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Overseas buyers look to snap up London property as weak pound takes demand to ‘new levels’

Demand in London property from foreign investors is at “new levels” as they rush to make the most of the weaker pound.

The pound steadied in early trading in Asian markets on Tuesday, recovering ground slightly from the record low of 1.0327 against the dollar on Monday morning.

Sterling was standing at around $1.08 early on Tuesday but this is still significantly lower than before chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget, which sent the currency spiralling last Friday.

One London estate agent, Chestertons, has said that the dip in the value of the pound has driven interest from overseas buyers, who can now get more with their dollars.

“London already attracted overseas buyers back to its property market since the easing of travel restrictions but the weaker pound is taking demand from foreign investors to new levels,” Matthew Thompson, head of sales at Chestertons, said.

“Bearing in mind the dollar’s beneficial exchange rate against the pound, our branches have registered a particular boost in buyer enquiries from US citizens or residents of country’s where the dollar is a primary currency.”

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He continued: “To maximise the saving that can be had due to current exchange rates, buyers are especially drawn to some of London’s priciest neighbourhoods such as Knightsbridge, Mayfair and South Kensington.

“Only 6 months ago, a property that is on the market for £4million, would have cost around $5.23million. At the current exchange rate, the same property costs around $4.32million which is a saving of almost $1million.”

Rory Penn, head of London sales at Knight Frank, said that there has been “a pick up from international buyers who see a buying opportunity in London.”

“US buyers are either looking for best-in-class turnkey residential development or family houses and apartments,” he said, “particularly lateral space with high ceilings and period features.”

Arthur Lintell, who works in Knight Frank’s Notting Hill office, said that the North London residential area had seen particular interest from US buyers.

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“Favoured amongst Americans, Notting Hill has seen a recent surge in interest from US or dollar pegged buyers all keen to take advantage of the recent buying window,” he said.

“One in particular, an ex-Notting Hill local who relocated to New York 15 years ago, is now returning, as the opportunity is too good not to miss as their children start Notting Hill Prep next year. In their words: ‘The timing could not be better for us right now’.”

Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade, said: “Given the weakness of the British pound, we may see foreign investors buying property in the UK as the currency has depreciated that much. For many, this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

In an attempt to steady the markets on Monday, the Bank of England said that it “will not hesitate” to raise interest rates. However the pound fell after the joint statements from the Bank and its governor Andrew Bailey amid concerns that they had ruled out an emergency rise in rates.

The next interest rate decision is scheduled for 3 November.

Following the fall in the pound, some mortgage deals have been withdrawn by banks and building societies. Virgin Money and Skipton Building Society halted offers for new clients and Halifax said it would stop mortgages with product fees.

By Holly Bancroft

Source: The Independent

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Pound’s weakness could boost overseas investment in ‘resilient’ Scots property market

Sterling’s weakness could boost overseas investment in a “resilient” Scottish commercial property market, industry experts believe.

Property consultancy Knight Frank found that investment volumes in commercial property north of the Border rose by 37 per cent during the first nine months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, increasing to £1.46 billion from £1.06bn.

Offices were the most popular asset type, accounting for just over one-third of total investment volumes. Investment in industrial property almost doubled, from £157 million to £300m, as interest levels in the sector continued to increase following the pandemic.

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The research found that overseas investors remain the most active buyers of Scottish commercial property, accounting for 53 per cent of investment volumes. UK property companies increased their investment levels from £312m last year to £518m in the latest nine-month period.

Investment volumes in Aberdeen more than doubled from just over £54m in the first nine months of 2021 to £116.9m, buoyed by the sale of two retail parks. Edinburgh saw investment volumes increase 24 per cent to £415m, while Glasgow increased by 6 per cent to £377m.

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Alasdair Steele, head of Scotland commercial at Knight Frank Scotland, said: “There has been a great deal of uncertainty this year, starting with the complications of the ongoing pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, and rising inflation and interest rates, but Scotland’s commercial property market has continued to fare well. This is particularly true for assets that are in high demand, namely prime offices and industrials – but alternatives, particularly hotels, are increasing in popularity.

“The summer period was relatively quiet after a flurry of deals were completed in the lead up to June. However, as we move into the final quarter, there remains a significant amount of dry powder waiting to invest and commercial property is traditionally seen as offering a good hedge against inflation – particularly for overseas investors, with the pound’s current weakness. We could see them take an even more active interest in the market in the remainder of 2022 and into next year.”

He added: “We anticipate a busy end to a challenging year, provided the macro-economic situation does not change materially and the right stock is made available.”

By Scott Reid

Source: The Scotsman

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Truss to announce stamp duty cut – report

UK housebuilders rallied on Wednesday following a report that Friday’s mini-budget could include a plan to cut stamp duty.

