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Overseas investors ‘will not be deterred’ from UK property by new rules

Despite measures and additional taxation to curb overseas investors in UK property, the asset class still holds great allure for a number of reasons.

On 1 August 2022, a new register of overseas entities was launched in the UK. This means anyone investing in or acquiring property in the UK from abroad will need to register with Companies House.

The aim of the register is to prevent individuals or companies buying property with illicit funds, but some believe the additional paperwork could serve as a deterrent for some legitimate overseas investors.

However, David Hannah, group chairman at Cornerstone Tax, believes the UK property market will still provide enough of an attraction to foreign buyers for myriad reasons, as it still presents an “exciting opportunity”.

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Big demand from overseas investors
Hannah points out that the UK property market is very much an international market, and it can therefore be affected by geo-political events all over the world.

“Even if domestic demand cools, I think international demand will increase and the UK market will be affected because of it. I don’t think foreign investment will be overly deterred by the new rules coming into place on 1 August.

“Property in the UK represents an exciting opportunity for foreign buyers because of the drop in the value of the pound.”

The historic house price growth has always provided an attraction to overseas investors, gaining the sector a reputation as a safe haven as it generally shows less volatility than many other asset classes.

In recent years, this growth has been even stronger due to a range of contributing factors.

Hannah comments: “UK house prices continue to rise at a staggering rate domestically, being pushed higher by factors such as the influx of oversea investors.

“In the past, factors such as the stamp duty holiday have caused more people to consider buying property. However, due to the increase in average house prices, it has made it more difficult than ever for buyers to purchase their first property.

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What’s in the pipeline?
Recent data revealed that overseas investors now own around £90.7bn of property in England and Wales. Around half of this (£45.3bn) is concentrated in London, which has historically attracted the most attention from foreign buyers.

This was according to research from Benham and Reeves, which also named the south east and the north west as the top two property investment destinations for those living abroad, after the capital. Overseas owners have around £15.6bn tied up in the south east, and £7.6bn in the north west.

In total, according to Benham and Reeves, 247,016 properties across England and Wales are owned by overseas investors. As well as the highest value of properties, the highest number of these can be found in London, with 85,451 foreign-owned.

One of the biggest draws in recent years has been the falling value of the pound, which makes it cheaper for overseas investors buying property here.

A challenge for anyone buying property right now in the UK is the supply gap, as less sellers have been coming to the market.

Hannah notes that the 24% rise in prospective sellers putting homes on the market offers hope that this trend could be easing, “thus causing a more manageable supply and demand level and potentially slowing the rapid rise of property prices”.

The register will also be applied retrospectively to property bought up to 20 years ago in England and Wales and since December 2014 in Scotland. UK property owners who live overseas should ensure they are up to date on the latest requirements.

Source: Buy Association

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Will new disclosure rules deter foreign buyers?

The UK property market continues its upward trajectory as recent data from Halifax shows that the average house price now stands at £294,845, which represents a 6.8% rise, or £18,849 since the start of the year.

Supply-demand imbalance continues to be the main contributor to the rising prices.

With inflation in the UK rising to 9.4% in the year to June – marking its highest rate in 40 years, many are expecting a sharp decline in the property market, but the influx of foreign investment for properties in the UK could continue to push house prices higher. Recent research from Benham and Reeves shows that overseas nationals now own almost 250,000 homes across England and Wales – amounting to £90.7 billion worth of property.

London continues to be home to the highest value of foreign-owned homes, with all of the city’s top five property deals in 2021 – all of them worth £20 million or more – involving Chinese billionaires according to Beauchamp.

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Following sanctions imposed to Russian investors there were fears that foreign investment would falter, however Chinese investors seem to have picked up the slack. There are now 85,451 properties (amounting to a total value of £45.3 billion) in the capital owned by oversea investors who are able to take advantage of the UK’s thriving market.

The drop in the value of the pound, which has fallen by 11% since the start of the year, seems to be one of the major appealing aspects of buying property in the UK. 61 luxury properties in London – each worth more than £10 million, have been sold in the first six months of 2022 – representing the highest number in a decade.

Even though overseas buyers are an important segment of the market throughout the UK, there have been attempts to deter foreign investment.

There will be an introduction of new rules that will come into force on 1 August. The new register of overseas entities maintained by Companies House means that buyers will be forced to declare their ownership and provide details of beneficial owners.

