Italians ramp up London luxury home search

LONDON, March 1 Fri Mar 1, 2013 2:30pm GMT

LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - The number of Italians searching for luxury London homes spiked at the start of the year in the run-up to elections that left a political vacuum in the country, upmarket property consultant Knight Frank said.

Prices for top London homes have risen more than 50 percent since their last low in mid-2009 as buyers sought to shield wealth from the effects of the global financial crisis.

The latest Knight Frank data shows how political uncertainty also sparks interest in so-called safe haven assets.

The number of Italians searching for London homes on Knight Frank's website in January was almost 2.5 times higher than the same month in 2012. The vast majority of homes are worth more than two million pounds ($3 million).

Last month a general election in Italy sparked a protest vote that left the country without a workable government, reigniting concerns over a sovereign debt crisis that had begun to ease.

"Italian buyers have long been important to the London market, but not generally this important," said Liam Bailey, head of residential research at Knight Frank.

"In the past two months their share of the market has pushed them into third place behind UK buyers and Russian buyers in central London with a 6 percent market share above £2m." ($1 = 0.6588 British pounds) (Editing by David Cowell)

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