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Property Costs In London

The World’s Best City Lifestyle Buys?

Panama City, Panama

I spent last weekend in central London. Stopped by several real estate offices, mostly out of curiosity. I expected prices to be high but was astonished. Saw a two-bedroom flat on offer for £2.3 million. That’s about US$3.5 million…for a two-bedroom apartment. Ouch.

London isn’t the most costly city market in the world. It’s the second (after Monte Carlo). And I was looking around in one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods. Nevertheless, more than US$30,000 a square meter seems like crazy money to me.

You can find neighborhoods where the real estate changes hands at those price levels in other cities, including Paris, New York, Moscow, Hong Kong, etc. Average prices in these towns can range from US$12,000 to US$20,000 per square meter, meaning the per-square-meter costs for the highest priced properties are even greater.

Good thing those aren’t the only places in the world to live a cosmopolitan lifestyle. I enjoy London, but I can’t see paying for the privilege of owning in one of its better neighborhoods. For my property purchase dollars, I’m more interested in what’s on offer right now in places like Lisbon, Buenos Aires, and Medellin. These are great cities offering competitive city-lifestyle experiences…for, sometimes, less than US$2,000 a square meter.

Now, Medellin is not London, and Buenos Aires is not New York, but, for the price difference, maybe you can get over that. The point is that you can organize a cultured city lifestyle without spending US$3.5 million for the pied-a-terre from which to live it. You could buy for less than a few million dollars in London, too, if you’re ok with being outside the center of the city. But, for my money, living in the center of Lisbon is a more appealing idea than living on the edge of London. Being based in a city center, within walking distance of restaurants, theaters, shopping, and museums, seems like a more interesting situation than being on the outskirts of a place where you’d have to take taxis or buses to get to the center of town every time you wanted to do something.

And, with what you’d save on one square meter alone not buying in London, you could take a vacation there from your city-center Lisbon base…and still have plenty of money left over.

Further, you have to remember the overall cost of living, beyond the cost of real estate. Even on the outskirts of London, where property prices are much lower, a movie ticket is going to cost you £8 ($12.20). A movie ticket in Medellin (for a first-run movie in English at a theater in the heart of the city) is US$3.50. Movie tickets aren’t everything…but that gives you an idea of the relative costs of living in these two places big-picture.

Lief Simon

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