The register will be publicly available at Companies House and intends to dissuade individuals looking to buy UK properties with illicit funds. It is unclear how significant this new regulation could be and whether it will deter foreign investment in the UK property market.

David Hannah, Group Chairman at Cornerstone Tax, is not convinced that it will.

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“What people must consider is that the UK property market is an international market, meaning it can be affected by geo-political events all over the world.

“Even if domestic demand cools, I think international demand will increase and the UK market will be affected because of it. I don’t think foreign investment will be overly deterred by the new rules coming in to place on 1 August.

“Property in the UK represents an exciting opportunity for foreign buyers because of the drop in the value of the pound.

“UK house prices continue to rise at a staggering rate domestically, being pushed higher by factors such as the influx of oversea investors. In the past, factors such as the stamp duty holiday have caused more people to consider buying property. However, due to the increase in average house prices, it has made it more difficult than ever for buyers to purchase their first property.

“There is hope that more available properties will enter the UK housing market and the latest House Price Index shows an increase of 24% in the number of prospective sellers bringing homes to the market – thus causing a more manageable supply and demand level and potentially slowing the rapid rise of property prices.”


Source: Property Industry Eye

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UK Expat Buy-To-Let Mortgage Market Review

The UK expat buy-to-let market creates a busy news cycle. Liquid Expat Mortgages will often pick the most important headlines to break down.

The continued activity in the UK expat buy-to-let mortgage market is partly due to increased interest coming from Hong Kong as the political situation continues to evolve there.

Despite the rises in the base interest rate, interest rates are still relatively low by historic standards and many lenders are not increasing – or increasing only marginally – their rates for expat buyers, as the expat buy-to-let marketplace is particularly lucrative.

Zoopla which noted that the number of people looking for rental properties this year is 76% higher than the average number for the same time between 2018 and 2021.

In the ongoing race to get rental properties to an EPC rating of a C or higher, 17% of landlords have already attempted to improve the energy efficiency of their property, while 22% of portfolio investors have begun green renovations.

Liquid Expat Mortgages takes a look at the top headlines from recent news in the UK expat buy-to-let mortgage market.

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Activity in the expat buy-to-let and remortgage markets is similar to the high seen late on in 2021, indicating that expat business is not being dampened by the consistent interest rate rises.” — Stuart Marshall MANCHESTER, GREATER MANCHESTER, UK, June 29, 2022 / / —
As we move into the second half of June, Liquid Expat Mortgages takes a look at the top headlines from recent news in the UK expat and foreign national mortgage market.

Expat Buy-to-Let Market Remains Strong After Rate Rises.
Activity in the expat buy-to-let and remortgage markets is at a similar level to the high seen late on in 2021, indicating that expat business is not being dampened by the consistent interest rate rises coming from the Bank of England. This is, in part, due to increased interest coming from Hong Kong as the political situation continues to evolve there.

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Despite the rises in the base interest rate, interest rates are still relatively low by historic standards and many lenders are not increasing – or increasing only marginally – their rates for expat buyers, as the expat buy-to-let marketplace is particularly lucrative and competitive. Further, there are still many interested buyers as the UK property market remains an attractive investment option offering a relatively stable asset class.

‘Anecdotally, this is something we’ve been seeing’ says Stuart Marshall. ‘The UK expat and foreign national buy-to-let mortgage market is very busy at the minute. Many UK expat and foreign national investors are benefitting from uncertainty in the domestic marketplace that is being caused by the consistent base rate rises. This is currently acting as a deterrent for domestic buyers and meaning less competition for UK expat and foreign national buyers. This means that properties are staying on the market longer and prices are coming down faster. There is also a more competitive rental market since fewer people are graduating to home ownership. This means UK expat and foreign national buy-to-let mortgage holders are seeing higher profits as competition in the rental market pushes up prices.’

Sky High Confidence Indicating a Profitable Marketplace.
In Shawbrook’s Changing Face of Buy-to-Let Report, it was revealed that 67% of landlords are confident about buy-to-let in 2022. It also showed that 34% of landlords are planning another buy-to-let property purchase in 2022. This is another indicator that expat buy-to-let is thriving despite the recent rate rises. This is largely due to rising rents contributing to greater profits, slightly dampened house prices in the UK and enticing yields. There is also an increased desire or necessity for those in the rental market to continue renting, with the survey showing that only half of renters expect to leave the rental sector in the next fifteen years, while 13% of renters are committed to long-term renting.

