The pinnacle of prestige

Penthouses in London command premium prices. Reports by Peta Tomlinson

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 6:01am

Extravagant parties, lofty views, beautiful people: F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby made penthouse living glamorous and, still today, life at the top is pure opulence for many.

Penthouse apartments command premium prices in the world's ritziest cities - in prime central London, as revealed in a new report, they are also a canny investment.

CBRE has released an in-depth study of the London penthouse market, a sector which has soared in value since the prime residential market began to recover from the global property crash.

The report, Penthouse London: Paying a Premium for Perfection, reveals that the value of penthouses on the market in London exceeds £1 billion (HK$12 billion). And, according to Mark Collins, chairman, CBRE Residential, they're the London home of choice of wealthy foreign investors.

"Penthouses of the quality on sale in London now cement the capital's new status as a home-from-home for the superrich, as well as providing an invaluable store for their wealth," Collins says. "With the burgeoning volume of billionaires in the world and the increasingly international appeal of prime London real estate, we anticipate that the penthouse market will continue to be a very exciting and elusive space."

While the research doesn't drill down to the penthouse buyers specifically, a Knight Frank report earlier this year shows that among foreign buyers of central London properties, Singaporeans are the most active, buying 23 per cent of the homes sold, followed by Hong Kong residents (16 per cent) and mainlanders (5 per cent). CBRE has found that investors from Hong Kong have a detailed knowledge of London, and are open to "new" prime growth opportunities outside of the typical golden postcodes, traditionally Kensington/Chelsea and Westminster. "They will consider new areas like the City of London [such as the penthouse at Roman House, within London's Square Mile], where there is good potential for value growth."

Alex Christian, director, residential, Savills Knightsbridge, agrees that penthouses in central London are extremely desirable. "They very often come with large terraces which are highly sought after as it's rare to get good usable outside space with the same degree of privacy. Buyers are also drawn to the fact that nobody will be living above them in a penthouse. Most apartments in London are converted houses and, therefore, sound insulation is traditionally poor. Security is also a factor as the top floor is seen as being the most protected."

Colliers International is also recording increasing levels of interest from Hong Kong. "London property continues to attract Hong Kong investors due to good rental yields and strong capital gains," says Ashley Osborne, executive director, international properties, Colliers International. Attendance at the firm's property exhibitions in Hong Kong is up 20 per cent in the past three months.

And Naomi Heaton, CEO of London Central Portfolio, says: "Penthouses in prime London are considered the pinnacle of desirability. They come with a certain cachet which is very attractive to brand-conscious buyers from China and the Far East. They also have good fung shui. Many of our Southeast Asian clients instruct us to find flats which will provide this." The CBRE report also looks at what constitutes a penthouse, as opposed to a large flat. Price gives a clue: in prime Central London, the starting point is close to £4 million, according to the report. "In the most desirable boroughs, prices average £13 million and can easily top £4,000 per square foot," it finds.

On average, penthouses sell for a 60 per cent premium over the rest of a development. Features may include a private entrance or lift, a library or office space, and additional suites for guests or staff, the report notes. "Often buyers demand strong security measures, such as bulletproof windows. But there are 10 features that are common across almost all London penthouses, ranging from the best locations, to generous outdoor space, spectacular views over a city or park, and ground-breaking technology."




The Buckingham Suite, One St George Wharf

The penthouse on the 44th floor of The Tower, one of the tallest residential towers in Europe, is a prestigious River Thames development providing expansive views over London landmarks. Leisure facilities include a residents-only private health club with gym, infinity pool, sauna, steam and treatment rooms.

Price £20 million (Colliers)


Fitzroy Place, Fitzrovia

In a richly cosmopolitan location at the heart of central London, the penthouses at Fitzroy Place boast large lateral spaces finished to an exceptionally high standard. Facilities include a 24-hour concierge service, private residents lounge, club room and private dining room.

Price £14.5 million (CBRE)


Neo Bankside, Southbank

Four 7,000 sq ft superduplexes with balconies and terraces in a Rogers-designed iconic building on the south bank of the River Thames. In extremely well-thought out layouts, the penthouses offer quality accommodation with views across the river to St Paul's Cathedral and the London skyline.

Price £20 million (CBRE or Knight Frank)


Albert Hall Mansions, Knightsbridge

A six-bedroom lateral penthouse of around 4,500 sq ft, designed by Norman Shaw (circa 1880s), with views of Hyde Park from the drawing room. Residents benefit from 24-hour porterage and security and the building is next to the Royal Albert Hall with easy access to Knightsbridge and Kensington High Street.

Price £11.75 million (Savills)


Cheyne Place, Chelsea

A stylishly refurbished penthouse maisonette with the feeling of a New York loft. Has far-reaching views across London towards the River Thames and Battersea Park.

Price £6.25 million (Savills)


Piazza, Covent Garden

Located in an attractive setting for blue-chip professional tenants for its transport links and urban chic appeal. High ceilings provide a loft feel, emphasised by cutting-edge interior design. The large terrace overlooks the London skyline with a direct view of London Eye.

Price £2.2 million (London Central Portfolio)