It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the most expensive street in London is Kensington Palace Gardens. Known in the 19th century as Millionaire’s Row, this has, more recently, been updated to Billionaire’s Row and is home to the UK’s wealthy elite with residents including Roman Abramovich, Lakshmi Mittal, Tamara Eccleston and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (although Kensington Palace isn’t technically on the street, it does back onto it).
Constructed in the 1840s, by 1860 Kensington Palace Gardens had already garnered a reputation as a place for the very rich and was resident to landowners, fund managers and merchants. But throughout the 20th Century the market changed and these huge houses, requiring large numbers of servants to manage, became undesirable and perhaps too expensive for Britain’s higher classes. As such, they were bought out and turned into ambassadors’ residences.
The W8 Postcode
Kensington Palace Gardens sits in the W8 postcode which includes Kensington and part of Holland Park and is covered by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea local authority. A Royal Borough, by the way, is a rarity. There are only eight of them in the UK, and they are created by a Royal Charter, signed by the Monarch of the day. Kensington received its royal title when Queen Victoria
The W8 postcode is notably wealthy, densely populated with 22,000 residents and low in crime (125 crimes out of 1000 people, reported last year). Kensington itself is just to the west of Hyde Park and surrounded by other, similarly well-to-do areas such as Chelsea, Notting Hill and as mentioned above, Holland Park.
And buying property in W8 is not cheap…
As of 2019, the average price of a studio apartment is £575,000, a one-bedroom property will set you back between £499,000 and £1.33m, a four bedroom property will cost between £2.4m and £6.75m and a 5-bed costs between £2.95m and £15.75m. If you were thinking of renting somewhere then right at the bottom end, you might be able to find a studio for £1,127pcm but at the top end, for a 5-bedroom house, you could be looking at £23,000pcm. AST yields in this postcode area are well below what can be achieved elsewhere at around 3% but house price growth over the last 5 years has been a respectable 20%.
The North-South Divide
So, does this mean there is a North/South divide? Certainly, in terms of house prices there is but the biggest divide is between London and everywhere else. Simply put, if you have millions in the double digits to spend on a property then you will have to spend that money in London. If you have under £10m then there are other expensive streets in the country where you can go.
For instance, in Montrose Gardens, Leatherhead, Surrey you can pick up a property for around £6m. The second most expensive street outside London is Philippines Shaw in Sevenoaks, Kent where a house will cost around £4m. In fifth place is Broad Road in Altrincham, Cheshire where a house will cost, on average, nearly £3m (but this is the only street in the North to make the top twenty).
As of 2018, Zoopla was reporting that there were 17,289 streets in the UK where average house prices where more than £1m. The highest density of these streets is in the South East. But for the super-wealthy, for whom a £1m house is far from enough then there is only one place to go and that’s London. This, coupled with the fact that London’s most expensive street had a 100-year hiatus where it was unaffordable even to the UK’s elite but is now back in force should perhaps give us pause for thought and begs the question, what can this tell us about what is going on in our capital and in our wider economy?