A Greek tragedy or a Greek comedy? It is a moot point. Nobody who loves Greece and its people can fail to be saddened by the economic woes that have afflicted the country in recent years. Equally, the knock-on effects of the Greek debt crisis on the European property market have had a slightly surreal quality.
The deeper Greece gets into debt, the more the Greek super-rich have been looking for a safe haven for their money, with London as their prime target. The Russian voices that used to be audible from Harrods to Marble Arch are now punctuated by unmistakably Greek accents. To the moneyed classes in Athens, London looks like a good bet in the financial storm.
“In prime central London locations, we have seen an increase of 15-20 per cent in the number of wealthy Greek families looking to buy properties in the region of £2-4 million,” says Noel de Keyzer of Savills, Sloane Street in south-west London. “They are looking for long-term investments as well as footholds in the London market.”
Just around the corner from Sloane Street, de Keyzer points out, Aristotle Onassis used to own a huge flat in Eaton Square. To Anglophile Greeks, the best London addresses have the same resonance as the Parthenon.
In the 12 months to May 2010, according to Knight Frank’s Prime Central London Residential Index, the Greek share of the foreign-owned £2 million-plus property sector in London doubled from 3 to 6 per cent.