Property: A haven for rich refugees

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POVERTY-stricken refugees from the Balkans are not the only ones seeking a safe haven in the UK. A Yugoslav banker has snapped up a pounds 500,000 country house in East Anglia under great secrecy. Agents say he is one of many well-heeled buyers from former Communist states jumping at the chance to move abroad.

Richard Osborne Young, of Hamptons, recently sold three Kensington flats worth between pounds 200,000 and pounds 320,000 to Russians. 'We will be seeing an increasing number of purchasers who recognise London as a safe haven for money,' he says.

Ironically, he does not have enough property to go around. 'We could be selling more to overseas buyers if people were more confident in coming to the market.'

DEVALUATION is also bringing investors into prime areas of the South-east. Glentree Estates says one overseas consortium is aiming to pick up 500 homes across the Home Counties, while a foreign government wants to nip in while prices are low and grab five houses in north-west London in the pounds 500,000 to pounds 750,000 range.

THE SUREST way to commit suicide nowadays is shouting that you are a home buyer with money to burn and waiting to be killed in the rush - except in the Devon town of Okehampton.

The Building Research Establishment advertised widely that it had up to pounds 60,000 to spend on a house to use as a test-bed for methods of dispersing radon, the invisible gas that seeps naturally from granite rocks and can cause cancer. Chris Scivyer, of the BRE, says he was offered only two homes.

This was partly because he ruled out a property unless it had timber floors, cavity walls and high radon levels. But a frightening message emerged from his search. Most agents and sellers did not know the levels of this potential killer in homes, despite Government offers of free testing and grants to tackle the problem.

BARRY COX has grown accustomed to an endless stream of visitors hammering on his door. As a founder of the international Hard Rock Cafe chain, he rarely looks out of his London window without seeing impatient queues stretching along Piccadilly.

But he hit hard times at another venue. His penthouse failed to draw the crowds, says Laurence Carr, of Allsop's - perhaps because the price was a shade above that of your average hamburger, at pounds 1.25m.

However, queues are beginning to form outside the Knightsbridge flat, too, as Mr Cox has slashed the bill to a rock-bottom pounds 895,000.