TALKING HEADS: PrimeResi investigates the increasing importance of peace of mind for today’s elite buyers, featuring insight from some of PCL’s top agents, developers, designers & security experts….
London may be no different from other world cities in this regard, but recent media reports have painted a particularly grim picture of the capital: widespread looting, armed burglaries and attacks on high-profile personalities in broad daylight have all featured on the front pages over the summer – and security concerns have even been cited as a factor in some A-listers’ decisions to move out to the country.
PrimeResi canvassed opinion from some of the top names in buying, selling, design and development to find out what’s happening on the ground: are HNWIs indeed getting jumpy, or is this just another media storm; how important has security become in the decision-making process; and which practical measures are being installed in the most desirable homes to allay concerns?
“There is an unmistakable surge in the significance of security considerations for high-net-worth individuals,” according to Simon Barry of top-end agency Harrods Estates, while Vic Chhabria of London Real Estate Office describes security as “one of the top non-negotiables” amongst today’s top-end buyers.
We’re told buildings and developments with 24hr security, concierges and porticos are very much in for purchasers harbouring worries, but bunkers and panic rooms are still a step too far for most. Private roads are proving especially popular, reports Marc Schneiderman of Arlington Residential, who has sold six houses on one such turning in north London – all to buyers attracted by the heightened safety.
Officials stats suggest London’s crime levels remain moderate on a global scale, points out Camilla Dell of buying agency Black Brick, who has found convenience and amenities to be higher-up the wish list for HNW buyers than security, but developers are undoubtedly taking note: “The value of feeling secure cannot be overstated,” summarises Kevin Kuok, whose firm is behind one of the new wave of PCL schemes prioritising peace of mind…
Peace of mind and a sense of safety have become invaluable commodities for PCL buyers
Simon Barry, head of new developments at PCL estate agency Harrods Estates: “The demand for luxury properties in prime Central London remains unabated, but there is an unmistakable surge in the significance of security considerations for high-net-worth individuals.
“Today, peace of mind and a sense of safety have become invaluable commodities for prime Central London buyers. These individuals lead high-profile lives and have become acutely aware of the potential risks and vulnerabilities they may face. Fortunately prime central London is perceived to be a safe space and with armed protection officers guarding the many embassies and other high profile corporate HQ buildings which share London’s smartest residential locations, residents know that they can rely on a level of protection and visibility not available in many comparable cities.
“Our prime London clients are looking for more than just luxury living spaces; they seek properties that can be transformed into secure havens. Privacy is paramount, but for some nationalities advanced security features are often non-negotiable. High-net-worth individuals often have unique needs, such as panic rooms, biometric access controls, sophisticated CCTV systems, and dedicated security staff. Additionally, the integration of smart home technology plays a significant role in providing real-time monitoring and control, ensuring residents can feel safe and protected at all times.
“Agresti, a renowned luxury brand, has elevated the concept of panic rooms into an essential status among the super-rich many of whom may prefer to live in detached houses with secure grounds outside more central parts of London. These bespoke sanctuaries seamlessly combine cutting-edge security technology with luxurious aesthetics, catering to the unique needs of those seeking a sense of opulence and safety within their properties. Discreetly concealed behind crafted facades, Agresti’s panic rooms are tailored to each property’s layout and the homeowner’s lifestyle, offering a multifunctional and indulgent space during times of distress.
“Recognising this emerging demand, leading developers have swiftly adapted to incorporate state-of-the-art security measures into their projects. These visionary developers are collaborating with security experts to create residences that employ cutting-edge surveillance systems and have secure entry protocols. New developments offer an additional layer of protection which a traditional London townhouse accessed from the pavement, simply can’t provide. Alongside more overt security systems, passive measures also have a role to play when buyers chose where they want to live: they may avoid buildings which are over-looked or too close to other buildings, and where the entrance doesn’t allow for a secure drop-off with drive-in, drive out.
