Real estate property prices in London are astonishing. This is not an atypical “listing” in the centrally located district of Marylebone.
The cost of this flat is 975,000 pounds. At our current rate of approximately $1.50 USD to each GBP, that comes out to about $1,500,000.
The flat is 620 square feet. Let’s repeat that again – 620 square feet. It is possible that there are upscale dorm rooms in the US larger than this for affluent college kids. That works out to about $2400 a square foot.
You also don’t “own” the land underneath your flat. In this area of town the Portman Estate owns land and there are other companies, as well. You buy a “lease” and as your lease gets closer to its termination date the cost to “renew” the lease goes up substantially. “Ground rent” is a pittance (a few hundred dollars a year) but the renewal of the lease can be very costly especially as it nears its term. I am far from an expert and picked up my information from online sources and brief conversations but this article in the Telegraph has additional data if you’d like to research further. On top of the costs to extend the lease which can be as high as $100,000 dollars there are fees for surveyors and others just as in the US when you need to employ various professionals for your mortgage financing.
There are other places in the world where the cost per square foot is $3000 or more – but these are generally penthouses or high profile properties, not a small flat in a great neighborhood in London with likely not much of a view at all. This sort of price, however, is not out of the norm in this neighborhood.
Who can pay these sorts of prices? For the most part, foreigners can. According to this article 60% of the buyers of real estate in central London were from overseas. They were driven by the lower value of the pound (which makes their currency go further), the favorable tax regime, and the security and stability of living in London (compared to their often dodgy governments).
For UK citizens paying tax rates in the 50%+ range (as opposed to wealthy foreigners who pay little as a percent of their income), you would need to make an astonishingly high amount of earnings to pay for a high quality residence in an exclusive part of London. Remember that not only are real estate costs high, personal taxes are high, and everything you buy from cars to furnishings to services such as a nanny are sky-high, as well. I had a discussion where a friend mentioned someone who had to make 2 million pounds / year in order to live at what he considered to be an acceptable level in this part of town.
Cross posted at LITGM