According to The Times, prime minister Liz Truss will announce the move in the mini-budget in an attempt to drive economic growth. It was understood the PM and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng have been working on the plans for more than a month.

Truss believes that cutting stamp duty will encourage economic growth by allowing more people to move and enabling first-time buyers to get on the property ladder, The Times said.

It cited two Whitehall sources as saying that cuts to stamp duty were the “rabbit” in the mini-budget, which the government is billing as a “growth plan”.

Under the current system, no stamp duty is paid on the first £125,000 of any property purchase. Between £125,001 and £250,000 stamp duty is levied at 2%, £250,001 and £925,000 at 5%, £925,001 and £1.5m at 10% and anything above £1.5m at 12%. For first-time buyers the threshold at which stamp duty is paid is £300,000.

During the pandemic, then chancellor Rishi Sunak lifted the stamp duty threshold to £500,000.

At 0910 BST, Persimmon shares were up 5.4%, while Taylor Wimpey and Barratt were up 4% and Berkeley was 3.5% firmer. On the FTSE 250, Redrow was 5.6% higher, while Bellway and Crest Nicholson were up 3.6% and 3.4%, respectively.

Tom Bill, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank, said: “Nobody can accuse the new government of lacking an economic vision. If its low-tax approach extends to stamp duty, recent history tells us it will trigger higher levels of demand in the housing market at a time when mortgages are getting more expensive, which will support social mobility.

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“Prices could move higher in the short term if supply initially struggles to keep up but more balanced conditions will return provided the cut is immediate and permanent.”

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, referred to the potential stamp duty cut as “the old Tory trick of juicing the housing market in its heartlands to boost confidence (wealth effect) whilst doing not a lot for housing supply”.

“I’m not for concreting over the green belt at all, but there will be questions about the economic soundness of this policy, as there always is. However, with interest rates rising so quickly, an offset to the cost of buying a home would grease the wheels of the market -without higher rates could cause the housing market to seize up.”

He added: “Clearly a stamp duty cut is good news for housebuilders who can expect higher selling prices as a result.”

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, argued that a stamp duty cut could do more harm than good.

“Buyers are unlikely to be unhappy at the prospect of a tax cut, but if the government chooses to cut Stamp Duty in an effort to stimulate the housing market, there’s a risk it could do more harm than good.

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“It’s easy to see why the government is concerned about the housing market. We’ve seen demand fall consistently since May, when rocketing bills, rising house prices and ever-increasing interest rates started to take a toll on buyer enthusiasm. There’s a risk that if rate rises accelerate, pressure on buyers could reach a tipping point, where demand dries up.

“We know from very recent experience that a Stamp Duty holiday can stimulate demand. However, the only reason these holidays work is because people feel they have a small window of opportunity to take advantage, otherwise they’ll miss out. The point at which they think they can just wait for the next one, they will start to become less effective.

“Even if it does stimulate demand, it overlooks the fact that the real brake on the property market is a severe shortage of supply. With an average of 36 properties on each agent’s books, we’re still close to an all-time low in the availability of property for sale. Driving demand without addressing supply would risk more buyers chasing a tiny number of properties, which would push prices up.

“By ramping up prices at a time of rising mortgage rates, the end result would be higher monthly mortgage costs, which would be increasingly unaffordable. And the Stamp Duty holiday wouldn’t help on this front. This in itself could be enough to put buyers off, and if it deters enough of them, it could end up having the opposite impact to the one that’s intended.”

By Michele Maatouk

Source: Sharecast

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Bank of England to suspend market operations for State funeral

The BoE said CHAPS will be closed on 19th September, in line with its normal bank holiday arrangements.

CHAPS handled around 174,000 payments each day, in the year to February 2021, with an average payment value of £2.1m. That works out at around £367bn each working day.

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CHAPS is used by banks and large corporations to settle high-value money market and foreign exchange transactions, by companies to pay taxes, and by solicitors and conveyancers to settle property transactions.

The Bank’s Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) service, which underpins large transfers between bank accounts, will also be closed.

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Back in 2014, RTGS collapsed for most of a day, putting thousands of housing market transactions on hold.

Last week the BoE said the sale of corporate bonds held by the Asset Purchase Facility will be delayed by a week, to 26 September, following its decision to delay its next interest rate decision by a week (to 22nd September).

Source: London Loves Business

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Prime house price five-year forecast revised

Savills has released a revised five-year forecast for the UK’s prime housing markets, reflecting strong levels of activity in prime central London and prime regional markets, but also a backdrop of international and domestic uncertainty.

While the shape of recovery remains broadly as previously forecast in November 2021, the long-awaited bounce in values in prime central London has been pushed out to 2023. The firm expects prime central London’s house prices to grow 4% across 2022 (down from 8% previously forecast in November 2021). This reflects a slower pace of return of international buyers than anticipated, as well as the war on Ukraine and current domestic political instability which have caused a degree of caution that is constraining price growth.

