London property market attracts Greek investors

Greek purchases in London’s property market total more than 100 million euros annually, estate agents reported, adding that interest has intensified lately, as prospective investors seek alternative options due to uncertainty in the European banking system and especially Greece’s.


“Demand from Greece has grown in recent months, as an increasing number of people who still have some ready cash are seeking security in the UK’s property market,” says Sandy Triantopoulou von Croy, a Greek-born agent who has handled some of the biggest transfers in London. Her clients include Greek shipowners and entrepreneurs, Russian magnates and members of the Saudi royal family. She estimates that Greeks account for about 3 percent of London property purchases in terms of value.


Meanwhile, the UK’s property tax regime is currently one of the most competitive in Europe and is expected to remain so despite planned changes due to the country’s fiscal crisis. Transaction costs remain particularly low, while demand for property in a “global capital” such as London has remained strong over the last three decades or so. This makes for a liquid market, meaning that owners can easily sell their assets if they wish to. Transfer tax, for instance -- the only levy -- is set at 3 percent for properties valued up to 500,000 pounds sterling, 4 percent for those worth between 500,000 and 1 million pounds, and 7 percent for those above that.


The flip-side of growing Greek demand for London properties is that an increasing number of Greeks who have been owners for a number of years are looking to sell, presumably to meet economic commitments resulting from the crisis back home.


The absence of a capital gains tax in the UK, unlike other European countries, is an added advantage for the London property market. Prices in upmarket areas and for select properties which now cost more than 5 million pounds have risen by about 15 percent over the last year or so, while the increases have been even steeper for assets costing between 500,000 and 2 million pounds. This price range seems to be the main focus of Greek interest, which, according to some agents, is being expressed by doctors as well as businessmen.


Von Croy says that Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Kensington, Chelsea and Notting Hill are the areas Greeks are most interested in.


She also said that Italians are becoming more active in the UK property market, while demand from Russia and many Arab countries appears stable. Asian buyers have made a dynamic entry in recent years.


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