Does Anybody Live In London?


Property in London is really expensive, which is a bit odd when you think that it’s a huge city unconstrained by real borders. Manhattan has nowhere to go except up, but London can theoretically spread out. But as prices continue to climb, more and more of the long-term residents are disappearing. Businesses are leaving too, as landlords refurbish and double rents.

So who moves in? Well, as we’ve seen in the piece on the Heron Building further down this page, overseas buyers are purchasing like never before. I attended the open day for a new development this weekend (I wasn’t buying, I was just being nosy) and all 140 new apartments had been sold, mostly to Chinese buyers – but that was because they had been advertised directly in China.

The brochures that sell properties now are likely to have pictures of the Queen, the Changing of the Guard and er, Harrods. So non-residents buy as investments and visit for three weeks a year.

Which brings me to leafy Lonsdale Square in Barnsbury, very near the city’s Square Mile. The square consists of tall town houses with steep gables, mullioned windows and arched front doors. There is a garden filled with mature trees, for use by residents, and lovely old gas-lamp lights. The square was built between 1838 and 1842. The houses go for around £2 million each.

And I have never seen a single living soul there. Not one. Maybe the residents are shy (the wealthy slowly become invisible anyway) or have weekend homes (highly likely) but whenever I cross the square I feel as if I should tiptoe and hold my breath.

I’m a Londoner born and bred, but very few of us ever make it to these wealthy areas, which seem to be ring-fenced for bankers. Go to Brick Lane or Clapham or Kentish Town and you’ll find rowdy Londoners galore – just don’t head for Hampstead, Kensington or Islington, where dreams of Ye Olde Englande are being flogged in far corners of the world.

8 comments on “Does Anybody Live In London?”

  1. Sparro says:

    It’s all in the nomenclature; these are ‘properties’. They are rarely ‘houses’. They are no longer ‘homes’.
    Londoners such as yourself, Chris, and particularly given that you utilise much that London offers to feed your creativity, ought by rights to be living in such places as Lonsdale Square.

  2. Alan G says:

    It’s a pain. My girlfriend lives in NE London – I live in SE London. Trying to meet for the odd lunch, other than a picnic, takes major planning. There used to be some really fun Italian cafes, all noise and red polka dots, just off Oxford street but guess what?

  3. Andy says:

    I rent in Croydon, even there I can’t even think about getting on the property ladder until my wife is also earning.

  4. admin says:

    It’s the century of China now, surveys suggest, as European growth slows to 3% and China’s is pegged at 17% – but the interesting thing is that Chinese people seem to crave European lifestyles (there’s currently a Chinese vogue for getting married in Italy, apparently)

  5. I.A.M. says:

    The same is the case in Vancouver: properties are 90% pre-sold, start at $700,000 for a decent-sized detached home, and $250,000 for a ‘flat’ which isn’t 300sq ft (ie: ‘shoe-box’) and it’s nearly all owned by Mainland Chinese obscenely wealthy people. Given how ‘close’ we are to their country (ie: 1/3 of the globe distant), perhaps they use these as ‘week-end houses’, I couldn’t say.

    I don’t leave the house. It’s safer. It’s also cheaper.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    I.A.M. said it well. We also have parachute children who live on their own and go to school. The idea is that they will have a Canadian school certificate and get into university more easily. They are on their own and well supplied with cash so what would your guess be as to their social life? Sometimes true and sometimes not. Richmond, across the bridge from Vancouver is almost 90% Chinese, but these are mostly landed immigrants, who shop locally, send their children to the neighbourhood school and worship locally (Catholic or Protestant and there is a beautiful Buddhist temple as well. The only problem there (for the rest of us) is that there is not a great deal of English spoken – Aberdeen Mall is Chinese and the name itself gives it to you.

  7. Totally fine with people of other countries living here, by the way. Buying up the homes, driving up the prices of same and not living here, however, isn’t all that coolio with this home-boy, yo!

  8. Joel Meadows says:

    I rent in Hendon, which is London although on the outer reaches and I am also a born and bred Londoner but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford to live in the areas you mention. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to afford to buy at any point but I live in hope;)

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