Property: A smart move in London

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Indy Lifestyle Online
There are few addresses in the world with the kudos of Eaton Square, SW1. In a survey last year, leading London estate agents voted it the top location for houses and flats. In the smartest square in the smartest part of London many of the owners are too grand to even want their presence mentioned, and they don't move that often.

But now there is a chance to buy not only a new apartment, but one that takes the letterhead of No.1 Eaton Square. Four of the Grade II houses have been taken apart and rebuilt as 13 apartments by Grosvenor Estate Holdings. The Regency facade is of course untouched. So far the main interest is coming from the UK and from Americans already living in London. Apartments on 75-year leases start at pounds 1.25m up to pounds 3.25m, while those on 20-year leases are in the region of pounds 500,000. WA Ellis and George Trollope are the selling agents.

A good address in London comes pretty high in the list of priorities for those coming to work in the capital from abroad. It is understandable why they should want to be in South Kensington rather than Stockwell, but if greedy landlords are overpricing their property - as Jacqueline Ironside, a letting agent suggests - then perhaps foreign tenants should take a less conservative view of where they live.

She says that a compromise has to be reached with the landlords in the end, since commuting is "too squalid, too expensive and too time-consuming to be a sensible option".

Since most London workers have to put up with commuter life to some degree, what better way for foreigners to get to know the real city than travelling on the Northern Line every day? Are they so timid that they cannot tell the central London landlords where to go and discover the pleasures of unfashionable London for themselves? Few people who have found themselves living in odd quarters of Paris or newly gentrifying parts of Madrid have any regrets.

The greatest problem facing estate agents is not having enough to sell. For the past year at least they have been urging tentative vendors to get into the market before it is too late. Sooner rather than later is the cry. Trouble is, unless you are buying as well, all those people who waited to sell have done rather well.

Savills Research, for instance, sees more growth in the South-east, about 10 per cent next year. Owners with a good property in, say, Cambridge who were rushed into selling early last year might have lost out on as much as 25 per cent. Bidwells now have five buyers bidding for a Cambridge rectory well above the pounds 700,000 asking price. They have 50 or 60 others waiting in the wings, so what could similar vendors expect in six months or more?

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