The increasing number of people in the rental market is also shown in a recent report by Zoopla which noted that the number of people looking for rental properties this year is 76% higher than the average number for the same time between 2018 and 2021 . Aside from the difficult market conditions, this could also be partly due to the number of young people leaving their parents’ homes and returning to the city centre post-pandemic.

As noted above, the difficult domestic conditions are creating a fertile investment landscape for those using UK expat and foreign national mortgage products. Consequently, buyer confidence is high among UK expats and foreign nationals. ‘This is likely to increase as forced sales start to bite in the marketplace too’ says Stuart Marshall. ‘Smaller salaried homeowners with larger mortgages are in a precarious position with the interest rate rises and are facing the real possibility of negative equity amidst falling house prices. Forced sales are inevitable with the way the market is currently poised. This will only lead to a higher number of properties available in a slower marketplace, meaning that investors will be able to utilise UK expat and foreign national mortgage products to secure a fantastic investment property at a reduced price.’

Another thing to note from Shawbrook’s report is that 29% of brokers said that three quarters of the portfolio investors they were dealing with were considering opening limited companies for their buy-to-let ventures. ‘This is continuing a trend that has emerged in recent years’ says Stuart Marshall. ‘With an increasing number of legislative changes for landlords, there are many good incentives for UK expats and foreign nationals to incorporate their investment properties in limited companies. A good broker will be able to help with this.’

Green Buy-to-Let Mortgages at a Record High.
In the ongoing race to get rental properties to an EPC rating of a C or higher, 17% of landlords have already attempted to improve the energy efficiency of their property, while 22% of portfolio investors have begun green renovations. The most popular renovations were new windows and new boilers, with 23% and 22% of those improving their property’s energy efficiency conducting these renovations respectively.

Stephanie Charman, head of strategic relationships at Sesame Bankhall Group, estimates that the cost of improving the EPC rating of a property will range between £5,900 and £10,400. ‘This is obviously a significant cost to landlords’ says Stuart Marshall. ‘However, discerning investors are talking to expert brokers and finding ways to minimise the cost of these renovations. One such way is to remortgage – which has proven very popular amongst the UK expat and foreign national investor population – and use some equity from the property to finance green renovations, especially with the chancellor’s new discount to green technology.

This is also a good strategy to take as the number of green mortgage products continues to grow, with 19% of all buy-to-let products now green mortgage products . These products offer discounted rates to UK expat and foreign national investors who commit to green renovations or purchase environmentally friendly properties. This can be an incredibly fruitful strategy in the current marketplace as both environmentally-conscious and cost-conscious consumers are looking to rent properties with higher EPC ratings.’

Source: MENAFN

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Overseas buyers’ interest in UK housing market rising

‘Visa’ was the most searched term by brokers in April, shows data provided by Legal & General’s SmartrCriteria tool.

This is the second month in a row that Visa has topped this chart, with search volumes falling by only 4% on a monthly basis.

Visa was also the most searched term overall in 2021 and in 2020, according to Legal & General in a report released in January this year.

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The firm also notes a “surge” in searches for self-employed borrowers, with searches using average or the latest years’ accounts shooting up by 64% on a monthly basis, while searches using account evidence or multiple years’ worth of accounts overtook this, going up by 80%.

Meanwhile, searches for self-employed sole-traders increased by 43%.

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Searches that incorporate environmental criteria also rose, by 24%, although this was “from a low base”, Legal & General says.

Legal & General Mortgage Club director Kevin Roberts says: “Today’s findings are another reminder of the resilience of the UK property market.

“Despite wider economic pressure, demand so far has remained steady, and in some areas of the market is even rising.”

By Gary Adams

Source: Mortgage Strategy

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London house price growth to hit 8% in 2022

London’s millionaire mansions are set for ‘a long overdue recovery’ in house price growth, agents have predicted.

A report by real estate advisory company, London Central Portfolio, has indicated the prime central London residential market has continued to witness positive signs over the past three months.

This is despite the uncertainties caused by the Omicron variant and some overseas property investors not yet travelling to London.

The data, provided by Bricks & Logic, suggested that average prices in the area have increased by 1.7 per cent. The February 2022 prices have now surpassed levels seen before the pandemic by 0.6 per cent.

Residential property in PCL yields have also spiked, the report said.

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The average annual rental return for a flat in PCL was 3.4 per cent in February 2022. However, one must take into account that PCL has a significantly higher proportion of flats (87.5 per cent) than houses (12.5 per cent), which has driven the overall average.

