British homeowners are not the only ones feeling left out of London after a year of sharply rising house prices. Overseas investors from Saudi Arabia to Hong Kong were placing ever-increasing bets on the British regions, building houses there and making huge profits.
For three decades, overseas money flowed mainly into the capital, attracted by a booming economy and sharply rising house prices.
When the Saudi conglomerate AIMS Holdings rated the UK in 2019, it quickly came to the conclusion that people like Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds offer better value for money.
‘When we first wanted to invest in the UK, we looked at London. Then we see there are many more opportunities elsewhere. It was a real eye-opener, ‘said Abdulaziz Albassam, CEO of AIMS Investments, its wealth management arm.
The timing was perfect.
The average house price in England, the year to April 2021 increased by 8.9 percent. But in London, the rise was just 3.3 per cent, compared with 16.9 per cent in north-east England. In Scotland, the average house price rose by 6.3 per cent during the year to April.
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House prices in London is double that of the national average and the coronavirus pandemic has defended its attractions. Families are looking for larger homes with gardens outside the city, and many workers are no longer forced to commute daily to the office.
Meanwhile, employers are relocating jobs to local cities, where they can attract graduates by providing a better quality of life. Goldman Sachs announced in April a new technology center in Birmingham employing several hundred people, which is part of a growing trend.
The bulk of the investment flows into private houses for rent, mainly apartments for young professionals. The developer retains the asset or sells it to individuals, usually in Asia. They continue to manage the development for a fee and ensure that it retains value.
Savills, the advisory firm, said investment in the private rental sector in Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds together rose £ 1bn in 2020, up from £ 361m in 2018. Jacqui Daly, director of Savills for residential research, said ” The demand for investment is strong with lots of new entrants, both internally and internationally, and better returns mean that the regional market for urban and suburban buildings for rent attracts those who consider it long-term. ”
AIMS has acquired a majority stake in Beech Holdings, a Manchester developer that has started building dedicated student accommodation.
Wasim Choudhury, director of Beech Holdings, said he expects 20-25 percent capital growth between 2020 and 2025. “Covid has accelerated our thesis,” Choudhury said. ‘Seven or eight UK cities have become acceptable to institutional investors. The yield is higher than in the capital. ”
Beech is building more than 1,000 apartments and houses with a gross development value of around £ 350 million in Manchester and Newcastle, and is looking at Sheffield, Leeds and Birmingham. It uses old office buildings and repairs contaminated sites.
Founder Stephen Beech said the British chronic housing shortage without overseas investors would be even worse. ‘British banks are not interested in revival. This is too risky. An early scheme, Basil House, a converted 19th-century office building in central Manchester, now recommends renting £ 2,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, all bills included. “Students who rent from us want to stay when they get their first job.”
Beech is now concentrating on family homes to diversify its income mix.
Manchester City Council has defrauded investments and in 2014 partnered with Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, part of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and owner of Manchester City Football Club. Together they build almost 1,500 houses that are mostly private houses.
The council also has a joint venture with Far East Consortium, a listed Hong Kong conglomerate that has been operating in London since 2011 but which began operating in Manchester in 2017.
They will build up to 15,000 new homes across North Manchester over the next 15-20 years. A fifth of them are ‘affordable’ or meet the needs that would not otherwise be met by the market, as defined by the government.
Gavin Taylor, FEC director in Manchester, said the range of blue-chip employers such as Amazon, the BBC and TalkTalk moves to the city coupled with business-friendly local leadership, it has made it an attractive place to invest.
FEC, with a £ 600m investment in the UK, is now looking at Bristol and Birmingham. It also shifts the focus from apartments to family homes. ‘Covid caused a reassessment of life. If someone closes their eyes and imagines their dream home, it has four walls and a garden. “It is very expensive in London,” he said.
Alasdair Nicholls, CEO of Native Land, a major UK residential property developer who regularly works with international investors, said their growing presence in areas outside London reflects their experience in the market.
‘[For a] ‘a new investor deciding to enter the UK market is the obvious first point in London,’ Nicholls said. ‘But we’re now at a point where it’s done, and it’s’ OK, well, we can leave for anywhere, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham’. “
Native Land markets its first project outside London, a joint venture with US asset manager Nuveen of 152 luxury homes in the new St James Quarter Complex in Edinburgh city center, which he says is worth a total of around £ 100 million.
Native Land, which last year acquired a former department store in Guildford for redevelopment, sees other cities and towns in the UK following Edinburgh and Manchester to make their central areas desirable.
Nicholls said he expects international capital to buy into these opportunities. “I think it’s going to be a big piece of what we and others will do in the future,” he said.
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