Sophisticated, glamorous and spacious — when the super-rich go house-hunting they are searching for something special.
Real estate in London’s swankier suburbs can catch a buyers’ eye. Mayfair, Kensington and Chelsea have long been the stomping ground of the elite — and are now welcoming a new wave of African investors.
“The Africans who are coming into London now are Africans who themselves have worked for their money,” explains Bimpe Nkontchou, a British-Nigerian wealth manager based in London.
“They have grown in industry and are actually part of the exciting story of the African renaissance,” she continues. “It’s bringing to London the best of the continent.”
These investors are having a considerable impact on London’s property market and they mainly come from just six countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and Senegal.
Of these, Nigerians are splashing out the most cash when it comes to bricks and mortar in the British capital — typically spending between $22 and $37 million on securing a property, according to luxury property agents Beauchamp Estates. Their research shows that over the past three years Africans have spent over $900 million on luxury residential property in London.
“The new international African is very well-traveled,” explains Nkontchou. “Educated in the U.S., UK and different parts of Europe their taste is definitely more modern and clean.”
Owning a home in post codes like W1 or W8 — around the corner from Kensington Palace — means more than having a place to lay your head. These buildings are investments which are expected to gain even bigger value in the coming years.
High-end auction house Sotheby’s says that foreign investors see London as a “safe haven” for prime property investments, and ranks the city as the second most important hub for ultra high-net-worth homes. The only spot more important on the planet is New York City.
For evidence that London still attracts high-end buyers, look no further than the sale of a penthouse in Mayfair which fetched $40 million earlier this year.
As well as an intelligent investment, many of the African buyers see these houses as a way of maintaining long standing cultural ties with London — and it’s here they want to send their children to school.
Harrow, Eton, Cheltenham Ladies College are all among the list of respected institutions that teach the offspring of wealthy Africans. The Nigerian Embassy in London calculates that Nigerian nationals now spend over $446 million per year on fees, tutoring and accommodation at British schools and university.
“West African clients are very much driven by the need to educate their children,” says Nkontchou. “Education usually means putting the children on an international stage, and that’s one reason why this is feeding into the demand for property in London.”
Indeed, education industry experts ICEF Monitor say there were over 17,500 Nigerians studying in British universities in 2012 — about 1,000 more than the 2009/10 academic session.
And experts are expecting this trend to continue.
“Virtually all the transactions are for end use, not rental investment, which indicates that the African buyer market in London has significant room for growth,” says Gary Hersham, director at Beauchamp Estates.
“African buyers or luxury tenants in London are currently where the Russians and Ukrainians were five years ago. They have the resources and desire to purchase or rental luxury homes in Prime Central London,” he adds. “It is going to be the African century.”
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