Mayfair-based Black Brick has sourced 23 properties on behalf of its clients this year, including two “rare treasures” in Chelsea and Knightsbridge – and an apartment overlooking the Eiffel Tower in Paris. “The increase in the volume of clients we are looking after this year demonstrates the value that buyers are placing on having a professional to represent their interests in a challenging market,” says boss Camilla Dell.
High-profile London buying agency Black Brick has revealed how and where its clients have been spending their money over the last 12 months.
The Mayfair-based firm has secured a total of 23 properties on behalf of its client base since January (up from 21 in 2022); highlights being an off-market apartment overlooking Kensington Palace Gardens, a double-fronted family home in Chelsea, and an apartment with views of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (marking the team’s first acquisition in France).
UK buyers were behind nearly a third of the purchases (30%), followed by those from the US (20%), West Africa (15%), Italy (10%), Switzerland (5%), Canada (5%), UAE (5%), Singapore (5%), and Bermuda (5%).
66% of BB clients have bought with cash this year, compared with 34% last year, and SW1 has proved the most popular postcode.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) were purchasing their primary home, with 30% buying for investment, and the remaining 15% as second homes. Last year, that split was quite different: 77%, 14%, and 9%.
The largest discount negotiated from asking was 15% (on a property in Montagu Court in Marylebone).
Camilla Dell, Managing Partner, and Founder of Black Brick: “It has been an interesting year for the Prime Central London property market. The increase in the volume of clients we are looking after this year compared to last year demonstrates the value that buyers are placing on having a professional to represent their interests in a challenging market. We have seen a dramatic increase in cash buyers, with the number of cash buyers doubling year on year. This demonstrates that for many high-net-worth buyers, the use of finance is discretionary. The pivot to cash was inspired by interest rates, which jumped from 0% in 2021 to 5.25% today. When interest rates were low even some very wealthy high net worth buyers used mortgage finance, mainly because it was a simple way of protecting themselves from inheritance tax which is only charged on the equity you own in a property.
“Now clients, particularly younger people, are rethinking that strategy. Older clients who are more concerned about legacy planning are also reverting to cash deals and using jumbo life insurance policies to help protect their heirs from massive future tax bills.
“The rise in investment buyers is also an interesting trend. For cash buyers, the buy to let market is still compelling as a long-term hold and with rents having risen significantly and forecast to rise a further 18% over the next 5 years, this sector continues to attract investment, particularly from corporate buyers.
“This year many of our clients have been focused on buying apartments in prime central London, close to transport links and a great high street. A key requirement this year has been air conditioning, or the ability to install it. During the pandemic our clients were very focused on buying property with outside space, but this rarely features as a must have requirement today. We’ve also noticed a real lack of appetite from clients wanting to do any work to a property with most preferring to buy a property that is turn-key or in excellent condition. Borrowing money to fix up a home is expensive, and research by Rated People suggests the cost of home renovations has shot up 40 per cent since 2020. Good builders are booked up months in advance. People might consider a renovation project if the property is really special. But the days when people would deliberately opt for a wreck they could add value to are gone. Building work is stressful, time consuming, and expensive, and the profit margins have been seriously eroded.”
“We have also witnessed stiff competition for best in class homes this year. Two of Black Brick’s recent deals illustrate just how hot London’s market can get when a rare treasure comes up. In August we helped French clients upsize to a larger home in Chelsea Green. Other buyers were also sniffing around the super double-fronted house we found them on Burnsall Street, and we advised our clients to offer £6.3m (slightly above asking price) in order to secure the deal. Another client was after a lateral flat with a prestigious address. We helped them find a two bedroom property on Cadogan Square– arguably London’s best garden square – and helped them navigate a competitive buying process. Since homes like this don’t come up very often, we advised our clients to offer £4.55m and they were thrilled when their bid was accepted. Homes like these will continue to outperform in 2024.
Dell added: “Looking to ahead next year, the market is likely to stay subdued because of continued higher interest rates and the looming general election, however PCL remains a desirable, safe place to buy, particularly for those seeking long term capital growth. As a global city it is not surprising that Black Brick’s client list represents buyers from every continent on earth.
“These buyers are attracted to London for many reasons: its work opportunities, its great schools and universities, and its cultural and social life. Britain’s comparatively stable and moderate political system has particularly attracted American buyers nervous about the potential for Donald Trump to return to the White House next year, and keen to take advantage of the strength of the dollar. There are also early suggestions that Middle Eastern buyers, who have been property shopping in the British capital since the 1970s, will see now as a good time to buy in a safe and stable location. A London investment is unlikely to net them instant capital gains, but in a diverse portfolio there is always space for an ultra-safe and stable investment.”
Black Brick’s Deals of the Year
Best Off-Market Deal: York House, Kensington, W8 (£9.5mn)
“York House is one of Kensington’s most sought-after desirable mansion blocks due to its location, security and privacy. Apartments rarely come up for sale in the building, but when they do, they tend to sell quickly. Black Brick’s clients had been looking unsuccessfully on their own before appointing them and had recently lost out on an apartment in the area. Black Brick were first in the door to view this spectacular top floor apartment with high ceilings and far-reaching views. They successfully secured the apartment for their client before anyone else had viewed it.”
Managed Sale of the Year: Queensberry Mews West, South Kensington (£3.45mn)
“Black Brick sourced this stunning dual aspect, three-bedroom three-bathroom mews house, with air conditioning and off street parking in South Kensington several years ago for its Irish clients. They had enjoyed using the property, but due to ill health could no longer travel to London. They contacted Black Brick to discreetly help find a buyer. Through their network the team successfully identified a fantastic cash buyer who bid more than their clients had paid for it in 2019 and transacted within four weeks. Our clients were delighted with price and speed of the transaction.”
International Deal of the Year: 7 Champ de Mars, Allée Adrienne Lecouvreur (€3.5mn)
Best Pied-à-Terre: Cheniston Gardens, Kensington (£1.7mn)
Best Family Home (Outer Prime London): Southway, Golders Green (£2.895mn)
Best Block Investment Deal: Ashburn Place, South Kensington (£6.155mn)
Best Prime London Family Home: Burnsall Street, Chelsea (£6.28mn)
Best New-Build: Capella, King’s Cross (£2.4mn)
Biggest Discount of the Year: Montagu Court, Marylebone (£1.7mn/15%)
Prime Flat Deal of the Year: Cadogan Square, Knightsbridge (£4.55mn)
City Pad of the Year: Triptych Bankside (£2.55mn)