“London is generally regarded as safe, and the capital’s enduring allure for international HNWs is also linked to its reputation for safety and stability. The sight of luxury cars parked on the streets of Mayfair and Belgravia is testament to the city’s ability to provide an environment that caters to the unique security needs of HNWs.”
More and more high end buyers are seeking buildings or developments with 24hr security
Marc Schneiderman, director at NW London-based estate agency Arlington Residential: “We are not seeing a trends of HNWIs moving out of London, but we are certainly noticing that more and more high end buyers are seeking buildings or developments with 24hr security. There are several roads in central and north west London which are gated, with vehicular gates prohibiting anyone uninvited from driving into the road; these roads also have 24hr/seven day a week/365 days a year security personnel constantly on surveillance. One such street, is Courtenay Avenue in Highgate. Located immediately opposite Kenwood House, this private gated road has only 23 houses and is extremely desirable. I have acted on the sale of six houses in this road, and each buyer whom I sold to, has bought the property because of the security this specific road offers.
“Recently, we have received numerous enquiries from overseas and UK buyers in equal measure, looking for apartments in York Terrace West, Regent’s Park. This is the only terrace in Regent’s Park that is gated and has a visible porter’s lodge staffed day and night. Such is the demand for flats in this location because of the terrace’s unique security arrangements, that we achieved in excess of £3,700 per square foot for the last flat we sold earlier this year.”
There are examples of the very wealthy putting together a massive estate by buying every house and farm that comes onto the market
Edward Heaton, founder of London & country buying agency Heaton & Partners: “We’ve had examples of owners of large country estates wanting to buy any adjoining properties coming up for sale. There are examples of the very wealthy putting together a massive estate by buying every house and farm that comes onto the market.
“It’s not uncommon that you have people literally buying the house next door for extended family, we’ve just acquired a house next door for a client in the countryside where he bought the house for his staff to move into. He also wanted it for security as it was a little too close for comfort to the main house, he wanted to secure his own privacy.”
Most HNW/UHNW buyers worry about their security in any city, not just London
Camilla Dell, managing partner at PCL buying agency Black Brick: “There’s been a lot of talk amongst certain HNW’s about London’s increase in crime and how terrible things are and they are leaving. Donald Trump’s feuding with London Mayor Sadiq Khan also contributed to this rhetoric. As a Londoner, having lived and worked in London my whole life, my own personal experience is that I haven’t noticed an increase in crime. I continue to wear my wedding ring, eternity ring and new apple iWatch and I have never once felt threatened or at risk walking the streets of London. As a buying agent, I walk the streets a lot. I’m not trying to take away from other people’s negative experiences, but I do think a few high profile people have jumped up and down about crime in London but they aren’t leaving London for the crime. They are leaving because they prefer to live in countries such as Dubai with lower tax rates, or for other business reasons. London’s crime index is 53.8 with a safety index of 46.2 meaning we have a relatively moderate crime level compared to other major cities around the world.
“I think most HNW/UHNW buyers worry about their security in any city, not just London. Buyers do love the security that new builds in London offer, having 24 hour concierge/security is a real benefit and that’s one reason why new builds have done so well, but not the only reason. In my experience security isn’t the main draw of a luxury new build, but more the convenience and amenities on offer. Clients seeking total security will often enlist the services of a private security firm to install CCTV and other security measures. Some of my clients have on-site security living in their homes 24/7 but these are rare cases and more about the profile of the client than crime rates in London.
“For clients where security is important, we work with a few trusted security firms, many are ex-police officers who advise our clients on how to make their homes more secure. Security isn’t just about preventing burglaries and intruders but also cyber criminals – something which is often overlooked.”
A physical deterrence, a residential security team, is by far the most effect security measure
Jasper Adams, MD of global security firm Team Fusion: “The importance of security should, in theory start to become more prevalent in the homebuyer decision-making process. More and more communities are clubbing together for low-level security patrols – particularly at night.
