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Is London’s Billionaire Bubble Bursting?

It’s become a favorite residence for the world’s richest people in recent years—but mega-expensive properties are now increasingly sitting empty, unrented, and unsold.

LONDON — It is always the way with bubbles—the mania builds until the precise moment a faint hissing sound is heard. Then all hell breaks loose. Investors start to stampede for the exits, and count themselves lucky if they can get out with the shirts on their backs.

The next big bubble to burst, an increasing number of informed voices are saying, is London’s ‘super-prime’ property market; that is apartments worth over £2m, which are often housed in gleaming new apartment blocks that model themselves on five-star hotels, complete with ‘amenities’ such as wine cellars, a concierge, room-service, screening rooms, dry-cleaning, serviced laundry, housekeeping, squash courts, and swimming pools.

Large numbers of these five-star apartments—along with countless other grand, stucco-fronted town houses in the best parts of Kensington and Chelsea—have been bought by billionaire foreign owners who, rather than live in them, simply use the properties as secure dumps (and, some say, washing machines) for money that they would rather not leave in a bank back home in Greece, Kazakhstan, or Qatar.


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