For sale: the costliest house yet, a snip at pounds 35m

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The Independent Online
THE WALK-IN wardrobe is bigger than most people's living rooms, but if you can afford to pay pounds 35m for a house presumably you have a collection of clothes to match.

The 10-bedroom mansion, 15a Kensington Palace Gardens, went on sale yesterday for an asking price that makes it the most expensive private property in Europe - possibly the world - to be sold on the open market.

"You haven't seen the half of it yet," said Richard Cros-thwaite, a partner at estate agent Knight Frank, entering the second suite, which comprises a huge bedroom with sitting area, dressing room and bathroom. This was, he said, designed with a son or daughter in mind. "It's been known throughout the construction process as the spoilt-child's bedroom."

The house, all 20,000 square feet of it, is in a private, gated road adjoining Kensington Palace. Since the Thirties this has been an embassy ghetto, with top-hatted porters in hutches guarding each end and 24-hour police patrol. The eventual resident of 15a will find their neighbours are the Norwegian High Commission and the Russian Embassy.

Only three other houses on the street are owned privately, among them one belonging to the Sultan of Brunei. The Crown Estate, which owns the properties, is renovating them in the hope of returning them to private hands. Mr Crosthwaite is optimistic that he will find a private buyer for 15a, with its 99-year lease. "A few years ago I would have said this property would be bought as an ambassador's residence," he said, "but the way the world has gone it is far more likely to become a private house."

One possibility is a Middle Eastern businessman, known in the trade as a "passive" buyer. "These are people who don't have a need," said Mr Crosthwaite. "You often find they buy something for their children almost sight unseen and say, `There's a birthday present'."

However, 15a does have its shortcomings. The 32ft swimming pool does not provide much scope for strenuous exercise. And the marble bathrooms are not even high-quality marble - although it is expected that most buyers would rip them out anyway - "and this way the owner won't waste money".

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