Berlin, long famous as Europe’s capital of hipsters, students and semi-retired rock stars, is being reborn as a haunt of the super-rich. When David Bowie moved to West Berlin for three years in the 1970s, the city was awash with cheap housing and a thriving underground music scene.
Today, Schöneberg, the district where Bowie lived, and neighbouring Kreuzberg, popular with Turkish immigrants, are unrecognisable. The punks and revolutionaries have been replaced by young professionals, and squats have given way to penthouses and artisanal coffeehouses even as graffiti decries the area’s gentrification.
Germany is home to more than 13,000 ultra-wealthy individuals (those with a net worth above $30m), according to Wealth-X, the research company which tracks the activities of the super-rich, up almost 5 per cent compared with 2016. In terms of appeal to the wealthy, its research ranks Berlin as the 11th most attractive place to invest.
There has been a steady expansion of top-end hotel and apartment developments across the city in the past two decades. Berlin’s Hotel Adlon, host to Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin and John D Rockefeller, reopened in 1997, since when it has been joined by a Ritz-Carlton (2004) and a Waldorf Astoria (2013). In 2012, the five-star Das Stue opened in the former Danish embassy.
Yet buyers remain keenly aware of potential bargains, says Hugh Wade-Jones, group managing director of mortgage broker Enness. “We’ve seen a huge jump in interest in foreign investors in Berlin,” he says. “Historically it’s been viewed as undervalued, which first drove the interest in the area, initially from locals as rents started to rise and buying made financial sense, but latterly with foreign investors as people looked away from the traditional European hotspots for value.”
Add ultra-low European interest rates and German financial security, and the city is very much “en vogue”, adds Mr Wade-Jones. “One of the top-level headhunters I work with in Monaco is currently solely focused on Berlin, such is the demand for top-end talent there.”
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