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The yuan may not be monopoly money but it is good enough for many Chinese to stake their claim on Mayfair, Park Lane or Bond Street. Those with Chinese currency are not playing a board game, however – they are buying up million-pound-plus apartments and houses in prime central London for real.
According to Knight Frank Residential Research, more than one in 10 of all buyers of new properties in central London are now from the Chinese mainland or Hong Kong, with many mainland buyers channeling money through the special administrative region.
Although, the Chinese are also looking at other areas of Europe, including old world castles and chateaus with vineyards in France, and the sunny southern Spain costas, London remains their central focus.
Developers and estate agents in the UK capital are responding by themselves chasing the yuan, holding property exhibitions and seminars in China.
Some are hiring Mandarin speakers and Savills, the leading international estate agent, has even set up a dedicated China Desk in its head office in Berkeley Square.
Few major developments are now put up for sale in London without potential Chinese buyers in mind with advice on feng shui being taken and some apartment blocks having no floor numbered four, considered an unlucky number for the Chinese … //
… A French estate agency which specializes in selling castles is more confident of attracting Chinese interest for its properties which often come with vineyards attached.
Agency Mercure, based in Toulouse in southwest France and which was formed in 1932, has sold 3,500 castles over the past 25 years.
Kim Truong, China president for the agency, set up an office in Beijing in July and has already had interest from wealthy Chinese.
“We already have one customer, a businessman, and he is in the process of making a decision on a castle, which costs 6 million euros,” he says.
He believes it is a big potential market since there are no fewer than 40,000 castles in France, which can fetch anything from as low as 600,000 euros to 40 million euros.
“I think they will appeal to the Chinese because they have a very old culture just like France and the castles are part of that old culture.
“I don’t think they are that expensive compared to a Beijing villa. People think they are expensive to maintain but that is not always the case.”
London might have had gloomy gray January skies but James Moss was in an optimistic mood in his new Ives Street offices in fashionable Chelsea.
The managing director of Curzon Investment Property, which acts for a number of Chinese and Asian clients wanting to buy property in the city, believes soaring property prices in Shanghai, Beijing and also Hong Kong are driving the Chinese to invest in European property.
“I think a lot of Asian property is beginning to look very expensive. Just look at Hong Kong, where you have had 50 percent capital growth recently. You look at places like Vancouver also were Chinese have traditionally bought property. That has been a nightmare recently” … (full long 3-pages text).