Savills expects a more significant recovery in 2023, and has forecast growth of 7% (up from 4%), with the pace of demand from overseas expected to increase.

Over the next five-years, prices in prime central London are expected to rise by a total of 21.6%, despite a slight slowing of growth in the run-up to the expected general election in 2024.

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“Strong activity over the past six months, the relative value on offer and the prospects for global wealth generation together give us confidence that prime central London will continue to recover steadily over the next couple of years,” comments Frances McDonald, research analyst at Savills.

“However, the pace of return of international buyers has so far been slow, holding back the more rapid recovery we had previously anticipated. Early indicators suggest that things should improve over the second half of the year and into 2023, as high-net-worth buyers have gradually started to return to traditional prime postcodes such as Chelsea, Belgravia, Kensington, Mayfair, Notting Hill and Holland Park over the past three-months, boosting the outlook for price growth beyond this year.”

“In the longer term, requirements to register beneficial ownership of homes held in offshore vehicles have the potential to curb some demand amongst a limited number of buyers in the longer term. But, while historically there have been many benefits to using offshore vehicles to hold UK property, the tax advantages have largely already been removed. As such, we have only slightly reduced our outlook for prices over the next five years,” continues McDonald

In the more domestic markets of outer prime London, continued unmet demand from those looking to upsize and a lack of suitable stock will support price growth in the short term. Savills has forecast that price growth in these markets will average +5% in 2022.

But while the prime markets (broadly the top 5%-10% by value) are generally more resilient to interest rate rises and the increased cost of debt, they are not completely immune. Savills expects to see signs of price sensitivity creep into the market over the next six months, resulting in slower growth from 2023 onwards. This is expected to cap price growth at 13.6% over the five years to the end of 2026.

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“Over the medium term, the return of workers to the capital will fuel demand. Even as hybrid working becomes more conventional, workers still value proximity to the office and some of those who bought a home in the country during the pandemic are realising the need for a pied-à-terre, further supporting demand for flats,” continues McDonald.

“From 2023 onwards we are forecasting slightly lower levels of price growth with rising pressure on buyers’ spending power, though the effect of earlier than expected interest rate rises is likely to be offset by an easing in mortgage regulation and an increased flow of capital coming out of central London.”

Scotland, the Midlands and the North expected to perform the strongest in the long term

Following two years of unprecedented price growth (+16% since March 2020), the pace of growth in the prime regional markets has started to slow. However, activity continues to be strong and there remains an imbalance between supply and demand across much of the market, which will support price growth in the immediate future.

Savills forecasts that prime regional markets will grow by an average of 5% in 2022, led by growth in London’s suburbs (6%), with prices growing more steadily thereafter (18.8% over the five years to the end of 2026).

“Growth in the medium term will depend largely on further interest rate rises and the rising cost of living which will limit buyers’ spending power. This will have the most significant impact on markets where buyers typically take on more debt.

“As a result, we are likely to see a continued slowing of growth towards the end of this year, and whilst we are not expecting a significant correction in price levels, realistic pricing from vendors will once more become all-important. This will be particularly true for markets which have seen the strongest growth since the start of the pandemic, namely London’s suburbs and the coastal and rural markets in the south of England which performed phenomenally over the course of the pandemic,” concludes Savills’ Frances McDonald.

Longer term, the prime markets of Scotland, the Midlands and the North of England are expected to perform the strongest, due to greater capacity for growth (compared with those in the South). Savills has forecast 21.7% and 22.8% total growth over the next five years.

By MARC DA SILVA

Source: Property Industry Eye

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I could have fixed my mortgage rate for years longer. I’m a fool

I have been having flashbacks. Not the kind I used to have, of when I went hiking in Yosemite National Park without a map and ended up sliding down a bear-infested trail on my backside in the dark. No, these flashbacks relate to a time in my more recent life, and an ill-fated conversation with my mortgage broker in July last year that led to a severe financial misjudgment.

My wife and I had just sold our house while juggling careers and three small children, and it was time to choose a mortgage for the new one. Should we take a two-year fixed-rate deal or a five-year one?

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The five-year mortgage was with Santander, and the two-year with the West Brom building society. Both had interest rates of just over 1.2 per cent, and our broker pushed for the two-year deal. The Bank of England base rate was 0.1 per cent, and he said he would be stunned if the base rate or mortgage prices went up significantly by summer 2023, when we’d be due to renew. Plus (and after this week’s 0.5 percentage point rate rise, this is makes me squirm the most) he reckoned being stuck with a five-year deal and its hefty early repayment charge was the riskier option.

The clincher was that the West Brom would lend us £40,000 more than Santander would because it had a more relaxed affordability calculation, and we wanted that money — the place needed some work. It was an interest-only mortgage, which appealed because the repayments would be low while my wife was temporarily out of work. The two-year deal it was.

