Russian Property Buyers: 7 Things You Wanted To Know But Were Too Afraid To Ask

Most DMZ’ers will hear ‘Russian Buyers’ and instantly think: money, glamour and super prime property.

But where are these elusive buyers at the moment? Are they put off by Brexit or do they see it as an opportunity, where is their current favourite hotspot in London and how do developers gain access to these exclusive clientele?

We spoke to the super well connected Katya Zenkovich, Head of the Russian Desk at Knight Frank and she revealed all..


What are Russian buyers thoughts about London property right now?

I think the first point I need to make is that there are a number of different Russian audiences in London.

Gone are the days when any Russian property deal in London signified an insanely expensive acquisition in prime central London by another oligarch.

These days at the top of the market Russians are still very much attracted to golden postcodes and the latest new build / turn key product, but they won’t over spend. And you have a growing number of middle class professional Russians who shop around or invest in places that offer value, like Ealing, Brixton, Olympic Park and even counties, like Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire is becoming more popular with Russian buyers. Source: Wikimedia

Has the Brexit vote deterred or encouraged the Russian market?

It is a split opinion.

Some buyers welcomed Brexit and see an opportunity where as others use it as a bargaining tool to drive price down. Sellers however have taken a long term view and want to “wait it out”.

More importantly, in my view it helped to revive Russian interest in some European destinations – especially if they offer “immigration residency programmes” such as Malta, Portugal and Cyprus.

Katya Zenkovich and Victoria Chazova from the Russian desk at Knight Frank. Source: Linkedin

What are the most expensive and exciting properties you have sold to Russian buyers?

Mayfair and Kensington have been enjoying a real revival in the past two years, with quite a number of new build residential schemes, such as Holland Green, Holland Park Villas, 20 Grosvenor Square and Claridges.

These area typically offer a top notch product from the best UK developers, so it’s no wonder they’re still in high demand.

Having said that, some of my most loved deals have been in the country; Surrey and Berkshire but also a Hertfordshire Estate, the former country home of the Queen Mother’s parents and the Hertfordshire Polo Club.

What areas of London are most attractive to Russian’s at the moment?

It’s a fairly even spread.

Our financial year runs April to April so 2016 stats will give you a good feel for their appetite in London today:

2016 RUSSIAN BUYER LOCATIONS
VICTORIA19.30%
FULHAM17.54%
KENSINGTON17.54%
RICHMOND7.02%
CITY5.26%
KNIGHTSBRIDGE5.26%
MARYLEBONE5.26%
BATTERSEA3.51%
MAYFAIR3.51%
SOUTH KENSINGTON3.51%
BELSIZE PARK1.75%
CANARY WHARF1.75%
HAMPSTEAD1.75%
HYDE PARK ESTATE1.75%
ISLINGTON1.75%
NOTTING HILL1.75%
SOUTHBANK1.75%

What steps can developers take to appeal to the lucrative Russian market?

Ceiling height and good volume are must haves, plus developers should include more storage and larger dressing rooms!

Russian buyers typically expect 3 metre ceilings (a minimum local Russian developer standard) and symmetrical lay outs.

They are also keen on fashion, so wardrobe space is at a premium as is storage in the apartment or basement.


“Russian buyers typically expect 3 metre ceilings”


My clients also prefer lateral space and no lower ground or basements (unless it’s a spa); Russians would rarely go for a tri-plex with 4-5 meter ceilings and prefer sprawling layouts, across lower ground-ground-1st floor.

Mezzanine floors are not popular either, as are carpets even if they’re in bedrooms.

Lastly, they are used to driving so parking is key with preferably 2 spaces, for a sporty weekend car and a heavy duty 4×4 or minivan “kids shuttle”.

Some buyers are very keen on health and so up to date interior tech such as air con, electric and water systems need to be top of the range and ecologically sound.

The reputation of Russian buyers is ‘bling and private jets’ – can you reveal any interesting stories you’ve encountered?

Only to say that as they set off on their private jet I’m typically flying in their wings on an EasyJet!

Joking aside, many charter or own private jets. There is a good reason for it. Russia is the largest land mass country in the world and if you are a businessperson, getting around requires efficiency, which private aviation can offer.

They do have a passion for super yachts and sometimes I am lucky enough to be invited – enough said!

Job perks: the life of a super prime agents can sometimes involve time on multi-million pound super yachts.Source: Wikimedia

As a seasoned expert dealing with the super rich, what tips would you give someone looking to grow their high net worth clientele?

Catch up on your sleep, get some bear wrestling lessons, make sure you have access to all guest list venues around the world, learn Russian, be able to find a hot “plus one” in a split second and generally give up on your private life.

I would add learn to drink like a Russian, but from my experience Brits can hold their own – good luck!


Katya Zenkovich is Head of the Russian Desk at Knight Frank. Read her blog here.