3 June 2019, The Sunday Times
By Melissa York
Knightsbridge, Chelsea… Reading? Melissa York reveals the property portfolios of the under-30 and minted.
Among them are Ben Francis, 26, owner of the online sportswear retailer Gymshark, who made his first appearance in ninth place, with a fortune of £73m; and the Wellingborough-based vlogger Dan Middleton, who swapped stacking shelves at Tesco for playing games on YouTube, and is worth £25m at the tender age of 27.
Unlike bankers, young tech buyers can work from anywhere, so location is less of a concern. According to the 2018 Tech City Index by TNT Direct, these purchasers look at broadband speeds and the quality of an area’s tech graduates before they decide where to base themselves. University cities score highly, particularly Bristol (ranked second), Leeds (third), Edinburgh (fourth), Cambridge (seventh) and Oxford (10th), but unheralded Reading tops the list, thanks to its solid base of tech jobs and a strong start-up survival rate.
Yet the cultural draw of London often proves too much, which is why the capital lands at sixth place on the index. Tech entrepreneurs who have made it in the Big Smoke love a fixer-upper or an east London warehouse conversion: the chance to add mod cons and personal features is seen as a bonus. Jo Eccles, managing director of SP Property Group, says she helped a tech entrepreneur build up a portfolio of 16 properties; for himself, he bought a £7m house in Notting Hill, with skylights instead of windows, that was in dire need of renovation. “It was very much about buying a blank canvas that he could turn into something futuristic and amazing.”
YouTubers, on the other hand, are a mixed bunch. Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, gave her 16m subscribers a tour of the five-bedroom Brighton house where she lives with her boyfriend and fellow vlogger, Alfie Deyes, which was bought for £1m, according to reports in 2017. Deyes has made no bones about being a serial property investor, telling his subscribers in the same year: “I own quite a few properties that I’ve bought over the years, and I’m a landlord to people. Obviously, I don’t meet them and do all that kind of stuff — I have people who do that for me.”
Among the top property investors on The Sunday Times Young Rich List are the singers Rita Ora, who has bought in the UK and the USSTARTRAKS PHOTO/REX
Vloggers often have their pick of interiors, too, with brands willing to furnish their homes free or at a discounted rate in the hope of being featured in the background of a video. “Even the windows,” Eccles says of one client. “He got bumped right to the front of the queue so it would all be in place for his YouTube videos.”
Creatives such as actors and musicians tend not to have much time to lavish on their homes. Dictated to by gruelling schedules, which often include international travel, they are looking for turnkey properties that require the minimum amount of work. Staying close to the capital’s airports and cultural credentials, these young stars are looking for a discreet party pad that will impress their famous peers.
Exclusive research from Savills estate agency reveals the number of under-30s in each ward in the UK who fall into Experian’s City Prosperity grouping, defined as those who “work in high-status positions: commanding substantial salaries, they are able to afford expensive urban homes”. Greenwich West topped this list, with the newly developed Greenwich Peninsula also featuring in the top 20, alongside Balham, Brixton Hil and Herne Hill — all popular areas with the creative set.
“When it comes to affordability, these young people haven’t had the time to build up the same level of equity as the previous generation, who are still living in established wealthy areas,” says Lawrence Bowles, senior analyst on Savills’ residential research team. “So these places don’t come across as attractive for hip young things, who would rather live in Brixton than on the King’s Road.” Marylebone and Fitzrovia are also touted by buying agents as hotspots for creative types, due to their proximity to Soho’s arty private members’ clubs.
Among the top property investors on The Sunday Times Young Rich List are the singers Rita Ora, who has bought in the UK and the US, and Ed Sheeran, whose estate in his home town, Framlingham, Suffolk, hit the headlines recently after it caught fire. The property, made up of four adjacent houses bought piecemeal, reportedly has its own pub and a four-room treehouse.
The former child stars of the Harry Potter films also have the magic touch: Daniel Radcliffe is said to have £76m in assets, though it’s unclear how much is invested in property, while Rupert Grint has been candid about his ‘big’ £12.9m portfolio, mainly concentrated in Hertfordshire. Emma Watson’s three-bedroom London mews property attracted attention after the Panama Papers revealed that she bought it for £2.8m through an offshore company in 2013. Her representatives say this was done to keep her purchase private.
For under-30s making a more pedestrian, but still affluent, living in the traditional professions in the City, the parts of Wandsworth nicknamed Nappy Valley — Earlsfield, Fairfield and the Common — figure strongly in the Savills table as enduringly popular places to buy a first family home. Edinburgh is also teeming with rich young things, both around the city centre and to the north, in Inverleith.
Anecdotally, it seems the wealthiest of the young rich also have the least freedom when it comes to where they buy. Under-30s who buy with inherited wealth tend to choose only the most established areas in the country — Kensington & Chelsea, Hampstead and Notting Hill — before moving to the countryside to take on the family pile. There is usually a team of wealth managers, lawyers and trustees behind such decisions, and a final sign-off from Mummy and Daddy is non-negotiable.
“We’ve never had an inherited-wealth client where the parent hasn’t had the final say,” says Eccles, who recalls one memorable occasion when a landowner in the north of England took a helicopter down to London for the day to approve his daughter’s purchase in Pimlico.
Hugh Grosvenor, 28, better known as the Duke of Westminster and Prince George’s godfather, is the richest person in the UK under 30, with a fortune of £10.1bn. In addition to the 300 acres of Mayfair and Belgravia that the family owns, it has assets in 60 cities overseas, but its historic seat is Eaton Hall, Cheshire.
Apart from a stint on the Grosvenor Group’s graduate scheme, the Duke has chosen to pursue his own interests, working in Bermondsey for the start-up Bio-Bean, which turns coffee grounds into clean energy. His slice of the Grosvenor pie is shared with his three siblings, but all its assets are tied up in a series of trusts to prevent any squandering of the family fortune. This is a common arrangement for wealthy heirs. “They’ll have a succession plan in place outlining how they’re getting the money,” says Tom Kain, of Black Brick. “That’s why they’ll tend to choose a safe investment that’s about capital growth and wealth preservation.”
Parents of the super-rich also tend to keep their children close to their own homes. “I can think of one billionaire who had a home in Knightsbridge, and two sets of children and his mum were all within a five-minute walk of him,” says Robert Watts, compiler of The Sunday Times Rich List. “These people worry just as much about their children as their businesses, because everyone’s got a story about so-and-so’s child ODing on something. The leash will be let out, but only so far.”
Young, rich and famous, but forced to live in Knightsbridge. It seems you can’t always get what you want.