Fast forward a year and . . . yes, I know, I’m an idiot.

Since we took out our mortgage the base rate has risen six times, now sitting at 1.75 per cent. It is heading in only one direction, and could be as high as 3 per cent when our two-year fix term ends.

Lenders, of course, follow the base rate when setting their rates. According to the data firm Moneyfacts, the average two-year fixed-rate deal has gone from 2.55 per cent to 3.74 per cent since we took out our loan, and the average five-year fixed rate is up from 2.78 per cent to 3.89 per cent. Next summer we may be offered 4 per cent, which could mean paying £1,000 more each month than we do now.

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So what can we do about it? Work is about to begin on the downstairs of our house, and it’s becoming ever more expensive because of inflation — we’ve now scaled back our plans and are leaving a tumbledown garage in place. We’ll mitigate the impact of our bigger future mortgage payments by setting aside money each month, and perhaps overpaying on our existing deal. We’ll burn through our savings.

However, for many borrowers coming off fixed rates next year, the prospect of a deal at a much higher rate is going to trigger a “payment shock”, as the broker Andrew Montlake puts it. Of course, at this time of pandemic, war, rising inflation and heatwaves, planning anything is difficult — from when to remortgage to how often to water the garden. I’ll be far from alone in facing nasty flashbacks over the coming months.

By DAVID BYERS

Source: The Times

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Knight Frank: Scottish commercial property investment hits pre-pandemic levels in first half of 2022

Scottish commercial property enjoyed its best first half of the year for investment volumes since 2018 as the market continued its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new analysis from Knight Frank.

The independent commercial property consultancy found that £1.2 billion of commercial property deals were agreed between January and June 2022, up 54% on the same period last year. The figure is also 21% ahead of the five-year average – albeit, this was skewed by low investment volumes during 2020 and, to a lesser degree, 2021.

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Overseas investors represented more than two-thirds (68%) of the total investment figure, equivalent to £843 million, with UK property companies the second most active buyers totalling £296m – 23.9% of overall investment volumes.

Investment in retail assets increased by more than 55% on 2021, rising from £148m to £230m with retail warehousing accounting for £165m of the total figure. Offices were the most popular asset class with £410m worth of deals, boosted by the sale of HFD Group’s 177 Bothwell Street in Glasgow, in what is believed to be a record transaction for Scotland.

Edinburgh saw £400m of investment, while Glasgow accounted for another £329m. Deal activity in Aberdeen continued to pick up, reaching £189m, largely from the sale of two retail warehousing assets.

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Alasdair Steele, head of Scotland commercial at Knight Frank, said: “The first half of the year has underlined a couple of key trends that have emerged over the last two years: retail warehousing and industrials remain in high demand, while prime offices are highly sought after – underlined by the deal for 177 Bothwell Street.

“Similarly, overseas investors accounting for such a high share of investment during the last six months also highlights the strength and depth of the buyer pool for Scottish commercial property.

“An uncertain macro-economic outlook will likely cool deal activity over the next couple of months. However, commercial property has typically acted as a hedge against inflation for investors and, with yields in Scotland’s main cities comparatively good value and supported by strong occupier markets, we expect interest to remain strong in the second half of the year.”

Source: Scottish Construction Now

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Foreign owners hold £90.7bn worth of property in the UK

Overseas nationals own almost 250,000 homes across England and Wales, the latest research by London lettings and estate agents Benham and Reeves shows.

In the current market, that is £90.7bn worth of property, suggesting that the UK remains a safe haven for foreign homeowners.

On a regional basis, London is home to the highest value of foreign owned homes, with the 85,451 properties belonging to overseas homeowners equating to a total value of £45.3bn.

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Westminster ranks top, with foreign owned homes commanding a current market value of £11.8bn, while in Kensington and Chelsea this total sits at £10.7bn.

Tower Hamlets ranks third, although some way off the top two, with overseas homeowners sitting on £3.7bn worth of property, followed by Wandsworth (£3.3bn) and Camden (£3.2bn).

Outside of the capital, Buckinghamshire is home to the highest value of foreign owned homes at £31.1bn, while Tandridge (£1.6bn), Liverpool (£1.4bn), Salford (£1.1bn) and Manchester (£1.1bn) also make the top 20 list.

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Director of Benham and Reeves, Marc von Grundherr, commented: “It’s not just domestic homeowners who have benefited from some extreme rates of house price appreciation in recent years and despite attempts to deter foreign interest, the value of homes owned by overseas buyers remains considerable, to say the least.

“While London is home to the highest concentration of foreign owned property market wealth, it’s certainly not confined to the boundaries of the capital alone, and overseas buyers remain an important segment of the market across England and Wales.”

By MARC DA SILVA

Source: Property Industry Eye