London has always been a trendy cosmopolitan city, and house prices have risen consistently, being the highest in the country, as one would expect. When walking down the tidy streets, one wouldn’t expect to see so many skips and conveyor belts that are bringing earth up from the foundations, but in reality, there is a basement boom in the city of London. With building restrictions forbidding going up, or indeed out, it seems logical to go down in the attempt to extend the property.
Kensington and Chelsea are the prime areas for basement building, and the depths the developers will go to achieve that additional level of luxury, with some basements having three or four separate levels, complete with fully automated car parking levels and swimming pools. This can effectively triple the value of a property, and many of the high rollers have already had the basement treatment on their London properties. In Kensington alone, more than 800 basement planning applications have been approved, with many already completed, and others in the process. For up to date information of all types of investment, Investor by JLL has many useful articles on all aspects of foreign investment.
Spreading Under the Capital
During the last five years, underground palaces have been constructed across Fulham, Knightsbridge, Belgravia, and Notting Hill, as the wealthy look to improve their homes by adding underground levels. The current trend with the billionaires, is to buy three townhouse style properties next to each other, and convert the entire thing into one home, with as many as four lower levels, making it the size of a small mansion.
Some of the local residents are far from happy, the constant cycle of large earthmoving trucks causes congestion, even though there are strict rules about what time this can happen. It seems that certain areas of London are viewed as the ideal property locations, and people are buying trophy homes, then turning them into palatial castles, with 90% of the property below ground level.
The origins of Basement Building
A developer was said to have applied to the council to construct a basement, and it was discovered that local bye laws covered only above the ground, and in reality, a homeowner could dig his way down to the South Pole if he so desired. A landslide of applications followed, as more and more people realised what could be achieved by extending downwards.
Structural engineers argue that extending with basements provides much needed support for old Victorian buildings that were in need of renovation, so by adding twice the floor space, you are not only making money, you are also adding support to the initial structure.
Lack of Use
One thing that has been reported since the start of this craze to build down, is the amenities provided for the rich to use as playgrounds are not getting the use they should, and with high maintenance costs, the owners are having to grin and bear it.
It is uncertain if this trend will be allowed to continue unchallenged, or indeed if the trend will die out, but one thing is for sure, some of the smartest residences in London are mainly underground.