London’s Luxury Ghost Towers: Why are they empty?


The London ghost tower is a phenomenon that keeps on repeating itself. Luxury tower blocks are still going unsold, leaving eerily empty monuments around the capital.  

In a report by The Guardian last year, there were 15,000 luxury flats waiting to be sold. And more than half of London’s luxury apartments failed to sale at all in 2017. Despite these figures, undeterred developers still planned to build 420 new residential towers in London. And each at least 20 storeys high, according to New London Architecture and GL Hearn.

Property data experts Molior London said it would take at least three years to sell the surplus of uber-luxury flats if sales continued at their current rate, but also if no further new builds were started.

Speaking of London’s luxury market Henry Pryor, property-buying agent, says it is “already overstuffed but we’re just building more of them”.

In addition to this, Pryor says that blocks along the Thames have failed to sell homes despite developers offering discounts and freebies such as furnishings and furniture, and even cars.

Similarly, Steven Herd, founder and chief executive of new-build investment property agency MyLondonHome, says that the amount of overseas investors who are desperate to sell is a huge weight on his company.

Is the Shard another ghost tower?

It’s the tallest building in the UK. It’s got it all; it’s certainly got the views. And yet, an astonishing five years on from its official opening, and all the top ten apartments remained unsold.

With price tags up to £50m each, developers were confident they could sell the ultra-luxury homes in just “20 phone calls”.

Not listed to the public, it’s unknown whether they remain empty to this day.

Herd comments, “We’d be much better off with decent quality but lower-spec homes built for actual Londoners. What’s the point in having private cinema rooms that sit empty and resident’s swimming pools with no one swimming in them; it just seems wrong.”

Ghost towers and Grenfell disaster effect

This autumn, up to 500,000 flats face being unable to sell or owner’s unable to acquire a new mortgage due to uncertainty over government advice on cladding.

The Times recently reported that for every two sales, agents are losing one because of the cladding. Even surveyors will not value the properties because of the confusion over government guidance.

The Grenfell Tower disaster of June 2017 initiated the flammable cladding scandal. Seventy-two people died in the fire.

An inquiry into the disaster has recently published its first report. We wait to see its full effect.