This could be a good time to seek out those shabby, down-at-heel London streets where the odd person can often be found sitting disconsolately on the steps of a once-smart house.

Budget hotels in places like South Kensington and Paddington have always stood out like sore thumbs and it is quite possible to walk from a smart, pricey street round the corner into another of peeling paintwork and a generally sad air.

For the residents of Courtfield Gardens in South Kensington this could all be about to change. Planning consent has been given to turn five small hotels into 33 luxury flats and they are being sold by Blenheim Bishop and Winkworth for about pounds 9m.

But what is of real interest is the effect it will have on nearby homes. Christopher Roupell of Winkworth says the impact will be considerable. "Until recently prices were depressed by the presence of budget hotels but residents within the garden square may see the value of their property rise by up to 10 per cent and those living on the same terrace by as much as 20 per cent."

The story is similar in the Paddington area, already undergoing development. Owners of hostels and hotels are being tempted into selling to developers who are making generous offers, knowing that they can still see a healthy return on their investment.

Even though investors from the Far East are thin on the ground these days, the ex-pats are a pretty demanding group. But not all of them are returning to the UK flush with funds.

Colin Mackenzie of Hamptons International, who deals mostly with buyers' inquiries, says that while those in banking and financial services can now afford large houses and even small estates, the civil engineer is being forced to sell. "The gravy train has stopped for them. The construction industry has come to a halt and Hong Kong airport is finished so they are returning without jobs and often decide now is the time to sell and rent instead."

The third category is the perennial ex-pat who might be off to Japan or Singapore who wants an idyllic country cottage that can be used as family bolthole and a holiday let.

The Surrey estate of Sir Archibald Hamilton, the Conservative MP, is for sale for the first time in more than 100 years. The Snowdenham Estate, near Bramley, has been in Archie Hamilton's family since 1874.

The main house is 17th century, and according to FPD Savills, the selling agents, it is rare for a classic house with hundreds of acres of land so close to London to come on to the market.

The asking price is in excess of pounds 4.25m.

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