“CCTV and access control systems remain the priority for most. The challenge is making sure that they are being properly monitored! There really is little point having CCTV if it is not being monitored with the capacity to respond immediately. The sad truth is the Police response times are appalling – 45 minutes is fairly standard (and the perception is that the Police rarely attend burglaries).
“The security we provide to our clients properties is designed to deter criminals – prevention is always the best solution – and criminals will always look for easy targets. Our experience demonstrates that a physical deterrence, a residential security team, is by far the most effect security measure. Technology is important, be that CCTV or sensors, but they are there to support the human rather than the other way round.
“We are seeing a greater demand for K9 solutions to augment physical & technical aspects, but they can be extremely expensive and require trained handlers or they risk becoming too domesticated.”
The value of peace of mind and feeling secure cannot be overstated.
Kevin Kuok, CEO of luxury developer Bellworth Developments: “London’s global city status and position as a major financial hub makes it a hugely appealing market for investment from both an international and domestic perspective. While the city is generally considered safe as a place to live, the value of peace of mind and feeling secure cannot be overstated.
“For purchasers at Lancer Square, our exclusive residential address in Kensington, home security is of paramount importance, especially since many of our clients are frequent travellers for both business and pleasure, whether they are in residence or not. Understanding this need, we have incorporated a plethora of security measures into the development of 36 homes.
“These security measures at Lancer Square include electronic video entry systems that allow direct contact with the concierge team, residences prewired for the future purchaser to install a security alarm of their choice, multipoint locking systems, and a 24-hour concierge. These features ensure that our residents can confidently leave their homes and belongings, knowing that they are well-protected even when they are away. By prioritising home security, we aim to provide our residents with the peace of mind they deserve in a bustling city like London.”
Having a dedicated staff member, such as a concierge, at the entrance or lobby of super-prime properties can play a pivotal role
James Waight, regional director at London estate agency John D Wood & Co: “In the prime and super-prime housing market in London, security stands as an essential pillar of desirability, particularly for overseas buyers seeking prestigious properties in the heart of the city.
“London’s discerning buyers, especially international investors, frequently prioritise properties equipped with garages and private gated drives. These features provide an extra layer of security, assuring a secluded haven amidst the bustling city. Garages offer a safe storage solution for luxury vehicles, while private gated drives grant an added sense of exclusivity and control over access to the property.
“In addition to garages and private gated drives, having a dedicated staff member, such as a concierge, at the entrance or lobby of super-prime properties can play a pivotal role in enhancing overall security. The presence of a concierge serves as a strong deterrent to unauthorised individuals, ensuring that only approved residents and guests gain access to the premises. Their vigilant monitoring and quick response to potential security concerns contribute significantly to the overall safety and peace of mind of the property’s occupants and owners.
“Buyers often seek reassurance through advanced security systems, such as state-of-the-art surveillance, access control technologies, and 24/7 monitoring. Additionally, discreet security integration is crucial to preserve the architectural elegance of the property while delivering unmatched protection.
“Furthermore, our buyers recognise the significance of cyber protection in today’s interconnected world. As cyber threats loom large, prioritising the implementation of stringent cybersecurity protocols becomes crucial to safeguard sensitive data and digital assets, particularly for international clients with properties worldwide.”
Security and safety is always one of the first questions I’m asked when showing a property
Toby Downes, London specialist at London and country buying agency Haringtons: “Like any other major city, London will always pose a risk of crime and sadly, the statistics do suggest that this risk is increasing. I would say that buyers in general are more concerned about crime and that this isn’t unique to just the high-end buyers. You can walk around almost any neighbourhood and majority of homes will have Ring doorbells and additional alarm systems.
“When dealing with high-end buyers, security and safety is always one of the first questions I’m asked when showing a property and buyers will always invest in state-of-the-art security systems if the home is not already fitted with one.
“PCLs most prestigious addresses tend to be serviced by private security firms paid for by residents. A large number of our clients, especially those who travel regularly, are drawn to new build developments with security measures and a 24 hour concierge and safety is the main driver in this decision, followed by the reduced level of property maintenance required.
