Central London is spread across 7,000-plus acres, and most of the residential property in that area is owned by one of London’s historic families. No, we’re not talking about the Royals (they only have the Crown Estate, which is relatively small compared to others). These families have had roots in London for hundreds of years and run professionalised setups in the lettings market. Here, we look at how these families contribute to the local prime neighbourhoods and why they’re good news for central London.
Most of London’s traditional property families have hundreds of years of history, with some almost 1,000. The Portman Estate, for example, was founded in 1300, while the Grosvenor family owned central London property as far back as 1677.
Together, they have a monopoly on the vast majority of property in central London and rent them out to tenants. If you’re a renter in the centre of the capital or are planning to rent here, there’s a strong possibility you’ll end up with a lease from one of these families.
Why are they good for London?
If you’ve ever wandered around central London, you’ll notice that each neighbourhood maintains high standards. These are, of course, areas of affluence, so it’s expected to some extent. But someone has to keep each location looking exemplary, and it’s usually one of the property families.
They work closely with local councils, have a team of professionals, and invest in the local community. Buildings – often pretty period properties – are in excellent condition, and each area has been curated to offer a feeling of prestige. Without the families, central London would look very different.
More security for renters
The families operate as a business, and in doing so, they provide renters with more security. The result is less friction between landlord and tenants. When you rent from someone like Howard de Walden or Cadogan Estates, you can stay for as long as you like – the landlord won’t suddenly ask for the property back because they need it for personal reasons.
Over the years, build to rent (multi-family) homes have received major investment, especially in London. But the property families offered professionalised and secure ways to rent homes long before any US models made their way to these shores.
A professional setup
To maintain their level of success, each property family offers five-star service. Tenants with The Portman Estate, Grosvenor and the like rarely have issues, as everything is dealt with professionally. From maintenance to contract renewals, there’s a dedicated team in place to ensure each property runs smoothly. The result is often faster repairs and maintenance, which leads to happier tenants.
Are there any cons to these historic property families?
It depends. If you’re a renter, it’s hard to argue against the benefits of renting from one of the big property families. A buyer, however, may take a different view.
The property families rarely sell their assets, making it more difficult to buy property in the postcodes they cover. Stock is scarce, which means it comes at an added premium on top of the already-high central London prices. For example, the average asking price in super-prime London postcodes like Knightsbridge is currently £3m.
It’s difficult to invest in the prime property market because of the lack of stock. At the same time, these big families play a significant role in keeping the prestige of each neighbourhood, which ultimately benefits other owners in the area.
Final thoughts: good for London
The big property families are good for the prime London rental market and the area in general. They offer a professional service to the demographic of tenants who live in these postcodes, and they’re invested in keeping central London maintained to a high standard. In a way, they are part of the capital’s legacy when it comes to housing and one of the reasons why central London is such a desirable location.
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