According to Foxtons, the average flat price in central London is £1,091,708, while the average house price is £3,253,175.

Andrew Weir, chief executive of London Central Portfolio, said the current climate pointed “towards the investment opportunities within the flats sector.

“We have seen evidence of buyers seeking to acquire small apartments within prime addresses, as many professionals return to the capital.

“The gradual lifting of international travel restrictions and the full return of overseas investors will almost certainly see the performance gap between houses and apartments draw closer together once again.”

PCL is forecast to see particularly strong activity over the next 24 months based on an anticipated return in travel from the world’s high-net worth individuals and a severe undersupply of homes for sale and rent.

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Tom Bill, head of residential research for Knight Frank, told FTAdviser: “The return of international buyers has been erratic, it can be a bit more seasonal, so you might find more international buyers returning in April or May time…the story of prime central London this year is a long overdue recovery.”

Two separate reports, published by Savills and Jones Lang LaSalle, also predicted similar increases of 8 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively.

The greater London market, which excludes the prime properties in central London, has outperformed the central areas of the capital over the past 24 months, with prices increasing by 9.4 per cent since February 2020.

Bill added there has been an increase in people looking for space in greenery, “so house prices in Dulwich or Wimbledon are performing more strongly than Knightsbridge, Chelsea or Bayswater”, he said.

However Bill explained: “London has an affordability problem… You have the race-to-space being layered onto that during the pandemic. This will start to recede, but that affordability squeeze is still going to keep driving people out of London.”

When talking about the general scope of house prices in the future, Bill mentioned: “I would expect the regions as a whole to outperform London, in terms of house price growth over the next five years.

He also predicted: “The Midlands is going to do well in terms of house price growth, and generally speaking you’re going to have a broad ‘levelling up’ of house prices over the next five to 10 years.”

By Calum Kapoor

Source: FT Adviser

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UK property market still attractive to overseas investors

UK property has long been seen as a stable store of value, providing attractive yields in a politically stable environment.

Foreign ownership of properties in England and Wales has trebled since 2010 to around 250,000, with 8,500 properties purchased in 2021 according to the Centre for Public Data. This demonstrates the continuing attraction of UK property ownership. Buyers were spread across 20 different countries with individuals from South East Asia and the Middle East especially active. With house prices continuing to rise, the UK property market continues to provide attractive investment opportunities.

London has traditionally been targeted by non-residents looking to invest. Despite London’s price growth being at a 13-year low, the average property price has increased by 67 per cent since 2010.

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However, the focus is evolving as non-residents look for alternative British cities to invest in. Large scale developments in cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds have significantly increased non-resident ownership in these areas with attractive yields available.

Buyer behaviour

When individuals are looking to purchase UK property from overseas, there are some key things to consider:

Firstly, location remains critically important with considerations around transport, future investment and development, and the potential for this to drive capital appreciation.

Secondly, property type is a vital factor, paying particular attention to matters such as cladding and the remaining years left on a lease. Buyers are asking themselves important questions like how the transaction will be funded; will finance from an international bank be required? What are the likely fees and costs to consider?

Thirdly, non-residents are taking time to select appropriate professional advice. They want to keep it simple, staying clear on investment objectives and remaining focused on these goals throughout the purchasing decision.

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Brokers’ considerations

Brokers also have a lot to think about when choosing lenders to work with when selling to overseas buyers, such as maintaining high levels of due diligence, given various regulatory developments over recent years. For example, Know Your Customer criteria can vary. Additionally, clients have to provide higher deposits, typically 25 to 50 per cent, depending on the client’s circumstances. Most lenders also require an account to be opened alongside the mortgage to facilitate the monthly payments and receive rental income for buy-to-let properties.

The changing landscape

There have been significant political and economic changes that could impact overseas buyers over the coming years: The introduction of the two per cent stamp duty surcharge from 1 April 2021 and a register to identify overseas property owners. Then, in January 2021, there were changes to the visa application process for British National Overseas (BNO) passport owners in Hong Kong.

So far, 2022 has seen continued interest from foreign buyers. As interest rates and political pressure to regulate or restrict purchases from foreign investors remain low, this trend to buy UK property is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

By: Gareth Morgan

Source: Mortgage Solutions

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Brokers see uptick in expat mortgages as Covid regulations soften – analysis

Brokers have reported an increase in expat mortgage enquiries over the past few months as borders reopen and Covid restrictions are rolled back, with expectations for the market will grow more in the near future.

