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Prime Property: What Does £2.5m Buy?

What could £2.5m buy you in London, Cambridge, Scotland and further afield?

Investec Private Bank’s Prime Property Hotspots report identified where the smart money is moving as purchasers’ focus on value, location and amenities helps to drive expansion in the market. Here we explore the regional effects in real estate pricing – that where you buy affects what you get – in terms of size, architectural style, amenities and neighbourhoods. Take a look at these properties in Britain and beyond, from a one-bedroom new-build flat in London to a 10-bedroom estate in Scotland’s rugged south-west.

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In London

With London still at the centre of the financial world – and expected to remain a key location for business even post-Brexit – the British capital remains a special place for property buyers. Downside risks to prime property, including a softer market and uncertainty around Brexit and tax changes, have largely been priced in. Issues with undersupply in the city are expected to continue to create future price tension, which is positive for potential investors.

Here, new builds are transforming the market, driving homebuyers to previously undiscovered locations. At the same time, prestige postcodes continue to attract prime property buyers, with new builds offering sought-after amenities such as high-spec interiors, unique architectural features and precious outside urban space.

One such example of a new build in a location that’s a perennial favourite is Marylebone Square in W1. For £2.55m, buyers can get a 84-square-metre, one-bedroom apartment in the centre of London, with easy access to the City, and Michelin-star dining and a bustling retail zone just steps away.

The last full block in W1 to be developed, Marylebone Square was designed to complement the distinctive historic buildings that surround it, yet offers modern features such as floor-to-ceiling windows, top-range kitchens and open-air breezeways and verandas. Once complete in late 2021, it will also house a community hall and farmers market.

Simon Hedley, director at Druce & Co, calls Marylebone Square “by far the most exciting development to have been created here in the 35 years I have worked in the area. The architecture, the location, the building’s amazing galleried atrium and generosity of terraces provide something we have not yet seen before with London new builds.”

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In the North & North-West

Outside London, striking the balance between location, quality and amenities is still the goal. Strong demand for city-centre living, a growing media hub and urban regeneration have made Manchester one of the best-performing prime property markets outside of London.

And as connective infrastructure is upgraded – the government’s Northern Powerhouse strategy and HS2 rail network are set to connect London with Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield – communities outside existing metropolitan areas are expected to grow. Property buyers can therefore benefit from amenities and fast transport, but also spacious residences and larger outdoor spaces.

In Cheshire’s golden triangle of Wilmslow, Prestbury and Alderley Edge, expansive homes on large plots of land are the norm. Marketed at £2.395m by Savills Wilmslow, By the Bridle, on the edge of

Prestbury, has five bedrooms, four bathrooms and three reception rooms, as well as a gym, playroom, media room, double garage, sun terrace, wine cellar and an acre or so of grounds.

According to Mark Holden, director, residential at Savills Wilmslow, the property “offers the best of both worlds for a buyer looking for a thriving village community with restaurants and bars, as well as beautiful English countryside.”

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In Cambridge

Provincial cities such as Cambridge are also benefiting from expanded transport links and property developments. New rail connections and an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway will support 1 million new homes by 2050 in a string of garden towns and villages – part of a push by the government to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Already in Cambridge, high demand and low supply, combined with a fast-growing high-tech industry and a well-established university community, are driving prime property offerings. The city offers easy access to the capital, and homes are built to 21st-century standards of efficiency and spacious enough for families.

In Great Shelford, just four miles south of Cambridge, £2.5m will buy a 500-square-metre, seven-bedroom house at the end of a private road and next to a large patch of open farmland. This property, marketed by Savills, is near several schools, and the train into Liverpool Street takes only an hour and 15 minutes.

“Quality of life is a major selling point with Cambridge,” says Michael Houlden, head of Strutt & Parker Cambridge. “The city offers a fantastic lifestyle – it fizzes with life throughout the year, and it’s a joy to punt on the Cam or walk along the Backs with Kings College as a backdrop. It’s steeped in history, has amazing architecture and a busy city vibe, and yet is 10 minutes from great countryside and local areas of interest. It also holds huge appeal to buyers looking to escape the rat race of London but still feel connected – a great first step before moving to proper countryside.

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In Scotland

Our property research found that improving transport links, plans for rural broadband and the normalisation of flexible working arrangements are making country living increasingly attractive.

In south-west Scotland, £2.6m will buy an expansive 18th-century A-listed estate across 487 acres – and a slice of history. Eminent former owners of the 10-bedroom Hensol House in Kirkcudbrightshire include tobacco merchant William Cuninghame; his descendant Richard John Cuninghame, a big-game hunter whose diaries recount him saving US President Roosevelt from wild elephants; and Lady Henderson, who moved there with her husband, Admiral Sir Nigel Henderson, a former chairman of the military committee of NATO.

And with the Scottish Rural Development Programme well under way, a home in the country doesn’t necessarily need to feel isolated from the business world. The Scottish government has invested £600m in the ‘Reaching 100’ project to deliver super-fast broadband to every home and business in Scotland by 2021.

