For many of us, the idea of owning a house in London is an unlikely fantasy. If it's never going to happen anyway, we might as well make our daydream all the more wishfully ambitious. How much would it cost to buy every last home in London?
The question should be relatively straightforward to answer. All we need is the average cost per home, and the number of homes in London.
The most recent figures (May 2016) from Land Registry put the mean house price in London at around £472,000. This includes all property types, from studios to multi-bedroom houses. It covers all 32 London boroughs plus the City of London.
The number of households (roughly speaking, the same thing as number of homes) was estimated in 2014 as 3.4 million. This won't be exactly right, and has probably gone up a little, but it's good enough to make a back-of-the-enveloper calculation.
So to buy every home in London, you'd need to purchase 3.4 million properties at an average value of £472,000 each. That comes to a bill of £1604,800,000,000. In simpler terms, about £1.6 trillion.
That is a lot of money, beyond even the means of Bill Gates, still the world's richest man. He has an estimated wealth of £58.6 billion, which could net him 124,000 typical London homes. He could afford to buy every home in Hackney with money to spare. If he could find 27 equally wealthy mates (which he can't), they could buy out every home in London.
By coincidence, £1.6 trillion is pretty much the value wiped off global shares in the hours following the Brexit decision. The vote to leave the EU cost the world's traders the equivalent of the entire housing stock of London (markets have since recovered).
By another coincidence, £1.6 trillion also happens to be the UK's national debt. If the Government could confiscate the deeds to every house in London — like Henry VIII grabbing the monasteries — then it'd be able to settle those international balance sheets. Probably not an election-winning policy, that one, though.