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London Luxury-Home Price Gains Slow After Property-Tax Increase

London Luxury-Home Price Gains Slow After Property-Tax Increase
Construction work is seen in progress at a property in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in London, U.K.. Photographer: Lucy Young/Bloomberg

Luxury-home prices in central London rose the least in nine months in May, after the British government increased a tax on purchases of 2 million pounds ($3.1 million) or more, Knight Frank LLP said.

Values of houses and apartments costing an average of 3.7 million pounds climbed 10.7 percent from a year earlier, the London-based broker said in a report today. That was the smallest gain since August 2011. Prices rose 0.7 percent from April, bolstered by buyers from mainland Europe.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne raised the tax, known as stamp duty, to 7 percent from 5 percent in March. The threshold for the new tax rate is now the average asking price of a home in Kensington and Chelsea, one of London’s most affluent neighborhoods, property-listings website Rightmove Plc said when the government announced the change.

“The market has absorbed the 7 percent duty rate fairly well,” Liam Bailey, head of residential research for Knight Frank, said in the report. Prices for homes valued at more than 2 million pounds rose 1.6 percent in the past two months, while those for all luxury properties gained 2.7 percent, he said.

Europe’s debt crisis has prompted overseas investors to acquire real estate in London to preserve their wealth. Luxury-property prices in the city have increased about 12 percent since the market’s peak in 2008, including 4.7 percent this year, as a scarcity of homes for sale drove up values.

German Buyers

“We are now seeing a noticeable uptick in interest from France, Italy, Spain and even German-based purchasers,” Bailey said in the report. That contributed to the 19th monthly price increase in a row.

The crisis, now in its third year, threatens to destroy Europe’s 17-nation currency union as Greece contemplates exiting the euro and Spain sees its bond yields rise and banking industry falter. The euro zone’s collapse could cause prime central London property values to fall as much as 50 percent, Development Securities Plc said in a May 31 report, as capital flows out of the city to less expensive markets.

“The ‘safe-haven’ effect has clearly played its role in attracting foreign money into London’s most desirable post codes,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Marx said in the report. “However, the property industry knows -- perhaps better than most -- that nothing goes on forever.”

Foreign Residents

Foreign buyers accounted for about 60 percent of home purchases in London’s most expensive districts in the four years through 2011, according to London-based Development Securities. As a result, more than half of the residents of Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster are from outside the U.K.

House prices across the country rose in May for the first time in three months as a lack of homes for sale supported values, Nationwide Building Society said May 31. Values gained

0.3 percent from April and fell an annual 0.7 percent to an average of 166,022 pounds.

Knight Frank compiles its luxury-homes index from its own appraisal values of a sample of the same properties in the 13 most expensive neighborhoods of central London, including Belgravia and Knightsbridge.

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