Bosses plump for London

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London is one of the world's most expensive cities for executive housing and living costs: a house in the desirable centre of the city could cost up to four times the annual executive salary, according to a survey.

The lifestyle and cost comparisons between 11 of the world's main cities find that property in London is costly to buy and rent but school fees are reasonable and the quality of life is good.

Lorna Vestey, of the estate agents Knight Frank, who did the survey, said demand for good housing in the capital is high but there was not a lot of it. "London has a very limited city centre in terms of size, and people from all over the world want to live here because it is a very pleasurable area. But our housing costs are generally in line with America, so international executives are not too put off by the prices."

A young married couple in their mid-thirties with a five-year-old child and a salary of about pounds 150,000 could buy a four-bedroom house in Chelsea for pounds 590,000 and spend pounds 5,000 a year on school fees. Typically, they would employ a nanny or au pair, take holidays in far-flung destinations and belong to a social/health or country club.

The survey, comparing executive lifestyles in such places as New York, Paris, Bombay and Tokyo, is based on the earnings of an investment banker or lawyer living in a typical executive home. In Madrid a four-bedroom house costs pounds 330,000; in Hong Kong it would sell for pounds 1.2m. Lifestyle in Paris is difficult to match because of free state schooling, though property is expensive compared to other cities.

School fees in Hong Kong, San Francisco and Sydney account for 2 to 5 per cent of annual earnings, while New Yorkers have to pay a more damaging 8 per cent.

A spokesman for the SBC Warburg bank said: "We have a global network of offices and we find the prices of renting or buying houses in London unsurprising."