“Whilst many high end buyers move out of London into large country homes, in my experience, crime is never cited as the major driver – the reasons are driven by the desire for more space and the reduced need to be in London due to remote working.
“Common security measures include surveillance systems, access control with biometric authentication, private security personnel, smart locks, secure panic rooms, and advanced alarm systems. As for extreme examples, some high-end properties might have features like bulletproof glass, fingerprint-locked wine cellars, facial recognition technology, and even tunnels for emergency escape.”
We know we have to think about security features from the concept stage, and how it can be seamlessly and flawlessly integrated into the property’s aesthetic
Alex Christou, co-founder of luxury development and interior design firm 1.61 London: “In recent years, all our clients are ensuring they have fully integrated security systems in their homes. In our latest development, Three Kings Mayfair, one of the biggest selling points is the fact it not only has high-spec security systems in place, but it is also located on the only private gated road in Mayfair and the building cannot been seen from the road offering complete privacy. This unique offering has been incredibly well received by prospective purchasers.
“Every project we undertake now requires a high level of security integration throughout. As a developer and interior designer, we know we have to think about security features from the concept stage, and how it can be seamlessly and flawlessly integrated into the property’s aesthetic. In addition to cameras, intercoms and panic alarms, wealthy clients are opting for panic rooms, walk-in safes and emergency exit plans. More recently, we’ve had several clients turn a bedroom in their property into a hidden panic room that can be shut off and secured immediately. The most extreme examples involve properties equipped with bulletproof windows, advanced facial recognition systems, retinal scanners, and even private helipads for emergency evacuations. As a luxury property developer, it is essential to take these concerns into account.”
Security is very much a key part of the decision-making
Simon Edwardson, head of sales at luxury developer Northacre: “Security and privacy have always been principal concerns for our clients, wherever they are located. We have found that individuals or their private representatives always consider levels of security, privacy and discretion as among the primary features that influence their purchasing decision. Security is very much a key part of the decision making.
“Northacre’s The Broadway is in the heart of Westminster, SW1, overlooking the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, with such locations demanding a high level of ambient security from which The Broadway benefits. This includes heightened security protocols in the area for major royal gatherings and political events such as this year’s Coronation. Its very location gives it the benefit of added and continual security at a national level, with strict protocols in use throughout the vicinity.
“The Broadway’s residents benefit from completely private world class amenities including 25m heated indoor swimming pool with vitality pool, sauna and steam room, fully equipped gym with the latest fitness technology, two personal training studios, two treatment rooms, two meeting rooms and a games and screening room. In addition, The Broadway offers full security compliment from point of arrival onwards with secure underground parking accessed by car lift, a 24-hour concierge and valet who know the residents personally and maintain the utmost discretion, another layer of personal security. There are numerous other security protocols on property including surveillance and also 24-hour security patrol of its central, pedestrianised street, Orchard Place.”
People don’t want bunkers and panic rooms, they want to live life
James Moran, head of London sales at prime property advisory Middleton Advisors: “There is an increased desire amongst London homeowners for security across the board, but particularly amongst second homeowners. Those who don’t reside in their London property on a full time basis are often leaving their home or apartment vacant for up to months at a time and want peace of mind that their properties and possessions are protected and safe when they are out of the country.
“Those concerned about security will be drawn to gated communities and high-end apartment complexes which offer unrivalled amenities such as concierge services, 24hr security, and the added privacy of enhanced entry systems. Particularly, if people have had concerns or issues before, this often becomes a non-negotiable part of the search.
“A balance is definitely required with security features; people don’t want bunkers and panic rooms, they want to live life. Large steel gates and high walls can be unsightly, remind residents of safety issues, and make the house less desirable should they decide to sell in the future.
