Embassy and diplomatic buildings could be converted into new homes

Posted 28 August 2013 by Keith Osborne

With a number of Embassy and diplomatic buildings set to be sold over the next few years, hundreds of new homes in some of central London's finest addresses could be created.

Expiring leases, booming residential values and changes in how diplomacy is undertaken are driving a wave of embassy and diplomatic building sales in Mayfair, Marylebone, Westminster, Kensington and Holland Park, creating the potential for hundreds of new luxury apartments and trophy mansions in London's finest addresses. These are some of the findings of a new Diplomatic Property: Conversion to Homes Survey undertaken by estate agent Wetherell, in association with Diplomat magazine.

The new survey was undertaken by analysing the property portfolio of the diplomatic missions, alongside a review of recent changes and planned relocations for Embassy and other diplomatic buildings in inner London. Wetherell then compiled a list of multi-unit new homes developments being created on former Embassy and diplomatic sites, alongside an analysis of premium residential price per sq ft values for the locations where diplomatic buildings were either recently sold or being considered for sale in order to observe trends in the data.

The new Diplomatic Property: Conversion to Homes Survey has found that in the last six months a total of 20 Embassies or diplomacy related buildings have been sold or considered for sale and discreetly marketed accordingly. Wetherell highlight that if all these properties were converted for residential use it could create hundreds of new homes, consisting of apartments and trophy houses, in some of London's most famous and sought after addresses.

The survey found that Kensington, in particular Kensington Palace Gardens, was the top address for Embassy building disposals, with six properties sold or considered for sale; followed by Mayfair, focused on Grosvenor Square where there are for properties); then Marylebone, focused on Portland Place (three properties) and Holland Park (two properties).

Venetia van Kuffeler, editor of the Diplomat comments: "There are currently 165 overseas diplomatic missions represented in the UK, and some 25,000 foreign diplomats, their families and staff residing in the UK. All missions have an Embassy or diplomatic office in London, however not all of these have an official state-owned residence for their Ambassadors or head of mission, and the remainder provide their head of mission with a rented residential property.

Venetia van Kuffeler continues: "The diplomatic missions in London vary dramatically in size from just 2 people [Tajikistan] up to circa 300-400 people for large missions such as the United States and China. Some diplomatic missions such as the USA, China, France, Qatar and Russia have quite significant property portfolios in London. Dating back to the Victorian era, grand Embassy buildings used to be an important visual representation of each country. However with the internet and 24 hour news that isn't so necessary as people now know a lot more about countries from around the world."

Peter Wetherell, Managing Director of Wetherell, says: "Residential property values in prime central London have been extremely buoyant with values of £3,500 to £4,500 per sq ft being achieved for the best new homes in Marylebone, Mayfair and Belgravia. In Mayfair alone, residential buildings are currently worth at least a third more than office buildings. Wetherell recently sold the former Brazilian Embassy on Green Street for £40m, and this has heightened awareness in the diplomatic community that the missions are sitting on a property goldmine."

Wetherell highlight that in the districts that comprise the West End residential values have risen by 30%-60% since 2007. Mayfair currently has the West End's highest property values with a two-bedroom flat averaging £2.073m,

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