Research article

London living: a local’s guide

What makes central London so desirable? Our agents uncover the charms of its most appealing neighbourhoods and the property styles that buyers are searching for

Central London 

Richard Gutteridge, Co-head of Prime Central London

In an uncertain world, what London has to offer appears to be even more desirable than before. This includes such things as its schools and universities and a robust legal system. But there is also the opportunity to live at a worldfamous address and still enjoy the vibrancy of the local neighbourhood.

You do not need to leave the capital to find village life. You can, for example, meet friends for coffee, go to the butcher, or buy artisan bread in places such as Pavilion Road in Chelsea, or Elizabeth Street in Belgravia. It is to the extraordinary credit of the Cadogan and Grosvenor estates that they have developed and regenerated these locations; revitalising neighbourhoods that lacked a community feel. 

These examples of regeneration were much appreciated during the pandemic and will continue to be so because the lifestyle and psychological changes wrought during this period seem to have become permanent. In terms of property, a house with a garden – and a separate space for working from home – will remain a top priority for many people.

For many international buyers, it makes commercial sense to invest in London now, given the fall in sterling against the dollar. But our city does not only provide value, it is also full of history, culture and excitement. No place is perfect, but I’d argue that no other world city can currently compete with London’s unique qualities.

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William Duckworth-Chad, Director

Over the past 18 months, prices have been edging up in SW1, SW3, SW7 and SW10. Once again, London is being seen as the place to invest, particularly among families who prize the education on offer at our schools and universities. 

In light of the increase in enquiries, I’m suggesting to owners who have been thinking of selling that they consider taking the plunge now. Those people who are shopping for a home in the locations that I look after may be largely recession-proof. But they are influenced to an extent by downbeat forecasts for the economy. 

Outdoor space continues to be at the top of buyers’ bucket lists, which means that there’s been a lot of interest in houses with gardens in Chelsea at between £8 million and £15 million.

The demand for such properties is primarily domestic – we have never had such a level of interest from the UK. But Americans are returning following the pandemic hiatus. Also back are buyers from the Middle East, which means that flats are becoming more sought-after.

Whatever mood you’re in, I would say that a walk down the King’s Road will revive the spirits. With its shops and outdoor cafés and restaurants, it is one of London’s great thoroughfares, a place with a rich history that continues to evolve in the most agreeable way.


Claire Reynolds, Co-head of Prime Central London

At present, many people are waiting to see how the economic situation develops during the autumn months, with a particular focus on what happens to interest rates. Some will deliberate for a while.

But those who decide to commit to Mayfair will have the reassurance that Grosvenor, which has been the major landlord in this part of London since the 18th century, is heavily entwined with every aspect of the area.

This nurturing of the community, the care and concern for heritage, and devotion to upkeep and improvement safeguards your investment. Grosvenor’s many current initiatives include the restoration of Grosvenor Square, which is London’s second-largest garden square.

The apartment schemes – 1 Grosvenor Square and Twenty Grosvenor Square – have sold really well because of the regeneration of the square, and because these developments offer amenities such as health clubs, cinemas and concierge services – a very popular feature because buyers like the sense of security.

There is demand for Mayfair townhouses but rarely, at present, do people want to take on a project because of the cost of construction. Despite the mood of caution, hesitation tends to vanish when a ‘gold dust’ house, the kind of property that is seldom available, comes onto the market. In the summer, we were handling one such property – a mews house with a garage. Mayfair’s combination of architectural good looks, convenience and history brought out a wave of buyers.


Laura Wilcox-Chandley, Head of Sales

Westminster may be famous for its historic sights, but only a select few know that it is the hidden residential gem in prime central London. It is handsome, steeped in history and convenient, with St James’s Park on the doorstep.

In a difficult economy, these qualities may come to be more appreciated. Buyers are often astounded that you can buy an elegant townhouse here at a price considerably lower than Belgravia and Mayfair. Recently, we handled the sale of an 8,000 sq ft house which had a private gate that opened from the garden and into St James’s Park. Smith Square, which dates back to the early 18th century, is one of the most sought-after addresses. It is popular among the older generation of Westminster fans who like the tranquil atmosphere and community.