“Some of the more extreme examples include: fog and smoke which can be coupled with LED strobe lights and a sounder (which can be painful) to increase disorientation of any trespassers using a blinding effect; small magnets attached to valuables which alert authorities upon the tiniest movements; biometric locks and facial recognition
“Looking forward to new technologies, particularly with AI, including heat detection and night vision which AI can decipher the difference between animals and trees moving and people within the house circumference.”
A percentage of buyers who would historically have looked for a house are now more amenable to look for an apartment
Will Pitt, senior director at luxury estate agency UK Sotheby’s International Realty: “I’m certainly having more conversations with people regarding crime and security than I was five years ago. High-end homeowners/buyers sometimes need to think carefully about walking down the street with an expensive watch, and the extent to which London is struggling with knife crime hasn’t gone unnoticed, which concerns some buyers looking for Prime Central London property in particular.
“However it is important to note that every major city deals with certain levels of crime – and high end buyers who have owned and lived in multiple cities are aware of the dangers and are perhaps less phased.
“I’m finding that a percentage of buyers who would historically have looked for a house are now more amenable to look for an apartment. Apartments provide an added layer of security because they don’t have a front door leading out onto the street, so security-conscious buyers see value in an apartment block and especially one with a concierge. The premium that one pays for a branded residence is offset by the idea that there are a number of staff in the building – one doesn’t have to have their own private security team anymore. Many of these branded residences are being designed from the outset with security in mind, either with cameras or physical security in the form of doormen.
“High-end homeowners/ buyers are installing a lot more CCTV. While CCTV used to be in the form of a VHS tape, it can now even be installed via your mobile phone – it’s accessible around the world and across all price categories. Similarly, intelligent doorbells and cameras report into one’s mobile phone, so the homeowners could be on a remote beach but still be notified. There are also smart fingerprint locks on front doors and mobile phone locks.
“The most extreme examples I’ve seen are panic rooms, which have been around for a while, kitted out with communication safes and separate air intake.
“The overall objective for many high-end homeowners/buyers is to ultimately remain invisible and anonymous, which reflects the idea of ‘stealth wealth’.”
‘Lock up and leave’ security is incredibly appealing to UHNW hypermobile buyers
Vic Chhabria, founder of boutique luxury property agency London Real Estate Office: “Security has become one of the top non-negotiables amongst todays high net worth buyers, particularly amongst international buyers who prefer to purchase homes within high end apartment developments with on-site 24-hour concierge and security teams. This ‘lock up and leave’ security that apartments of this kind offer is incredibly appealing to UHNW hypermobile buyers who are often travelling for work and pleasure.
“Something we’re also seeing more frequently is requests for properties with designated ‘drop off’ porticos, which are located away from main roads to ensure a safe journey from their chauffeured cars or taxis. This is paramount for security but also for their privacy, something increasingly important, the higher profile the client.”
A previous client has invested in drones equipped with infrared cameras
Jerome Lartaud, co-founder of West Country property buying agency Domus Holmes: “Security is a huge concern for High Net Worth individuals – it always has and always will be along with privacy and discretion – but it also applies to people with more modest budgets as well, especially when buying a house in the countryside and due to the secluded nature of rural properties.
“Countryside properties are often a second home for the HNW Individuals. As they are occupied at irregular intervals and left vacant for large periods of time, these properties can become prime targets for criminals. To prevent burglaries, the physical security measures implemented must offer visual deterrence and physical protection as well.
“There are many options available when addressing security concerns in countryside properties: CCTV and smart home alarm systems are an increasingly popular choice. There are many benefits to a security system that can be operated remotely, however this does not offer a property any physical protection.
“In rural countryside locations, one of the main issues is police response time: by the time officers arrive at a property after an alarm has been raised, the intruders are often long gone. Physical security measures such as on-site guardianship offer an element of delay as well as deterrence.
“A previous client of ours (who we assisted with the purchase of a large country estate in Somerset with acres of garden and land, woodland in particular) has invested in drones equipped with infrared cameras: this is really good tech that can be programmed to do various flight paths across his estate as an extra security measure.”