What would you say are the world’s most expensive property locations? If you answered Monaco, London, Paris and Tokyo, you’d be right-almost. Although these big cities consistently come in at the very top of the international property ladder, the world is dotted with areas that are actually pricier than most capitals. France has the highest concentration of these, netting four out of the top 10 non-urban rankings in the Knight Frank Prime International Residential Index, which monitors the price of luxury properties across the world.
The most expensive of all is Cap Ferrat, a villa-studded peninsula sandwiched between Nice and Monte Carlo. ‘Owners here enjoy a private environment that can’t be found anywhere else in the region,’ says Jean-François Favelier of Burger Sotheby’s International Realty. This, together with a tiny supply-the Cap’s most sought-after area, only has about 15 houses-has pushed the average price for prime properties to $54,600 (£33,840) per sq m, just under London’s $56,300 (£34,900), about a third more than Paris, which stands at $40,500 (£25,100) and nearly twice as much as Tokyo ($28,300, £17,540).
The most recent sale on the Chemin took place three years ago, and achieved £74 million, according to David Forbes of Savills. He explains that, for rich buyers looking to the South of France, the choice is between Cap Ferrat and Saint-Tropez, the world’s second priciest coastal hotspot at $40,800 (£25,290) per sq m.
France is also home to the world’s most expensive mountain resort: Courchevel. The diversity of the skiing and the fact that affluent Russians have chosen it as their winter playground bolster prices. Prime properties here average $38,800 (£24,050) per sq m, rising to $57,800 (£35,830) for a top-quality chalet, beating Switzerland’s St Moritz (where homes in the prestigious Via Suvretta cost up to $45,000 or £25,290 per sq m) and Aspen, even though the Colorado town itself is the most expensive location in North America, at $22,900 per sq m (£14,195).
Only Italy can rival France for the number of non-urban hotspots, with five locations within the world’s top 30, against France’s 10. The priciest is Sardinia’s Porto Cervo, a marina on the Emerald Coast, where prime waterfront houses rarely sell for less than €50 million to €100 million (£44 million-£88 million). ‘Top prices in Porto Cervo’s Via Romazzino are at least $42,000 (£26,000) per sq m,’ says Jelena Cvjetkovic of Savills. ‘The holiday homes of many of Italy’s wealthiest people (as well as those of Russian billionaires) are located on this street.’
In the mountains, Cortina, once a restful stop for 18th-century Grand Tourists, has long been the ski destination of choice for Italy’s upper classes. This has pushed prime properties in the town-a mix of late-18th- and early-19th-century buildings entirely encircled by the mighty Dolomites-to about $21,600 (£13,388) per sq m, just above France’s Méribel at $20,000 (£12,400). By contrast, luxury homes along the celebrated Lake Como shores cost ‘only’ $13,700 (£8,490), and those in the Tuscan countryside are practically a bargain at about $9,600 (£5,950) per sq m.
On the UK mainland, the only non-urban location to make the index was Salcombe, Devon, but areas such as Sandbanks in Dorset and Rock in Cornwall would make a UK list. In Salcombe and Rock, Christopher Bailey of Knight Frank reports selling properties at £11,840-£14,530 per sq m in the past six months. Wick Road in Englefield Green, Surrey-near Windsor Great Park-is also one of Britain’s top hotspots, with several houses valued at more than £20 million. Nearby, in St George’s Hill, prices ‘have made a significant recovery in the last four months, with strong demand and several houses exchanging contracts in excess of £10 million,’ according to Tim Garbett of Knight Frank.
Among the locations favoured by traditional country-house buyers, Crispin Holborow of Savills singles out ‘the villages surrounding Oxford, the Hambleden Valley, the Candover Valley in Hampshire and the Cotswolds near Burford, Cirencester and Stow-on-the-Wold’. In these areas, the best houses cost £4 million-£10 million, and can reach £20 million. They may not be on quite the same level as Cap Ferrat, but they’re still world class.
The top 10 non-urban locations
1. Cap Ferrat, France
2. Saint-Tropez, France
3. Courchevel, France
4. Cannes, France
6. Sardinia, Italy
7. Guernsey, Channel Islands
8. Aspen, USA
9. Cortina, Italy
10. Mustique, St Vincent and the Grenadines
* Subscribe to Country Life and save 30%
** Large Cap Ferrat image shot by Bill Tyne