Pimlico is popular with domestic buyers who like the architecture and neighbourly feel, while the mansion flats and contemporary apartments in Victoria, such as the beautifully designed Nova Building, are perfect for those looking for a pied-à-terre.

Thanks to a successful regeneration project, Victoria Street is now a smart retail and restaurant enclave, while Victoria station is in the midst of an upgrade.

Kensington/Holland Park

Stephen Holmes, Head of Sales

The Kensington and Holland Park area is where you come to put down roots, for a sense of belonging. People tend to have their primary residences here which creates a feeling of community.

When you stroll out for a coffee, you bump into friends and acquaintances. In the wake of the pandemic, that’s the sort of thing that really matters to people.

Buyers also come for the green spaces. We are sandwiched between two parks: Holland Park and Kensington Gardens. The houses here – which include the ‘wedding cake’ villas of Holland Park, the road where one of the main entrances to the park is situated – tend to have larger gardens than those in other parts of town.

At present, the most sought-after property is a wide house on a quieter street, with a good-sized garden. House-hunters are avoiding negatives, like roads with heavy traffic noise, that they cannot change by spending some money. For this reason, lower ground floor flats or flats on the top floor in a building without a lift are not that popular.

During the summer, we didn’t have much stock. However, we expect to have more houses to offer in the autumn, although still only about 80% of the long-term average. Valuations have been more realistic lately: it’s been what I would call a fairer market. However, the best houses are likely to go quickly for strong prices.

Notting Hill

Daniel Taylor, Head of Sales

Notting Hill is a location where people invest for long-term capital gains, but also for its inimitable lifestyle.

The area’s attractions include beautiful architecture, good schools, great transport, tree-lined streets, a tremendous sense of community and green spaces. If you buy a home on one of the garden squares, such as Ladbroke Square, not only do you have a wonderful spacious home, you also have access to what is essentially a private park.

Westbourne Grove, which winds its way through the area, exemplifies Notting Hill’s mix of the bohemian and the chic. As you walk east, you can take a detour down Portobello Road to stroll through the market, or continue down Westbourne Grove, calling into the smart shops or stopping at one of the many cafés and restaurants.

Queensway, at the end of Westbourne Grove, is being regenerated with the redevelopment of the iconic former department store, Whiteleys.

Our buyers work in a variety of industries: banking, entertainment, hedge funds, law, private equity and tech. Despite their desire to be part of the Notting Hill vibe, they are taking a hard-headed approach to opportunities. Higher interest rates and inflation mean that they do not wish to take on fixer-upper projects because of the uncertainty about the payback and the hassle. As such, houses that are not in need of renovation or other work are most in demand, and I expect this trend to continue.

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If you buy a home on one of the garden squares, not only do you have a wonderful spacious home, you also have access to what is essentially a private park


Charlene Williams, Associate Director

The continuing desire for green space means that there is a scarcity of houses and lateral apartments on garden squares in Chelsea.

We are, of course, being asked about the impact of the recession on the value of these and other properties. But although interest rates are rising, finance is still easy to obtain in this segment of the market. The belief is that property in this part of London has tended to be a good long-term investment.

This view is partly based on the extraordinary heritage of Chelsea in particular. Sometimes, we handle the sale of a property whose past occupants were key figures in politics or entertainment. A house with such a fascinating history has an enduring appeal.

The two main characteristics of the market at present are the willingness of buyers to pay a premium for a turnkey property, and the number of deals that are being done off-market.

Like Notting Hill, the reluctance to undertake work on a property stems from the increasing cost of materials and difficulty obtaining skilled labour. People used to be keen on a project, but now they do not want the bother or expense.

The increase in off-market deals has been caused by the shortage of properties for sale, and by many sellers’ preference for confidentiality. Competition is fierce, so for anyone house-hunting in Chelsea or South Kensington, make sure your finances and solicitor are in place so that you are in a position to act quickly.


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