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--- news (4/16/2012)
Prime pickings
Prices in some London districts are soaring, driven by foreign buyers.

by Richard Warren, Luxehomes,SCMP
Apr 13, 2012

London’s property market continues to be a tale of two cities. Prices in the prime central area rose 11 per cent in the year to March, figures from Knight Frank show. However, across Greater London, they rose only 2 per cent, Nationwide bank reveals.

According to Hamptons International, the W8 postcode covering the prime districts of Kensington and Holland Park had the strongest performing housing market last year, with prices rising 14.8 per cent to reach an average of £1,466 (HK$18,000) per square foot. The rise was driven by wealthy foreigners who wanted homes in the capital because they perceive it as a safe haven.

Adam Challis, head of research at Hamptons International, forecasts central locations will be London’s best-performing housing markets this year, although areas along the route of Crossrail, a train line that will connect the city centre with Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf from 2018, will benefit too.

“Prime London will continue to outperform Greater London averages, but areas that can take advantage of improving regional employment conditions in central London, or leverage new infrastructure such as Crossrail, should also make gains,” Challis says. “This means locations such as the City Fringe, Farringdon, South Bank and Paddington have great prospects for the next couple of years.”

According to the report “Rental Britain”, published by Savills and Rightmove last month, London’s private rented sector remains under supplied despite expanding rapidly to encompass 27 per cent of all homes in the city.

“There has been an explosion in the private rental sector over the past five years and there is every likelihood that this will continue over the next five years,” says Lucian Cook, research director at Savills. He believes the London Borough of Islington will produce Britain’s best capital growth over the next 10 years.

Newham is benefiting from infrastructure projects connected with this summer’s Olympic Games, including the transformation of the Olympic Village into 2,818 homes next year.

Prime central districts such as Knightsbridge and Hyde Park continue to be the most sought after. Projects on the market include 2 Hyde Park Square, a block of 36 apartments, which is being marketed by Savills. Prices for homes of one, two and bedrooms start at £775,000.

Another property on the market is the iconic 23-storey curve building The Pump House. The waterside tower in Royal Victoria Dock, Excel, East London, has 161 units and is being marketed in Hong Kong, with prices starting at £250,000.

Chasing dreams

New York continues to attract people from all corners of the globe.

by John Cremer, SCMP

Feb 17, 2012

Love it or hate it, New York is still the world’s biggest financial centre, where aspiring people search for the American dream.

Though the Big Apple’s property market has seen many challenges over the past few years, 60 per cent of residential brokers are optimistic about 2012, according to a survey by the Real Estate Board of New York.

The research found that while prices in the fourth quarter of last year fell slightly year-onyear, the luxury sector was doing better, with a 7 per cent increase for sales in excess of US$3 million, and a 6 per cent increase for rentals above US$4,000.

Overseas buyers from cities such as Hong Kong often look for something like “home” – upmarket city apartments with the amenities and easy convenience expected of today’s international urban lifestyle.

One example is the Trump SoHo Hotel Condominium on Manhattan’s Spring Street, where more than a quarter of the sold units have been purchased by Asian buyers. Close to 400 studios, suites and penthouses provide a “luxury turnkey lifestyle”, with on-site restaurant, cocktail lounge, spa and open-air plaza, a private business centre, and a 1,800 sq ft event space on the top floor.

Another prime property is the Centurion, designed by Design Architect/Pei Partnership with I.M. Pei. It is a 19-storey luxury development on 56th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan near Central Park. Seventy per cent have been sold, and prices for the remaining units start at US$2.5 million.

“Right now, Midtown is the number one area for buyers looking for an investment or a second home,” says Thomas Guss, president of New York Residence Inc, who is marketing the Centurion.

“We are seeing a high level of interest from Asia as investors want to diversify into safe real estate markets with a long history of stable price development,” Guss says.

Other districts and developers are also targeting the Asian market, such as Sky View Parc, which includes three residential towers with 448 units in downtown Flushing in Queens, with starting prices from US$375,000 to US$835,000.

“Fashion, function and fung shui live in every detail,” says director of sales Hele Lee. “There is an array of Asian restaurants and shops in the area and, just downstairs, we have an Asian supermarket.

“New York state real estate law requires extensive disclosure and transparent regulation. But this is specifically geared towards consumer protection, so overseas investors should feel very comfortable.”
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