There are reasons to be optimistic over property investment in 2021 and the UK market moving forward, according to Paresh Raja.
It’s safe to say that there will seldom be another year like 2020. It seemed like there was be no end to the unprecedented developments that caught businesses, consumers, and investors completely off guard. Of course, the primary instigator of said uncertainty was the Covid-19 pandemic; an ongoing crisis that governments worldwide are still clambering to tackle.
A few weeks into 2021, however, and it seemed as though we may soon be entering the period of post-Covid-19 recovery. As the UK prepares to come out from under strict lockdown, the rollout of the AstraZeneca/Oxford and Pfizer/Biotech vaccines signifies the beginning of a transition back to normality.
But how should investors be preparing for the “new normal”? Which asset classes are set for impressive performances over the coming 12 months, and which may struggle to adapt to the post-Covid-19 era?
Commentators and investment advisors remain divided on the answers to these questions. What I’m interested in, however, is how the British real estate market will perform in 2021.
As numerous assets struggled to handle the unprecedented uncertainty imbued into the markets due to Covid-19, British property was able to easily hold its value; and even post record gains.
In November the average price of a residential property in the UK experienced its highest level of growth seen since 2015, according to Nationwide signifying a marked end to the previous four years of property price stagnation. Again, according to the building society annual house price growth rebounded to 6.9% from 6.4% in January, prices were up 0.7% month-on-month, more than erasing the small decline seen in January.
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So, looking ahead, can the UK property market maintain this momentum? Can investors look forward to another year of gains for British property owners? Or could future unforeseen developments knock the industry off course, reversing the gains seen last year?
Life under lockdown
The UK’s third wave of Covid-19 resulted in a third national lockdown being declared at the beginning of 2021, concurrent with the UK’s departure from the EU. Such a state of affairs meant that, for the month of January at least, we were unlikely to see the high rates of transactional activity recorded last year. Although prospective buyers can still move home, the added logistical complications of doing so during lockdown means that a slight property market slowdown is likely.
I believe that there is a strong chance that 2021 may even surpass 2020 in positive property sector growth. After the current lockdown passes, I am confident that the high levels of activity seen last year will continue; further increasing the average price of UK property.
Investors should take note. In December, Rightmove predicted house price growth of 4% over the coming 12 months, citing the knock-on effects of lockdown as a motivator for prospective buyers. Having spent the majority of last year home-bound, they claim, UK homeowners will be desperate to move home to larger lodgings; a trend that Rightmove believes will easily offset any negative market developments. Based on my experience, I consider such an analysis to hold some truth. As such, I can’t imagine that any negative repercussions of the UK’s EU departure will seriously deter investment into British real estate to any measurable extent, at least in the short to medium term.
But, as with any potential investment, there are still risks involved. The aforementioned unprecedented market uncertainty in 2020 meant that many UK lenders had to withdraw their mortgage products from the shelves and imposed meticulous loan application review processes. Consequently, many saw elongated mortgage deployment times, and even increased rates of application rejections.
Those hoping to profit from any potential 2021 UK property price growth, then, would do well to seek out alternative lenders with in-house credit lines to ensure they can easily close on transactions. We have seen increased demand for our bridging loans from buyers, investors, and their brokers needing tailored, quick finance solutions for their property dealings. Unless traditional lenders successfully adapt to the new normal soon, I can only foresee this trend continuing.
SDLT changing soon
One of the reasons so many people were eager to purchase property last year was due to the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) holiday, which allowed them to knock up to £15,000 off the SDLT fee on any given property transaction.
This policy is now due to end on 31 March 2021, despite some calls from within the industry for it to be extended. As such, property professionals and commentators alike are expecting a surge in demand for property before this key date. The reason is simple: investors eager to capitalise on future UK property price growth will understandably wish to avoid the additional SDLT tax that property transactions after this deadline will incur.
For overseas buyers and investors, the incentive to complete on property transactions is doubly important due to another upcoming change to SDLT: the 2% overseas-buyer surcharge.
This new policy, due to be implemented on 1 April, will impose an additional 2% tax on property purchases for buyers who aren’t already UK residents. For said buyers, then, the difference in potential SDLT bills on transactions before and after these dates will be substantial; meaning that a rush to finish such transactions soon is expected. Given the tight deadline, property investors will prioritise lenders that can approve applications in good time and quickly deploy loans to successful applicants.
Investors should take note of the points highlighted above, as there are great reasons to be optimistic about the performance of the UK’s property market moving forward. If there are any key lessons that investors should take away from 2020, it is that you should never underestimate the resilience of bricks and mortar. Demand is clearly rife, which means we are set for another 12 months of busy marketing activity.
By Paresh Raja
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