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Antony Antoniou – Luxury Property Expert

The London Premium Market: Understanding Its Decline

The London Premium Market: Understanding Its Decline


In recent times, the London premium market has witnessed a significant downturn, leaving many to question the reasons behind this decline. Following my previous market update on London West, I decided to delve deeper into the issue. Upon closer inspection, it became apparent that several high-end postcodes had been adversely affected. In order to comprehend the situation, we must cast our minds back to 2008. Prior to that pivotal year, property price recoveries were typically driven by first-time buyers. However, the recovery after the 2008 crash took a different trajectory, leading to an intriguing series of events that ultimately contributed to the present state of the London premium market.

A Top-Down Recovery:

Unlike previous recoveries, the rebound from the 2008 crash was characterized by a top-down approach. High-end developers who had embarked on ambitious projects in London were caught off guard by the market collapse. Subsequently, the government, under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron, encouraged these developers to focus their efforts on the high-end property segment. The intention was to attract overseas investors to infuse billions of pounds into the market, capitalizing on the vast unsold properties available at the time.

The Buoyancy Effect:

As money poured in from various countries, the property market began to rise. This initial buoyancy filtered down from the high-end properties, pulling up the next level and so on. The market dynamics, which typically saw a rising property market from the bottom up, were now reversed, with the impetus emanating from the top. This led to a series of price increases, affecting various property tiers in London.

Unintended Consequences:

However, as the market recovered, the government implemented stricter anti-money laundering laws. HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) began scrutinising property buyers, demanding evidence of the legality of their funds. Failure to provide such evidence resulted in property seizures and freezing of bank accounts. Billions of pounds worth of properties were seized as a consequence. Moreover, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, reformed the stamp duty fees, introducing higher rates for properties over £1.5 million. This had a chilling effect on the prime London market, halting its rise. In fact, the market value has remained stagnant since 2016, without even accounting for inflation. Ironically, the treasury now collects less stamp duty annually from the prime market compared to pre-2014 levels.

Discouraging Investment:

The government’s subsequent reforms targeting the buy-to-let market, including Section 24, further dampened investment in London. This is unfortunate, as London has traditionally been the preferred destination for global investment. While it is essential to strike a balance between encouraging overseas investment and ensuring affordable housing for local families, there are alternative approaches. For instance, Australia welcomes overseas investment but requires investors to develop more residential units than they purchase. This ensures that investment contributes to the development and growth of the local property market.

Missed Opportunities:

Over 100,000 properties in London are owned by overseas investors, while more than 50,000 properties sit vacant. This situation calls for a strategic approach that capitalizes on tax incentives to direct investment towards developing properties throughout the country. By providing greater incentives for areas with a higher demand for housing, the government could generate significant revenue from the construction industry. This approach would not only address the housing shortage but also offer a range of affordable options, such as starter homes, social housing, and low-cost housing schemes.

Government Policy:

The unintended consequences of government policies and reforms have dampened the market’s growth and discouraged investment. However, amidst these challenges, there are opportunities to revive the market and address the housing needs of both local residents and overseas investors. In this section, we will explore potential solutions that can help revitalise the London premium market.

Encouraging Overseas Investment with Purpose:

While it is essential to ensure affordable housing for local families, it is also important to attract overseas investment to stimulate the market. One approach that can be adopted is to follow the example of countries like Australia. Overseas investors could be required to generate more residential units through development projects than the number of properties they purchase. This would promote active investment that contributes to the growth and development of the local property market, rather than solely acting as a means of wealth preservation.

Tax Incentives for Strategic Development:

To address the housing shortage and revitalize the London premium market, the government can leverage tax incentives to direct investment towards areas with higher demand for housing. By offering greater incentives for property development in these areas, the government can encourage small-scale developers to undertake renovation projects, bringing neglected properties back into the market. This approach not only provides affordable housing options but also stimulates economic activity and generates revenue through increased construction and subsequent spin-offs.

Balancing Preservation and Progress:

Preserving the historical beauty and architectural heritage of London is crucial. However, the government must strike a balance between preservation and progress. Instead of favouring large-scale developers who construct buildings that lack character and adequate living space, emphasis should be placed on supporting small developers who are passionate about renovating properties. By incentivising and empowering these developers, the government can promote the revival of neglected homes, making them available for rental or purchase by individuals and families.

Investing in Sustainable Communities:

Revitalising the London premium market should also involve a focus on building sustainable communities. This includes creating a mix of housing options that cater to a diverse range of needs, from affordable homes to social housing and build-to-rent developments. Implementing sustainable design principles, incorporating green spaces, and fostering a sense of community can enhance the overall quality of life for residents while attracting investment and ensuring long-term market stability.

Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement:

To successfully revitalize the London premium market, collaboration and engagement among various stakeholders are crucial. The government, property developers, local authorities, and community representatives should work together to formulate and implement effective strategies. Regular consultations, feedback mechanisms, and partnerships can ensure that the interests of all parties are considered, leading to sustainable and inclusive development.


While the London premium market has experienced a significant decline, there are opportunities to reverse this trend and create a vibrant and thriving real estate sector. By adopting strategies such as encouraging purposeful overseas investment, providing tax incentives for strategic development, and balancing preservation with progress, the government can breathe new life into the market. Moreover, investing in sustainable communities and fostering collaboration among stakeholders will contribute to long-term growth and ensure that the London premium market remains an attractive and dynamic destination for both local residents and international investors.

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