau riche

6 July 2011, Economic Times (India)

LONDON: In a district in north-west London that is a favourite nesting ground for bankers from all over the world, a premium housing project suddenly found itself making distress sales after the recession. They sold one flat to an Indian.

“And then another, and another, and now about two-thirds of this building are owned by Indians,” says Mark Pollack, managing director of Aston Chase, a property consultant specialising in north London. They’re coming from Mumbai, Delhi and a bit from Bangalore, and though still a trickle, even tier-2 cities like Ludhiana and Chandigarh.

They’re swarming all over Knightsbridge and Chelsea with budgets as modest as £500,000 all the way up to £20 million. London’s prime property market, which has overseas buyers – mostly Russians, East Europeans and from the Middle-East – pouring in over £3.3 billion annually, is now sitting up to take notice of this new breed of Indian buyers in the mid-level segment.

These are mostly young, small businessmen and entrepreneurs, and upper middle class parents of kids studying in London acquiring their first overseas property. Astudy by top-end property consultant Savills estimates that Indians have now grown to make up 4% of buyers in prime central London, 6% by value, and have an up to 9% share in the £5-15 million range, with an average spend of £3.5 million.

Not many Billionaires

A home in Mayfair, it seems, is now a must-have status symbol for India’s nouveau riche, as well as a viable investment avenue. Says Camilla Dell, managing partner of Black Brick Property Solutions, London’s largest independent buying agency: “We’ve seen a significant shift in the past two years, more people want to buy. When people become wealthy, they like to own overseas property – a home in London is seen as a trophy asset.”

Black Brick has done £25 million in deals last year, starting from £500,000, though Dell says demand usually goes from £4 million up to £20 million. Nothing’s changed at the ultra-premium-over £15 million-segment. Says Andrew Langton, managing director of Aylesford International: “There have been a few high-profile deals, and I’d say the top 100 richest Indian families have already built up their overseas property portfolio.”

Not enough billionaires, but plenty of millionaires. The action has moved down the value chain, to the wannabe rich listers. Yolanda Barnes, head of research at Savills points out that, “Indians are an often neglected but important cohort of buyers, especially in the £5-15 million range. Out of the emerging nations, they’re more important than the Chinese.

“The Chinese haven’t quite arrived in London yet, sticking to East London and Canary Wharf with relatively low-ticket investments. While most Indians refuse to look beyond Mayfair, Chelsea, Belgravia, Kensington-prime central London-there is some drift to other areas as well, where there are established Indian communities.

Pollack of Aston Chase, which works in the Hampstead and area and has done high-profile super-premium deals in the past, says they are recently doing a lot of business in the £2-5 million range, and his clientele is “unarguably younger”. Rajan Shori of law firm Manches says his firm started the property advisory practice simply as an add-on service for Indian clients, and its success has taken them by surprise.

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