Anthony Rose, co-chief executive of LDNfinance said it had seen a “healthy increase” in expat mortgage enquiries, and said when it compared increasing enquiries against timelines it could be attributed to post-Covid borders opening up with looser restrictions on international travel.

Daniel Yorke, managing director at Expat Mortgages UK which is specialist division of Commercial Finance Network, said it had seen a “gradual increase over the past 12 months” but this had become more pronounced over the past three months.

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Chris Sykes, associate director and mortgage consultant at Private Finance, added that expat enquiries had fallen during the pandemic due to travel restrictions, but there had been an “uptick” in such enquiries in recent weeks.

According to figures from Knowledge Bank, expat residential searches increased by seven per cent from 2020 to 2021, and 16 per cent for buy-to-let (BTL) searches over the same period.

Matthew Corker, operations director at Knowledge Bank said it had 24 categories covering various criteria and it had been growing them as expats looking for UK properties had risen.

Corker said: “While the growth has been steady in residential searches, there has been a significant increase in ex-pats look for BTL properties. Partially driving this interest is the volatility in the stock market, coupled with UK house prices exceeding all growth expectations.

“Lenders are also reacting to this trend and there have been more and more adding products for expat borrowers. With house prices and rents looking set to keep increasing, we anticipate this growth to continue in 2022.”

Primis’ figures for Q4 also show that expat lending, which includes residential, BTL borrowers and foreign income lending, grew in Q4. This was partially attributed to the return of high loan to value (LTV) BTL mortgages for expats and a softening of criteria to apply for these products.

Yorke said there were multiple factors in the increase in enquiries, which included Covid-19 becoming more normalised, interest rates staying “exceptionally low”, Brexit leading expats to return to the UK and the UK property market’s strong growth and activity.

Sykes said he believed the growth in enquiries was due to the UK’s “light touch approach to Covid” in terms of restrictions, which meant it was the “least restrictive place in Europe”.

Rose added: “Most of our enquiries have been expats returning to the UK looking to buy, or they’re refinancing their existing UK properties. However, we have also noticed that the end of the stamp duty holiday and strong property market post-Covid has played a vital role in clients obtaining expat mortgages for BTL properties.”

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Challenges of lender choice and case complexity

Rose said one of the biggest challenges for brokers in sourcing expat lenders was the number offering suitable products.

He explained: “It’s a small, niche space which can involve placing square peg clients in round holes. Often, expats have bespoke circumstances that require providers to have a flexible approach to lending.

“A classic example is intended date of return home; some lenders require a specific date whereas others need some ballpark timelines. Naturally these times can change so it’s difficult for clients to pinpoint precisely. Lenders need to be mindful of this.”

Sykes said another issue was the “very manual process” to find a lender for an expat mortgage.

He said lenders needed to consider more factors such as what country the client is a resident in, what country they are domicile and pay tax in and what currency they are paid in.

Sykes added that some lenders needed borrowers to be employed at a “blue chip company” earning £50,000 or more, whereas others were more flexible on earning structure.

He also noted that along with the added complexity, some brokers would not have relationships in place with international and expat lenders to source the most competitive expat mortgage deal.

“If you don’t know who you are asking to narrow down these products then you cannot quote the most competitive deal,” Sykes said.

Yorke said on the biggest challenges were the increase in interest rates and LTV reductions which made it harder for expats to borrow money.

He added: “Complicated income structures make it harder for clients to be able to secure funding, or at least at the level they would ideally hope for. We overcome this by working closely with our clients to help educate them and make aware of exactly what documents & figures the lenders will need for an application.”

Expat mortgage market expected to grow post-pandemic

Sykes said that expat enquiries had fallen during the pandemic due to travel restrictions but it “remains to be seen” if there would be a return to pre-pandemic levels or if there is a “great deal of pent-up demand” after two years of restrictions in the UK and globally.

However, he added: “We do now see this as an area that we expect to grow post-pandemic, especially as London returns to life and with prices having stagnated in the capital, this could be an attractive time for expat buyers and importantly investors.”

Yorke said Expat Mortgages UK received over 20 expat mortgage leads per week and it planned to double this volume in the next six months and double it again in the last six months of the year.

He continued that it was a growing market as expat mortgages tended to have high value properties and loan values. He also said expat mortgages encouraged a deeper relationship with the client and there was less competition in the market.

Sykes said the average size of an expat case was usually higher than a normal first-time buyer case due to the increased complexity.

