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Moving on up! Penthouse prices buck the trend.

Byline: By Steffan Rhys Western Mail

Penthouses, seen as the last word in luxury living, have long towered over their street-level rivals in the housing market.

But as well as dominating the traditional two-up, two-down, both literally and as a status symbol, penthouses also seem to be rising high above the property market's recent slowdown.

Experts say luxury rooftop apartments, increasingly popular in many areas of Wales, have bucked property trends by showing the highest recent monthly price rises.

According to online property advisers SmartNewHomes.com, they have achieved record price rises of up to 2.7% a month at a time when an oversupply of other apartments has led to minimal price rises.

The company says "higher end purchasers" have not been as badly affected by interest rate rises over the past 15 months and are therefore still buying the prestigious properties.

Welsh property experts last night put this down to their exclusive status in the property market, where they fetch a national average price of pounds 301,250.

"Penthouses are unique developments, with some developments only having one penthouse compared to hundreds of flats, so there will always be a premium on that," said Annette Gregory, sales director for Cardiff's Meadgate Homes.

"Of the hundreds of flats in Cardiff Bay, for example, there are maybe 20 penthouses. They are usually high up which means they have great views and will often take up the whole floor.

"There is a prestige in living there and it's something to which many people aspire.

"The highest priced penthouse Meadgate has in South Wales is a pounds 675,000 penthouse in Penarth overlooking the Channel. Prices at that end of the market are not going to be as affected as lower down.

"And the buyers vary. There are a lot of down-sizers - older people who no longer need to live in a large family home and want to be more minimalistic and contemporary.

"You also get the typical professional couple or a single professional who is moving up the property ladder.

"It's more unusual to see couples with children buying a penthouse."

Penthouses currently on the market include three from Knight Frank in Cymric House, developed in a Grade II-listed building in Cardiff Bay.

A three bedroom, three bathroom penthouse there costs pounds 400,000 - putting it on a par with the UK average penthouse price of pounds 438,818 - with the two-bedroom penthouses costing pounds 385,000 and pounds 289,995.

All have sweeping views across Cardiff Bay or towards the Millennium Stadium and benefit from the use of the communal rooftop garden.

In Swansea, meanwhile, John Francis is selling three penthouses at Excelsior, two of which cost pounds 265,000, while the other costs pounds 315,000.

All have two en suite bedrooms, balcony and an open plan kitchen/dining room.

And in Llanelli's Millennium Quay, David McLean is selling a three-bedroom penthouse with a balcony for pounds 250,000.

Land Registry figures for 2007 show month-on-month average house prices in Wales did not rise by more than 1% between March and September. In October they rose by 2%.

A Nationwide survey this week said the November prices had actually dropped by 0.8%, while the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said Welsh house prices had dropped for the fifth consecutive month.

But penthouses' exclusivity means they are less affected.

Sharon Robinson, sales director for Persimmon Homes Wales, said, "This time of year can be quiet for property sales as house hunters take a break from never-ending viewings and treat themselves to a festive break. But interest in our penthouse apartments remains strong. These prestigious properties, usually priced at the upper end of the market, prove attractive amongst buyers who view them as a reflection of stature."

David Bexon, managing director of SmartNewHomes.com, which represents over 85% of all new homes for sale and attracts more than one million searches per month, said "High fliers can still afford high quality properties. Penthouses fit the bill and as a result have remained very popular.

"Cash rich down-sizers are generally unaffected by a depressed market with many opting to buy luxury penthouses off-plan.

"In contrast, affordability at the lower end of the market continues to be an issue.

"Developers are acutely aware of the current affordability issues and have been offering a series of genuine deals and incentives to help these groups." Some of the penthouses on the market in Wales today: Swansea Point

Where: Swansea

Estate Agent: Persimmon Homes Wales

Specs: Newly built in the heart of Swansea's revitalised Maritime Quarter, this beach-side penthouse has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and views across the busy marina

Cost: pounds 420,000

Cymric House

Where: Cardiff Bay

Estate agent: Knight Frank

Specs: Set in a Grade II-listed building in Cardiff Bay, this penthouse has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, with sweeping views across Cardiff Bay or towards the Millennium Stadium and a communal rooftop garden

Cost: pounds 400,000

Balmoral Quay

Where: Penarth

Estate Agent: Meadgate Homes

Specs: This penthouse has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open living/dining room, a contemporary kitchen with granite worktops and ceramic hobs, and shared use of a communal rooftop garden

Cost: pounds 665,000
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 1, 2007
Words:869
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