The ultimate campus

The UK's world-class education continues to attract both domestic and international buyers, with many choosing Mayfair for the “ultimate in campus living”


Words Selma Day

Education is one of the primary drivers of demand for overseas buyers and tenants in London, according to Tom Bill, head of UK Residential Research at Knight Frank. “The strong reputation of the UK’s schools and universities has been a constant during recent years, which were marked by political uncertainty and then Covid-19,” he says.

In fact, students are now outbidding corporate tenants for one and two-bedroom apartments in Mayfair, adds Peter Wetherell, founder and chairman of Wetherell.

“The rents have become more competitive due to non-existent international corporate travel and, with students wanting the certainty of a two to three-year let, they are in a commanding position,” he says.

With Imperial College a stroll across Hyde Park and all the main halls of learning within easy distance of Mayfair, he adds that international university students are trading up from the usual accommodation hotspots of South Kensington and Marylebone and moving to Mayfair for the ultimate in ‘campus living’.

“Our enquiries have trebled to our website and portals seeking Mayfair accommodation. The current demand is from Europe, the Middle East for those who can travel and the Far East over FaceTime at present.” 

Peter cites recent successes including a number of one-bedroom apartments in Grosvenor Street – former “Gentleman’s Chambers” at £425 per week to £495 per week; a large, one-bedroom in Bruton Place £975 per week) over “Bellamy’s”, one of HM The Queen’s favourite restaurants; and apartments in Albemarle Street.

Despite challenging market conditions and travel restrictions, Savills has also been involved in a number of sales to those based internationally looking to buy for their children coming to London to study.

“We have seen high demand for property here in the first half of 2021 and expect that to increase significantly,” says Claire Reynolds, head of Savills Mayfair. 

“Often these buyers will want to look for a home in a place that they know well, hence why Mayfair and its surrounds are popular with people who are seeking the world-class local lifestyle offering.

“Although Mayfair is one of prime central London’s best-known districts, it still manages to retain a sense of village living, which is favoured amongst international families and their children. 

“With its central location and good transport links, the area provides ease of access to some of the world’s most highly sought-after universities and schools, both prep and senior.”

So where is the demand coming from and what kinds of properties are they looking for? Robert Cox, sales manager at Harrods Estates, says: “London is globally respected for its academic excellence, and this continues to hold appeal for the majority of our clients who are looking to move to Mayfair. London’s universities and schools have solid interest from around the world, especially from our clients in the Middle East and the Far East who wish for their children to receive the best education.

“Many of our overseas clients are always seeking large apartments for their children who are studying abroad, and it is a key requirement that the apartment has 24-hour security to give them peace of mind. 

“The London Business School in Regent’s Park is always a huge draw for international students and a range of our properties in Mayfair are only a short walk away. For schooling for children, family homes in Mayfair are sought-after which are in easy reach of St. George’s Hanover Square Primary School and Eaton Square Senior School.”

Jonathan Fieldman, partner in Knight Frank’s Mayfair office, says: “We’ve seen a real mixture – we have a lot of people from Hong Kong but we also get buyers from other parts of the UK. They are looking for flats that are safe, with a porter and finished to a high standard so they are ready to move in straight away.” 

Savills’ Claire Reynolds agrees: “International buyers will often seek flats with porterage for convenience and security, as usually it’ll need to be somewhere that’s suitable for them to leave in between semesters. 

“They have also been known to buy multiple flats within the same building for when the rest of the family visit. We recently sold two flats in Chesterfield House for exactly this reason – the first flat was purchased for the daughter studying in London and the second flat was for the wider family when they come to visit. 

“We tend to find that larger flats and houses with access to garden squares or close proximity to a park are more popular amongst families who want to make good use of the outside space. Equally, many buyers look for private outside space for entertaining, particularly if it is a pied à terre which will typically be used in the summer months.”

Izzy Birch Reynardson, head of Savills Super Prime Lettings, adds: “Families are often keen to get their children into the English education system at a young age, so often seek bigger family houses rather than flats or apartments. This allows families to grow into their property over time, or permits space for live-in nannies if required.”