Rose said despite the lengthy and complex process of an expat mortgage the “job satisfaction” advisers got from completing these mortgages made it “worth the time and effort”.

He added: “Each client has a unique story to tell which keeps our job interesting and exciting. In delivering an excellent service, we can also benefit from the referrals we receive off the back of them.”

He also noted that clients who used LDNfinance for an expat mortgage were more likely to return when it came to remortgage their UK residence when they returned home.

By Anna Sagar

Source: Mortgage Solutions

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2022 Outlook for Expats & Foreign Investors Buying UK Property

There have been a lot of new factors that have impacted the UK property market in recent years, from Brexit and tax changes to the ongoing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. For Expats and Foreign Property Investors, the UK still presents some profitable investment opportunities, as long as you are able to find the right types of investment.

From April 2021, overseas buyers have been required to pay a 2% stamp duty surcharge, which affected many property investment strategies. However, there are still many benefits of investing in the UK compared to other parts of the world, such as relatively low house prices, attractive interest rates and a very healthy property capital growth.

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The impact of COVID-19 on UK Property Market

The UK property market has remained strong, largely due to the stamp duty tax holiday that the UK government introduced. House prices have increased significantly, with the average house price having now increased by approximately £34,000 from the beginning of the pandemic. House price increases are expected to slow down in 2022, with the average UK House Price standing at £276,091 as of December 2021 (source: Halifax).

People want more space

Another major factor impacting property investment is the change in demand for housing stock that has more space. After spending so much time indoors during lockdown, many homeowners and renters decided that they wanted to find property that is in rural areas and has more space both indoors and outdoors.

Influence of Homeworking

London, which was always a highly popular place to live, saw record numbers of homeowners leaving to buy property outside of the capital in 2021. With more people working from home and less need to travel into the city for work, the trend for buying property with gardens and home offices emerged and is expected to only continue in 2022.

North of England continues as a Hotspot

Many other cities across the UK saw similar patterns and the North of England saw higher interest in properties, with areas such as Manchester and Liverpool becoming ever more popular for Property Investors & Landlords. The high rental prospects in the North, combined with the excellent capital growth have ensured that the North of England has become a hotspot for Property Investors.

The average rental yield in the Northwest was 7.8% in 2021 and the area saw a 12% regional increase in value, so going into 2022, we expect Property investors will increasingly be looking at buying in this part of the UK.

Student Accommodation in high demand

The large student populations in northern cities are keeping rental demand high and with large numbers of foreign students requiring student accommodation that is of a higher specification, this gives investors the opportunity to charge higher rental yields.

Many expats and foreign Property investors are seeing the great investment potential of buying student accommodation to rent in areas where there are numerous universities and where the average property value has grown significantly in recent years.

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Green efficiency requirements

As well as the additional 2% stamp duty surcharge, foreign Property Investors looking to buy property in the UK will also need to be aware of the new green efficiency requirements. From 2025, rental properties must have an EPC rating of C or above, or they will not be able to accept new tenants. 

This has resulted in many existing landlords spending money in home improvements such as installing new windows and replacing older boilers with new, more energy efficient ones. For foreign investors with existing properties in the UK, improving the EPC rating of properties will impact profits and investors looking to buy new property may have to pay more for properties that have a higher energy efficiency rating.

Around 13 million UK homes have an EPC of D or below, so this will be a significant factor to consider for foreign investors and expats buying in the UK property market.

Expats heading back to the UK

Since Brexit and the red tape involved in obtaining EU Settled Status became a problem, there has been a huge uplift in the number of expats returning to the UK, with people giving up on their lifelong dreams of retiring to live in a warmer part of the EU.

Some expats have been exploring the idea of buying property in the UK to rent out for periods of the year that they are not in the UK and living there themselves. With the new ruling that British citizens cannot stay in the EU for more than 90 days in any 180-day period, this has changed the needs for having somewhere to live in the UK, that can also be rented out if necessary.


In 2022, there will still be very attractive mortgage deals available for foreign Property Investors and expats buying property in the UK. Although house price growth is predicted to be much slower in 2022 compared to 2021, the many other benefits of buying UK property will ensure that foreign investors are still able to get a good return on investments in the UK by identifying the most profitable investments.

Get in Touch

If as either an Expat or Foreign Property Investor you are considering buying a new UK home, or even remortgaging your existing property in 2022, contact us today for free and independent mortgage advice. Call us now on +44 1494 622 555. Alternatively, you can complete this short online form now to request a call back from one of our Team of highly experienced Expat Mortgage Advisors who will gladly assist you with all your Expat and Foreign Property Investor mortgage needs.

