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Wealthy Indians are keeping the family bonhomie alive in the heart of London, buying not one but a cluster of houses or apartments for themselves, their children and small teams of personal staff. Tony areas like Kensington, Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Belgravia are some of the popular destinations for such clusters.

The homes typically are a network of residential properties on a street or an apartment block. The central idea behind such purchases is that it will give the children a sense of independence, staying just a few houses away from their parents, with support staff being just a buzz away.

High networth individuals from India and the Middle East are the main cluster buyers in London. In fact, there has been a marked increase in the number of Asian buyers. "Asians are our biggest single group of purchasers now, accounting for 44% of sales in 2010. Of this, 17% were Indians. In 2008, only 7% of the purchases were made by Asians," Shirley Humphrey, sales and marketing director of Harrods Estates, a property broking firm, said. According to her, a weak British pound and low interest rates have contributed to the appeal of cluster buying in prime residential areas.

The buyers are typically industrialists and entrepreneurs, and the expenditure could be anywhere between £1 and £10 million ( Rs 7-72 crore) for a cluster. According to Harrods Estates, the average prices at Knightsbridge is £3,000 per sq ft (around Rs 2.16 lakh). Similarly, capital values in Mayfair are anywhere between £2,000 per sq ft and £3,000 per sq ft (Rs 1.44 lakh-2.16 lakh), while those in Kensington sell on an average of £1,193 per sq ft (Rs 85,896).

Jaideep Singh, head of real estate consultancy Knight Frank's India desk in London, says Indian families are increasingly looking to buy multiple properties within a short radius.

"We have a client whose explicit instruction was to find him a place close to his sister's house so the children could spend time there," he said.

Noel de Keyzer, director at property brokerage Savills' central London office, says Indians are looking for the best addresses or the finest garden squares for their cluster homes. Grosvenor Square, Upper Grosvenor Gardens, Upper Brook Street are such popular addresses in London. Second tier locations include parts of Montagu Square and Bryanston Square. According to Keyzer, many are buying large traditional central London houses, often with a separate mews house at the rear that affords additional privacy and a separate space for guests and staff. But apartments are also preferred for reasons of security and the concierge services available in them. Usually, smaller apartments within a block are purchased for the staff.

"Cluster buyers typically own properties around the world and are in London only for a few months every year, prompting the question of whether to leave the staff behind or travel with an entourage. To get around the issue of leaving behind skeletal staff, buyers often favour a primary residence in a building with security and concierge service," Humphrey said. 


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