Looking for a London pied-a-terre? How about a four-bedroom duplex overlooking Hyde Park? Yours, for about $25 million. In most of the U.K., property prices are slumping, but in some of London's most upscale neighborhoods they're soaring. Vicki Barker reports.


VICKI BARKER, BYLINE: Robin Perona sweeps the sidewalk at Egerton Crescent. It's a gracious semi-circle of white townhouses in fashionable Chelsea. In the 1990s, they cost about $700,000 each. Today, the average price is some $13 million - or eight million British pounds. Perona shakes his head when told he's sweeping Britain's most expensive street.

ROBIN PERONA: Eight million pounds? I don't know.


BARKER: Across central London, mega-rich foreign buyers are pricing the merely-wealthy locals out of the market and creating a niche.

JOSHUA AYRES: So, you have three bedrooms upstairs.

BARKER: In Bayswater, Joshua Ayres of the property firm Hamptons International is showing The Lancasters, 75 fully-decorated luxury apartments.

AYRES: Your master bedroom, your kitchen, your living room all have these grand double-height rooms.

BARKER: The developers bought up five adjoining white stucco mansions, preserved their historic facades then married the grandeur of 19th century interiors with the latest technology and luxury.

AYRES: So, we have all under-floor heating, ceiling heating in these double-height rooms, as well.

BARKER: There's a spa - of course - 24-hour valet parking and a staff of five on constant duty. A year after completion, The Lancasters is almost completely sold out. And 80 percent of the buyers have been non-Brits. James Wardle of Hamptons International.

JAMES WARDLE, HAMPTONS INTERNATIONAL: It's the perfect blend. It's exactly what your internationals are looking for. They want to feel like they're a part of London, and yet they also want the facilities that they're accustomed to.

MARIE HARRISON: There's a wall of money coming from not just China, which everybody predicted, but is coming from Italy, France, Greece.

BARKER: Marie Harrison of the property firm Harpers and Harrison in upscale Kensington. She says many of her foreign clients have no intention of living in the places they buy. It seems word among the world's super-rich is that the three safest havens in these uncertain times are gold, the Swiss franc and London property, where, historically, prices have doubled every decade. So, Harrison finds herself selling houses originally built for London's middle class but which her own middle-class professional children will likely never be able to afford. For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.



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