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Prime London properties set for further recovery as Hongkongers, local investors flock back to city centre as Omicron wave peaks

Global investors, including those emigrating from Hong Kong, are flocking back to London’s prime areas to snap up properties as the world gradually moves on to living with Covid-19.

Several districts in London are recording higher property sales in recent months, according to real estate agents as workers return to their offices amid easier travel rules and a top health official said the city may have seen the peak of the Omicron wave.

Transactions have increased by 4.1 per cent per month on average across the capital over the last one year, according to Bective, a London-based property agency. Sales in the firm’s prime central London offices have also gained by 24 per cent on average.

“There are signs that momentum is starting to build,” said Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham and Reeves.

The green shoots of recovery are showing after the industry was battered by months of upheavals since the pandemic broke out in early 2020, slamming demand from foreign investors. Office workers, enabled by flexible working arrangements, opted for properties outside the capital for their bigger spaces.

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Hong Kong-based buyers, including those moving to the UK under the British National (Overseas) visa scheme, are likely to be among the most active investors. As many as 322,400 of these emigrants are likely to buy homes in the next five years, the UK government estimates.

As of the third quarter of 2021, about 88,900 Hongkongers had applied for the visa scheme since its introduction in January, of which 76,176 had been approved, according to official data. The scheme, which offers an easier path to citizenship, was London’s response to Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in June 2021.

“Prime central London has always been a destination of choice for foreign buyers, Hongkongers included,” von Grundherr said. “Many of those that are migrating with the help of the BNO visa scheme are doing so at slightly lower price thresholds.”

Hong Kong buyers typically fork out around £700,000 (US$947,000) to £800,000 for their UK homes, he added. They tend to gravitate toward the Highgate and Hampstead areas in the northern part of London, which offer a greater choice of large family homes, schools and an established Hong Kong community, according to von Grundherr.

The upscale districts of Kensington and Chelsea in central London are also popular among Hong Kong-based buyers, who make up 42 per cent of the active clients at London Central Portfolio, according to Andrew Weir, its chief executive.

“We recently acquired a pied-à-terre in Chelsea, close to the river with off-street parking, on behalf of a Hong Kong client,” he added. “We also have Hong Kong clients looking for family-sized homes,” he said, including one who already owns London properties and plans to retire to the city permanently.

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To be sure, the public health crisis is far from over. While prime central London values have risen and activity levels have picked up significantly in recent months, the Omicron variant is likely to delay the market recovery, according to Frances Clacy, research analyst at Savills.

“The renewed Covid-19 uncertainty adds an unwelcome additional layer of doubt that is likely to push the expected bounce in values further into 2022,” she said. “We believe it’s a question of when, and not if, prices rebound, particularly as more pent-up demand builds.”

Britain recorded 141,472 new cases on Sunday, versus 146,390 on Saturday, according to official data, while the number of new deaths fell to 97 from 313.

Last week, the British government said fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to take a pre-departure test before arriving in the country. Meanwhile, London “may well be past the peak,” Kevin Fenton, London’s regional director for public health, said on Sunday, referring to the Omicron wave.

Prices in the London region rose 6.2 per cent in October from a year earlier, versus 2.8 per cent in September, the UK statistics office said last month. Despite rising at the slowest pace among nine regions, average house prices remain the most expensive at £516,000, it said.

By Cheryl Arcibal

Source: SCMP

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What is the top UK market trend from an Asian investment viewpoint?

Wealthy Chinese investors have long been reliable investors in the market, and have frequently looked to the UK, specifically London, as a stable and reliable point for investment.

Twice as many homes were sold in Central London for more than £15 million in 2021 as in 2020, the latest figures revealed, and it is anticipated that Russian and Chinese buyers will lead the way in the capital in 2022.

But, from a Chinese and Asian investment perspective, what is set to be the number one trend in the UK residential property market in 2022?

In a thought leadership article collated by 11K Consulting, a leading UK-based China-focused property PR agency, predictions have been made by eight China/Asian respected industry experts across the tax, legal, immigration, wealth management and property sales sectors.

We explore the main findings below.

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Education, education, education

It is predicted that in the aftermath of the pandemic, education will remain a key driver for Chinese and Asian buyers of UK residential property. Security is also becoming a priority, and there will be a continued increased use of digital tools for property viewing with the ongoing global travel restrictions caused by Covid.

