Dirt cheap it is not for the well-heeled

London City Walk with Tan Kah Peng

IT’S the ultimate in luxury living, complete with swimming pool in a much-sought after postcode. 

For a privileged group of families in a coastal city in the north, it was a dream come true as they will only be paying £15 rental a month for a fixed period, dirt cheap by any standard, but to the owners, it was a good bargain. 

Apparently, it is much cheaper renting out to the families than to hire a security firm to look after the property while the whole place is being readied for occupation. 

Not so lucky for the well-heeled in London as property prices in choice areas such as Kensington & Chelsea (-1.2%), Westminster (-2.3%) and Hammersmith & Fulham (-0.2%) have taken a dip, and the overall picture is rather dismal. 

If the forecasts are to be believed, only four of the 22 boroughs will escape the plunge this year, with property prices in Richmond soaring by 4.5%, despite having the highest council tax in the country and for the most part plagued by aircraft noise. 

But with neighbours such as actress Jerry Hall, David and Richard Attenborough, and Tommy Steele, the Thames and Kew Gardens at your backyard, a low crime rate and some of the best schools, no wonder a two-bedroom flat would buy a small estate in Scotland. 

No thanks to the fast-vanishing “fat cat” City bonuses, hardly any good news to perk up business confidence, and the Americans still staying at home, property prices have cooled somewhat and are not expected to heat up until 2007. 

Before then, prices will continue to fall next year, with zero growth in 2005, a slow recovery in most areas in 2006 and rising again in 2007 with Richmond leading the pack (14.1%), Hammersmith & Fulham (7.9%) and Islington (6.9%). 

On the other end of the scale, Newham in east London, where property prices will plunge by 9.3% this year, would still be struggling (-7.4%) in five years time, no thanks to its status as the third most deprived borough in the country and its appalling rate of car thefts. 

With property prices still considered exorbitant in a city desperately short of affordable housing, perhaps the easy way out is to squat in empty homes worth at least £400,000 each. That’s what a group of “professional squatters” from Spain did in Southwark. 

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