The pinnacle of the British property market bears as much resemblance to the mainstream market as Concorde does to a Trabant. It only takes a dozen bankers at Goldman Sachs to earn million pound bonuses for there to be 12 new customers bidding for the country's finest houses. Over the past three years there have been plenty of them about - and many more are in the pipeline for 1996.
If the property market is anything to go by, London is now firmly established as one of the big three financial cities of the world, along with New York and Tokyo. Agents handling houses on the Phillimore Estate in Kensington - one of the City's preferred zones - say prices have risen by 50 per cent over the last three years. Prices in the best parts of London have generally risen 20-30 per cent over the period. It is bankers and businessmen, rather than lottery winners, who are driving them up.
The top 10 sales lists are always comprised of London houses and large country estates. This year, as last, the capital dominates. This is partly because land prices are currently soaring like house prices did in the late Eighties. Farmers, particularly of the gentlemen-landowner variety, have never had it so good. They are buying land rather than selling. When the very good stuff does hit the market, the price achieved is what estate agents term "very full".
Last year saw a series of record-breaking sales of new ambassadorial residences around Regent's Park. This year it is the family houses of Chelsea, Holland Park and Kensington which have most consistently rung up the multi-million pound receipts.
Property Vision, the buying agents who acted for two of the property purchasers in this list, believe that pattern is set to continue. The company says the richest people will continue to flock to west London or the M40/M4/M3 belt west of the capital. For properties of the right calibre in the right place the competition can only get hotter. Meanwhile here is our list of the top 10 properties for sale in 1995...
1. The Old Rectory, Old Church Street, Chelsea
This spectacular speculative development was sold in February by Knight Frank & Rutley for around pounds 22m to a Greek family for use as their principal residence. They are said to be spending the same amount again on furniture and decorations. Once an ordinary rectory, the house was extended into an ambassadorial home by the fashionable Toyoko Metropolitan Company, who completed three such ventures last year. The house has two vast entertaining rooms, 10 bedroom suites, an indoor swimming pool lined with black marble and a safe the size of the average living room. Though it is just off King's Road it has an amazing two acres of gardens, including a tennis court and summer house.
2. The Laverstoke Estate, Hampshire
This 3,000-acre slice of finest England is believed to be under offer with a price-tag of pounds 10m. It has all the prerequisites of a fine country estate: a beautiful parkland setting, a lake, fishing on the River Test, a pheasant and partridge shoot, not to mention the vast Georgian house itself where the library is bigger than the ballroom. The Laverstoke Estate is being sold by Savills for De La Rue, who acquired it through a business takeover. Savills refuse to comment on the deal.
3. Number 18 Holland Park, London
Holland Park has been on this list three years running and features twice in 1995. It has become the place for large, well-arranged, freehold family houses. Number 18 is a classic double-fronted white stucco villa with an additional mews house. A sale was agreed with the owner from Singapore at a staggering pounds 8m, but a gazumper came along, forcing the eventual price up to pounds 8.3m. The happy agents were John D Wood.
4. The Salperton Estate in Gloucestershire
It took a long time to find a buyer for the Cotswold estate that was owned by the businessman Victor Watkins. Its main attractions are 1,700 acres with pheasant and partridge shoot and 33 cottages, as well as the 18th-century manor house. Savills eventually sold it for around pounds 8m to another businessman, self-made millionaire Barry Houghton, who made his money in the telecommunications business.
5. Chesham Place, Belgravia, London
One family paid just over pounds 7m for two neighbouring houses and a flat to live in while the houses were being knocked into one. They are officially mews houses, but have grand reception rooms and gardens on a par with the townhouses in the neighbourhood. They were sold by Knight Frank & Rutley.
6. Beaufort Castle, Scotland
Number one on the list of most romantic sales of the year. This ancestral seat of the Frasers of Lovat, situated on the banks of the Beauly Firth near Inverness ,was bought in August by Ann Gloag, the bus driver's daughter who founded the Stagecoach transport empire. Brought up in a council house in Perth, she is now the owner of a 24-bedroom Highland castle and 800 acres. Ann Gloag paid about pounds 2m for her slice of the estate and the rest of the 19,000 acres was sold for pounds 4m in 17 separate lots by Finlayson Hughes and Knight Frank & Rutley.
7. Number 24 Rutland Gate, Kensington, London
Number 24 was the Accademia Italiana, a 40 room mansion with five inter- communicating reception rooms and 14,000 sq ft of living space. It was sold for more than pounds 5m by Savills and Knight Frank & Rutley to a private buyer who is converting it into a family house.
8. Osborne House, Chelsea, London
This was a very English sale. Osborne House is a genuine Georgian property with lovely gardens of one third of an acre, some six bedrooms and off- street parking for five cars. It is the kind of house more commonly found in Gloucestershire than Chelsea. It was sold in the summer by Chesterfield and Knight Frank & Rutley for around pounds 5m to an English purchaser.
9. Number 10 Holland Park, London
Another period, double-fronted house whose symmetry was destroyed by a garage on the lower ground floor. The new owners are expected to change that arrangement while stripping out the rest of the house - currently divided into a maisonette and two large flats. It was sold last week by John D Wood for just under pounds 5m.
10. Number 3a Kensington Palace Green, Kensington, London
This is the penthouse flat in the Regalian block that became synonymous with the property crash. It has featured on this list three times in three years, changing hands more like a batch of shares than a home. This time the price was pounds 4.5m through Knight Frank & Rutley.
And finally... a top garage sale:
Ivana Trump's husband Riccardo Mazzucchelli paid pounds 100,000 for a garage in Shafto Mews, Knightsbridge, London, near his home in Cadogan Square. The garage is large enough to house his gold Rolls-Royce convertible, which cost nearly twice as much. With parking spaces at such a premium it now costs the same to buy a single garage in central London as a three- bedroom semi-detached house in Barnsley.Reuse content