Rafael Steinmetz Leffa, executive director of GWM, said: “From clients based in mainland China, the main trend I have witnessed is an actual willingness to move to the UK. There has been an educational reform causing challenges in obtaining private tutoring or access to international schools. This reform is causing a lot of investors to consider moving to the UK which is known for its education.”

He added: “I have also witnessed an increase in the demand for financing products for investments made in real estate by these investors. This increased need for mortgages and other forms of lending is certainly becoming more prominent amongst buyers who in the past would quite often disclose and promote the fact they paid in cash. This, in turn, changes the general habit of these investors.”

Catharine Che, director, head of Asia department at Sotheby’s Realty, said: “The number one trend would be increasing investment with [a] budget around £500,000. Target cities are London, Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge and York. In terms of home relocation, the budget would be around £5 to £10 million. Target houses located in London and London suburbs with good living environment and great schools.”

Joanne Chung, senior immigration solicitor at Woodcock Law & Notary Public, said: “We have seen many overseas buyers interested in new build properties, although there is a growing number of sourcing agents that offer a full project managed refurbishment service including HMOs. We continue to see steady growth in instructions, although numbers have reduced since the end of the stamp duty holiday.”

She added: “We expect demand from Asian investors for UK property to continue to run strong into 2022, as the shortage of homes remains a serious problem for the UK housing market. Young professionals are likely to look for rentals, which highlights a great potential for rental investment returns in major cities. We believe rental prices will grow even stronger as the UK market continues to grow alongside increased demand.”

Dr. Ian Zhu, head of China outbound investment – China Britain Services Group, Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “My observation is the security became one of the major concerns. Some new buyers dare not to live in the house because they feel that the windows and doors can be easily broken into while high-security apartments the visitors have to go through various security checks.”

He went on: “Another trend for buy-to-let is that luxurious apartments are very popular with Chinese students whose parents are very supportive to let them stay in a two or three bedrooms apartment without sharing with others because of concerns regarding Covid-19 and offering enough space in case of another lockdown.”

Steven Landes, managing director of Hawksford, said: “The number one trend will be increasing competition from local buyers for the new UK properties that buyers from the Chinese/Asia markets tend to favour. This increasing competition is coming at a time when labour and material supply problems caused by Brexit and Covid have delayed many new developments restricting the supply of new properties.

He continued: “At the same time local buyers from the UK are seeing rock bottom interest rates making mortgages even more affordable for those whose incomes have been unaffected by Covid. This has little effect on Chinese/Asia investors investing in the UK residential property market as they tend to be cash buyers.”

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Searching and comparing

Amy Hon, senior partner – strategy at New Vision, said: “We expect the demand of the Chinese market on UK property investment and overseas investment will become more complicated in the year ahead, meaning Chinese clients will expect higher standard service from a specialist organisation.”

She added: “Having dealt with many Chinese clients, we have observed a noticeable trend. Clients used to query on a few properties, but they have become more eager to search and compare a wide range of properties nowadays. As an organisation providing service for buyers, our solid relationships with major developers and leading estate agents in the market allows us to provide a wide range of options and the most suitable and optimal solutions for our clients.

She continued: “Multiple property options, remote viewings, professional analysis reports and overall comprehensive planning from a specialist organisation like New Vision are the advantages that clients will benefit from to make a sensible and realistic investment decision even without a physical property viewing.”

Caryn (Shu Hui) Toh, associate solicitor at Ronald Fletcher Baker, commented: “Investing in digital marketing, high quality photographs, virtual tours and short film of the neighbourhood for example can enable buyers to have a true sense of where they will be living. The photographs would be targeted to the consumers’ appetite and the idea is that this will positively help them in their decision-making.

“Online platforms will also play a huge part in changing how investors, buyers and sellers navigate the residential property market and businesses. Gone are the days where you have to be ‘local’ to purchase properties. Of course, not forgetting that building relationships is still important.”

Lastly, Parikshat Chawla, director of industry relations at Pacaso, said: “The biggest trend I’ve noticed recently is the inclusion of shared workspaces in new developments – both apartment and villa projects. With the work from home movement now becoming the norm, many homeowners and renters still prefer to get out of the house to get some work done or make their Zoom calls etc. in privacy. These shared workspaces are an absolute boon for anyone in such a situation.”

By Matthew Lane

Source: Property Investor Today