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Christie’s Uses Auction Ties to Find London Luxury Homes

Christie’s International, the 246- year-old fine art auction house, plans to use its contacts with some of the world’s wealthiest people to help millionaires around the globe find a home in London.

Christie’s Private Property will help locate homes in areas such as Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Mayfair, Holland Park, Notting Hill and Hampstead, said Giles Hannah, director and senior vice president of the real estate business.

“Being linked to Christie’s allows us to have access to ultra-high-net-worth clients and their properties,” Hannah said in an interview. “We know about some of London’s best stock before it hits the rest of the market.”

Overseas investors are buying luxury homes in the U.K. capital to preserve wealth in one of the world’s most resilient property markets. Investors from China, where the government is taking steps to cool the property market, and Southeast Asia bought one in every two new homes sold in central London last year, according to Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. (JLL)

Christie’s International Real Estate already sells homes when its clients offer them and is marketing the Woolworth Mansion at Fifth Avenue and East 79th street in New York for $90 million.

Christie’s Private Property brokers will travel to meet clients and their families to understand the type of real estate they want, said Hannah, who’s completed more than 300 million pounds ($471 million) of property transactions. They will focus on homes valued at 3 million pounds or more.

More Asian Billionaires

“We will get to know them incredibly well, find out what they like and what they dislike,” he said by telephone. “The idea from that is to go off and buy them the best. Anything is possible, nothing too much to ask.”

The number of billionaires in Asia rose to 351 last year from 245 in 2010, according to Credit Suisse Group AG’s Global Wealth report. Europe had 251 billionaires while North America accounted for 332 last year, the Zurich-based bank said.

The market for homes worth at least 8 million pounds is dominated by Savills Plc (SVS), Knight Frank LLP, Chesterton Humberts and Property Vision, according to Faisal Butt, managing partner of Hamilton Bradshaw Real Estate, which invests in forming property ventures with entrepreneurs.

“Breaking into this tier of the market is extremely difficult,” Butt said by e-mail. “Only three brokerages dominate this end of the market and have access to the serious ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Buyers are looking for trusted advisers, and will pay for a depth of knowledge.”

London Dominates

London accounted for almost three quarters of the U.K. homes sold for 2 million pounds or more last year, according to Lonres.com Ltd. About 41 percent were in the City of Westminster and the Kensington and Chelsea neighborhoods, the London-based residential real estate data provider said.

Buyers seeking to purchase luxury real-estate in London prefer to use brokers with a team of buying agents rather than employing individual negotiators, according to Camilla Dell, managing partner of Black Brick Property Solutions LLP.

“Clients would rather deal with a professional organization that has an office, that has a team,” she said by telephone. “The market is flooded with a combination of one- man-band, two-man-band buying agents that probably work from home and do a few deals a year.”

Black Brick competes for London’s best residential real estate with companies such as Knight Frank’s The Buying Solution, Savills’ Prime Purchase Ltd. and Property Vision, a unit of HSBC Holdings Plc’s Private Bank.

Christie’s International Real Estate is marketing homes at the Bulgari Hotel and Residences in London, where a penthouse apartment was purchased for about 100 million pounds, a person with knowledge of the transaction said Dec. 20. Christie’s declined to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Spillane in London at cspillane3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Blackman at ablackman@bloomberg.net.

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