Unique features that help a property to stand out are also highly important to prime property buyers. Hensol House, built from locally sourced granite, is surrounded by gardens, a summerhouse and a tennis court.

“It’s a magnificent, very desirable house in a beautiful location overlooking the River Dee,” says Diane Fleming, sales agent in Strutt & Parker’s Edinburgh office. “Architectural features include three-storey ogee-roof square turrets, a canted corbelled oriole with gable above, and slit windows with diamond-pane glazing.”

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In Paris

The French capital showcases many of the same attractions as London: it’s a cosmopolitan global city steeped in history and culture. And with UK businesses accelerating their preparations for Brexit, Paris is frequently cited as a city likely to benefit from relocations to Europe. Indeed, financial services firms are already shifting certain operations to Paris in order to serve their EU clients.

The Brexit factor, combined with the French government’s efforts to grow the technology sector – Paris tech companies saw investment grow by £233m to £797m in 2018, according to London & Partners – have helped to spur a recovery in the city’s prime property market. The Sunday Times reported that prime areas in Paris recorded price growth of 5.3% in 2018, and Knight Frank forecasts luxury residential prices to rise by 6% in 2019.

Coveted areas for prime property buyers include the 6th and 7th arrondissements, where many of the city’s most famous landmarks can be found; the charming Marais in the 4th; and sections of the 16th, where the historic homes are close to La Défense, Paris’s business district. For €2.65m, buyers can find a 280-square-metre apartment in a prestigious building in the 16th – in a prime location between Place de l’Étoile and Avenue Victor Hugo.

A classic example of Haussmannian architecture, this first-floor property is on the market with Daniel Féau Conseil Immobilier. In addition to three bedrooms, a spacious living room and an expansive mezzanine floor, there are views overlooking a large courtyard.

“This apartment is exceptional for three reasons,” says Valérie Uzzan of Daniel Féau Victor Hugo. “It boasts soaring ceilings that are 4.2 metres high, numerous period features and a location only a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe.”

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In Dublin

Another possible beneficiary from Brexit uncertainty is Dublin. Ireland’s Industrial Development Authority, which is responsible for attracting foreign investment into the country, has said that more than 55 companies have moved at least part of their operations from London to the Irish capital because of Brexit. Aviva, Britain’s second largest insurer, recently announced it will move £9bn worth of assets to Ireland.

With good links to the rest of Europe and Asia, Ireland is also one of the fastest-growing economies in the EU, with GDP rising from $226bn in 2012 to $334bn in 2017. In Dublin itself, Trinity College is creating a 5.5-acre, 400-startup ‘innovation district’, Facebook has established its European headquarters, and Google is among the tech companies expanding their presence.

In addition to the business and educational appeal – and comparably favourable tax rates – Dublin also has cultural and lifestyle factors attracting prime property buyers, including a rich literary history and easy access to world-class golf courses, thoroughbred racing and other outdoor pursuits.

In Dalkey, an upscale suburb of Dublin under an hour away by car, €2.85m will buy you a five-bedroom home built in 1841, with vistas over Dublin Bay towards Howth, Dalkey Island and southwards towards Bray Head. The property on Mount Salus Road, marketed by Sherry FitzGerald Dublin is a short walk from the local town. It also benefits from nearby recreational amenities including tennis, GAA golf and sailing clubs, as well as hill walking over Dalkey and Killiney Hills and Killiney Beach.

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In Amsterdam

A sparkling start-up culture and an abundance of cultural highlights have helped the Dutch capital rank as the best city worldwide for millennials. Amsterdam is also fast becoming a sought-after base for international firms, which cite its fast broadband connections, creative workforce and easy air and rail connections to more than 300 locations around the world.

The Dutch government has said it’s speaking to more than 250 companies about moving operations from the UK before Brexit, and in addition to several financial services firms and the European Medicines Agency, the Discovery Channel, Sony and Bloomberg have already invested here. Even the BBC is reportedly considering opening a new European headquarters in Amsterdam.

The most desirable property in Amsterdam is located around the city’s 17th-century central waterways, and in the museum district further south. A shortage of supply in the market – new home construction slowed significantly during the global financial crisis – has pushed residential development elsewhere, including conversions of offices, hotels and retail space.

Here, £2.5m will buy a 170-square-metre, sixth-floor apartment in the very heart of the city: in DAM3 – the only apartment building in the Netherlands with five-star hotel service. Overlooking Dam Square, the National Monument and the palace of the King of the Netherlands, the apartment includes valet parking, a concierge service, 24/7 security and room service – catering as well as cleaning.

Leslie D.T. de Ruiter, a managing partner at Residence 365 B.V., says the property “offers a level of luxury unprecedented in Amsterdam, so much so we expect even celebrity clients to be astonished. Your neighbours will include the five-star Krasnapolsky hotel; Bijenkorf, which is the Dutch equivalent of Harrods; and King Willem-Alexander.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

All properties featured are subject to prior sale, change or withdrawal without notice. All details were correct at the time of writing.

Nick Scott is editor-in-chief of the UK edition of Robb Report, and a regular contributor to FT How To Spend It, The Rake and Director magazine.