The United Kingdom has had it tough of late, with a shocking Covid-19 death toll and post-Brexit details still not finalised. That has not stopped the wealthy from spending, though, with the prime Central London property market enjoying its best start to a year since 2017. The catalyst was thought to be Boris Johnson's Conservative Party election in December, when an international buyer “celebrated” the win with the purchase of a £65 million (US$80.6 million) penthouse in Belgravia. Occupying the top two floors of Belgravia Gate on Grosvenor Crescent, the ultra-prime penthouse of around 9,800 square feet is arranged as a six-bedroom duplex with a 2,000 sq ft private roof top terrace, with interior design by Thomas Juul-Hansen. Marcus O'Brien, of the Private Office at Beauchamp Estates, who brokered the deal, says this was one of the most expensive properties ever sold in the UK. Post-corona, where are luxury property investors looking to buy? But even that pales in comparison to the £200 million-plus the family office of Hong Kong billionaire Cheung Chung Kiu, founder and chairman of CC Land Holdings, reportedly agreed to pay in January for a 45-room mansion in Knightsbridge, overlooking Hyde Park. From there the momentum has continued to build. Qatari Diar, the developer of Chelsea Barracks, a luxurious collection of flats, town houses and penthouses on a historic former military base in Belgravia, reports £90 million of flats exchanging hands or completing during the first quarter. Qatari Diar, a firm owned by the Qatari royal family, has reportedly spent £3.5 billion transforming the 13-acre site, considered to be one of the most desirable addresses in the world. In May, Beauchamp Estates sold a four-bedroom, four-bathroom lateral flat in Belgravia for £7.5 million. According to the agent, the buyer was a businesswoman from the Middle East who “wanted a London pied-à-terre because the family like visiting London regularly for shopping and socialising”. Why Chinese buyers love luxury homes in historic London buildings Most recently, a buyer in Asia “has just had his offer accepted on a £20 million London town house, seen only via video”, Beauchamp Estates added. According to Gary Hersham, founding director, Beauchamp Estates, the prime Central London Q1 market showed year-on-year price growth of 5.2 per cent with sales volumes up 23 per cent, outperforming London as a whole at 3.1 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. He believes the UK’s long-term stability and the medium-to long-term growth prospects of prime Central London have encouraged investors and ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) to continue to invest in UK property, particularly at the top end of the market. Deal volumes picked up noticeably after the election with Brexit risk increasingly being priced out by buyers Paddy Dring, global head of prime sales, Knight Frank Says Hersham: “While the election result delivered greater certainty and clarity, the key to this translating into increased volumes has been the tempering and matching of vendor and buyer expectations. Increased private and public spending stimulated the economy, supporting it latterly, which may lead some vendors to expect a price 'bounce'. “However, Brexit still needs to be delivered, a fact that may see some buyers expecting prices to remain soft, further encouraged by the current temporary impact of coronavirus.” Rory Penn, head of Knight Frank's Private Office, agrees that, virus notwithstanding, super-prime buyers are still focused on London. “Only part of the pre-election pent-up demand was released in Q1. The vast majority remain primed and ready to go once logistics allow,” he said. Provisional data from Knight Frank shows super-prime (£10 million-plus) sales in London reached a three-year high in the first quarter of 2020. According to the data, there were 28 exchanges above £10 million in Q1, which was the highest figure for the period since 2017. The tally, which Knight Frank points out will increase as more data comes in, is a further sign of how the London property market gained momentum in the three months between the general election and the government lockdown. “Deal volumes picked up noticeably after the election with Brexit risk increasingly being priced out by buyers,” said Paddy Dring, global head of prime sales at Knight Frank. “More buyers were prepared to commit long-term to London with a number hedging their bets ahead of potential tax changes in last month's Budget.” Despite everything, London’s property market is still booming for some An increase in the number of super-prime new-build schemes nearing completion has also boosted the numbers, Dring says. Penn adds that the relative weakness of the pound also helped drive demand: “The effective discount for super-prime London property, which combines currency and price movements, is between 30 per cent and 40 per cent for a range of overseas currencies compared to mid-2014,” he said. Also noting the current currency advantage for international buyers, Beauchamp Estates says that, as coronavirus lockdowns have begun to lift in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, applicants have begun to make enquiries about properties in London. According to Hersham, these savvy investors are “responding to a favourable exchange rate and a desire to take investment out of the turbulent stock markets and put it into fixed assets such as prime real estate”. He adds that the performance of the mainland Chinese, Hong Kong and Singaporean property markets in recent months “highlights potential outcomes for London”. Nevertheless, Beauchamp Estates is pragmatic, saying that this “mini-boom” prime London has experienced was likely because of pent-up demand, with buyers purchasing properties they had coveted during the Brexit stagnation period. “A similar scenario is likely when the current coronavirus cycle comes to a close – but people need to plan for a cycle taking up to 12 months,” says Hersham. He breaks this down into three phases: the first, during the lockdown period (April-May 2020); the second, the return-to-work phase (lasting some months), which should help to unlock the property market with the volume of sales beginning to stabilise; and the third, spanning the lifting of quarantine measures and gradual return to business activities. Beauchamp Estates forecasts that this third phase in the cycle could happen between October 2020 and March 2021, during which the Prime London property market is likely to return to pre-quarantine levels, and then see a 20 per cent rise in transactions. “There will be a wave of deals at all price levels as pent-up demand from the months of quarantine is released,” predicts Hersham. “The third phase of the cycle will see the London economy and property market have a 'mini-boom' similar to that which occurred post-Brexit.” BUYING GUIDE What you can buy for £4.75 million-£42 million: Pick from the luxurious flats, town houses and penthouses arranged around garden squares in Chelsea Barracks, Belgravia. This world-class development on a former military site incorporates a private club, state-of-the-art spa and gym, private cinema, billiards room, residents' lounge and business suite with two boardrooms. Phases one to three (of six) in the development were completed in December 2019. What you can buy for £3.9 million-£4.6 million: An ultra-prime flat or penthouse at 2 Royalty Mews, the historic music recording studio in the heart of London's Soho. The four unique residences have been reimagined by March & White behind a facade crafted as a sculptural piece of artwork by Adam Dant. These exclusive homes consist of three two-bedroom lateral flats, each with private patios and balconies, ranging from 931 sq ft to 1,650 sq ft; and a 1,763 sq ft three-bedroom duplex penthouse with a private rooftop terrace. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .