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Overseas Investors: Will UK property remain a long-term investment choice?

UK property has long been a ‘safe haven’ for overseas investors, with the market’s robust performance throughout the pandemic highlighting its resilience as an investment asset.

Driven by the Stamp Duty holiday, this generous discount has not only benefited UK buyers but acted as an additional incentive for overseas investors.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that the number of overseas landlords is at a five year high, now surpassing 184,000. This climbing amount of investment is a significant driver behind UK property prices, which have surpassed £300,000 for the first time in history.

However, all good things must come to an end, and with the Stamp Duty holiday concluding in September, will the recent surcharge change perspectives amongst overseas investors?

What is the Surcharge?

Since April 2016, on top of standard Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), investors have been required to pay a further flat 3% Stamp Duty on the full value of all additional properties worth more than £40,000.

However, the UK government has also implemented a 2% surcharge for overseas investors. This surcharge will be in addition to the current Stamp Duty rates and will be applicable for the majority of international buyers, including both overseas investors and international companies. The government has been clear as to who will be exempt from the surcharge, predominantly those involved in Real Estate Investment Trusts and other collective investment vehicles.

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The surcharge is largely being introduced in response to UK property’s upward trajectory for the past 20 years, the majority of which has been underpinned by international investment. This level of growth – bar momentary dips – has made it increasingly challenging for first-time buyers in the UK to get on the property ladder, hence the surcharge.

What does this mean for overseas investors?

When this additional surcharge was announced in 2016, many experts anticipated a surge in overseas buyers investing in UK Buy-to-Let property, followed by a sharp fall. While international investment remained strong in the years leading up to 2020, the additional uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the pandemic was almost guaranteed to discourage overseas investors.

However, the Stamp Duty Holiday has not only propelled the UK property market but also dissolved the majority of concerns surrounding Brexit. With the relatively positive results we’re seeing across post-Brexit Britain, combined with the continued growth arising from the Stamp Duty Holiday, the potential growth of UK property could significantly outweigh the overseas Stamp Duty surcharge.

But as government incentives end and the full effects of the Stamp Duty surcharge are felt in full effect, will UK property remain a long-term investment choice for overseas investors?

Andy Foote, director at SevenCapital, comments: “Although we’ve known about the surcharge since 2016, the whirlwind of 2020 overshadowed it to some extent. But now it is in full swing, investing in UK property will inevitably be more expensive for non-UK investors.

“Considering the standard rate, combined with the surcharge, overseas investors could face extra payments they hadn’t considered within their property investment planning.

“That said, the performance of the property market over the past year, combined with its forecasted growth, still positions the UK as a high-performing, affordable property hotspot in comparison to alternative countries.

“Not only has the average property price surpassed £300,000, but rental yields are creeping up across the country. While the average UK rental yield currently sits at 3.53%, emerging areas, such as Bracknell, are reaching 4.80% for two-bed apartments.

“Offering a passive income of up to £1,103 a month and £13,236 annually, it’s unlikely that this Stamp Duty surcharge will deter overseas investors, with the potential for 14.5% growth in prices by 2025 only offering more incentive to invest in UK property.”

Between Brexit, a global pandemic and extensive tax changes, the UK property industry has seen it all. The market’s resilience alone offers investors the reassurance that property is a sturdy investment, and with this growth forecast to continue, the Stamp Duty surcharge is seemingly a small price to pay for a potentially lucrative asset.

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UK property remains attractive investment for overseas investors

Despite economic uncertainty, overseas investors continue to flock to UK property for investment. In recent years, the property market has performed particularly strongly.

The number of overseas landlords owning property in the UK has reached a five-year high. There are currently 184,000 overseas landlords. This is a 19% rise over the past five years, according to data from estate agent ludlowthompson.

Despite tax changes in the buy-to-let sector, the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, UK property has remained an appealing long-term investment for many overseas investors. And this is expected to continue to be the case in the coming years.

A rise in demand from Hong Kong investors
There has been a particular increase in the number of property investors from Hong Kong. This is expected to increase further with the launch of the new visa for BNO passport holders, which opened for application on 31st January.

London has long been the traditional location for Hong Kong investors. There has continued to be strong demand in the capital. And there has also been a rise in Hong Kong investors and buyers looking to the north-west of England, especially Liverpool and Manchester. Cheaper house prices and strong demand are big draws for this region of the UK.

Favourable exchange rates
The value of the pound dropped since the EU referendum. Some overseas investors took the opportunity to add to their property investment portfolio. The Brexit uncertainty, which was followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, has kept the value of the sterling low.

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With recent favourable exchange rates, foreign buyers could get more for their money. This opened up the sector to a wider pool of investors. At the beginning of the year, overseas investors even ranked the UK as the best residential property investment hotspot for 2021.

Stephen Ludlow, chairman at ludlowthompson, says: “Fears that Brexit might dampen the appeal of UK property amongst overseas investors have been unfounded, with the number of overseas landlords reaching a record high.

“Many canny investors took advantage of the temporary drop in Sterling’s value to purchase properties in the UK and benefited from both an increase in property prices and a recovery in sterling.”

Stamp duty changes
Overseas investors have also been benefiting from the stamp duty holiday. The tax holiday has allowed buyers to save up to £15,000 on properties worth up to £500,000. The holiday is in place until 30th June. After that, the nil-rate band will be in place for properties worth up to £250,000 until 30th September.

Second homes and property investment still incur a 3% stamp duty rate. And an additional 2% stamp duty surcharge came into place for overseas buyers and investors on 1st April 2021. While many overseas landlords looked to complete on property investment purchases prior to this date, the additional surcharge is unlikely to be a deterrent as there are numerous factors making UK property investment appealing.

By Kaylene Isherwood

Source: Buy Association

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The number of overseas landlords reaches a five year high

The number of overseas landlords owning property in the UK has hit a five-year high of 184,000, marking an increase of 19% over five years.

Ludlowthompson says that the rise in the number of overseas landlords shows that Brexit has not been a deterrent for those looking to invest in UK property, as many overseas investors have capitalised on the drop in the value of pound sterling between the EU referendum and the Brexit deal to add to their portfolios.

Favourable exchange rates meant that foreign buyers were able to get more for their money, opening the market up to a wider pool of investors, says the estate agent.

Ludlowthompson adds that despite tax changes, property in the UK will remain an attractive long-term investment prospect for investors from many overseas jurisdictions.

Research shows that in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of Hong Kong buyers of UK property. This is expected to rise following the launch of the new visa for Hong Kong British National Overseas passport holders.

The reputation of schools and universities in the UK has also benefitted the property market. Ludlowthompson says that many overseas landlords who have purchased property have done so to provide accommodation for their children who were studying in the UK.

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Overseas landlords have been benefitting from the stamp duty holiday, which has enabled buyers to save as much as £15,000 on properties worth up to £500,000. The holiday is set to run until 30 June after which point stamp duty will be reintroduced on properties worth £250,000, and will apply to properties over the £125,000 threshold from 30 September. From 1 April, overseas landlords will be liable to pay a 2% stamp duty surcharge on property investments.

Stephen Ludlow, chairman at ludlowthompson, said: “Fears that Brexit might dampen the appeal of UK property amongst overseas investors have been unfounded, with the number of overseas landlords reaching a record high.

“Many canny investors took advantage of the temporary drop in Sterling’s value to purchase properties in the UK and benefited from both an increase in property prices and a recovery in sterling.

“Investments by overseas landlords into UK buy-to-let properties has ensured that there has been a steady stream of capital into that sector, which has kept the quality of rental stock far higher than would have been the case with these investors.”

Source: Property Wire

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Overseas investors expect real estate to drive UK growth

Some 31% of overseas investors said that real estate and construction would drive UK growth in the future, up from 10% in 2019 – the highest increase of any sector.

Real estate and construction is now in the top-three most attractive sectors, behind only digital (seen as driving future UK growth by 50%) and health and wellbeing (36%).

Russell Gardner, EY UK & Ireland head of real estate, hospitality & construction, said: “The government’s stated infrastructure plans have likely played a role in boosting interest in the real estate and construction sector.

“But the significant impact of the pandemic on UK high streets and workplaces has also encouraged many investors to re-imagine what real estate will need to offer in the future.”

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The pandemic has re-shaped investors’ strategies, with 61% saying that the changing model in major city centres will become an important theme in future investments.

Underlining the built environment’s importance to FDI more widely, 23% of respondents cited the reliability and coverage of infrastructure as an important factor for deciding whether to invest in a particular country.

EY’s UK Attractiveness Survey found that the proportion of overseas companies planning to invest in the UK in the next 12 months has fallen to 25% from a 10-year high of 31% in April.

Only 43% are continuing with the UK investments they planned before the pandemic, down from 72% in April.

BY RYAN BEMBRIDGE

Source: Property Wire

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Where overseas investors own most properties

The London boroughs of Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Camden are some of the most popular with foreign owners.

Pure Property Finance analysed data from the Land Registry on overseas companies that own property in England and Wales.

There were 10,938 in the City of Westminster, 5,847 in Kensington and Chelsea, and 2,363 in Camden.

In terms of areas outside London, 1,770 were in Manchester and 1,516 were in Liverpool.

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Ben Lloyd, managing director of Pure Property Finance, said: “Since we set up Pure in 2013, we have worked with clients across the UK and abroad to secure bespoke property finance that suits their specific project needs.

“In this time, we have definitely seen some ‘hotspots’ for investment, particularly in London and the South East, along the M4 corridor, as well as cities in the North West.

“Some of these areas are now becoming oversaturated and do not provide the opportunities they once did. However, others remain in high demand; high value locations will almost always hold their value and bring a solid long-term return on investment.”

Overseas investors will be charged a stamp duty surcharge of 2% from April next year.

BY RYAN BEMBRIDGE

Source: Property Wire

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Overseas investors target Scotland as property volumes rebound over summer

Property experts are banking on a strong end to the year after investment volumes in Scotland rebounded over the summer following a “Covid quarter” wipeout.

Investment volumes in the third quarter of 2020, covering July, August and September, reached £477 million, according to property consultant Colliers International’s latest snapshot.

That marked the highest quarterly figure in a year, though it was still almost 20 per cent below the five-year quarterly average of £564m. It comes after investment volumes slowed to a near standstill in the second quarter of this year, when the figure plummeted to just £35m.

The firm said there was hope for a strong end to the year with pent-up demand driving activity.

Oliver Kolodseike, associate director, research and forecasting, at Colliers International, said: “It is positive to see that transactional volumes have started to pick up again and we are now expecting a strong end to the year in Scotland as we recover from the ‘Covid quarter’.

“An annual investment total of £1.5 billion across all sectors would be a positive result given the nationwide lockdown earlier in the year.”

The firm’s analysis found that the office and alternative sectors accounted for three quarters of all activity by value, while investment volumes in the industrial sector were 40 per cent above its five-year quarterly average. Given the ongoing impact of the pandemic, activity in the retail segment was limited, Colliers noted.

There was a renewed interest in Scotland from Asia Pacific-based investors, who accounted for over half of all investment volumes. This included the quarter’s largest deal which saw South Korean Hyundai Asset Management purchase 1-3 Lochside Crescent in Edinburgh for just over £133m. The 247,500 sq ft asset is currently let to insurer Aegon.

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The deal marked Hyundai Asset Management’s second Edinburgh purchase in less than 18 months, having already bought Gyle Square in April 2019 for £55m in one of Scotland’s other largest office deals that year.

Looking in more detail at investment in the office sector, a total of £186m was invested during the third quarter, only slightly weaker than the £196m transacted a year ago and marginally below the five-year quarterly average of £193m.

In one of Scotland’s other largest office deals this year, Singaporean Elite Partners Capital bought 150 Broomielaw, the 97,000 sq ft building completely let to Scottish Enterprise, for £40m.

Industrial investment activity picked up during the past quarter, with volumes reaching £80m, 40 per cent above the five-year quarterly average of £56m.

The figure was boosted significantly by the sale of Amazon’s one million sq ft logistics centre to Korean-based KB Securities for £66.8m, representing the second-largest industrial deal ever recorded in Scotland.

Patrick Ford, director, national capital markets, Colliers International in Glasgow, said: “It was good to see this relatively strong investment performance in the industrial sector in Scotland’s two biggest cities in Q3.

“Overseas investors, particularly those located in Asia, remain very interested in the Scottish industrial sector and large deals continue to be done, despite global economic uncertainty on the back of Covid.”

By Scott Reid

Source: Scotsman

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Prime London market the busiest it has been for ‘over five years’

The Prime Central London (PCL) property market is the busiest it has been for over five years, according to estate agency Dexters.

The firm, which has a larger presence in the heart of the capital than any other agency, reports that the number of sales agreed for properties priced over £2 million between mid-June and mid-August was 85% higher than the same period last year.

Meanwhile, lettings transactions for properties costing over £1,250 per week were also up 41% compared to the same period in 2019.

Overseas interest in prime London properties is being driven by purchasers from Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India, while domestic applicants commonly work in the finance or law industries.

Dexters says that all buyers are keen to purchase homes with outside space. Apartments with large balconies or terraces, low rise houses and mews properties with gardens are attracting the most interest at the moment.

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Prime London buyers are also currently willing to pay a premium for homes which have their own private entrance instead of a shared hallway.

The most popular addresses in recent weeks, according to Dexters, are: Mount Street and Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, the ‘Old Chelsea’ addresses of Cheyne Row, Upper Cheyne Row and Glebe Place, Marylebone Village, Old Queen Street and Queen Anne’s Gate in Westminster, Warwick Square, Ecclestone Square and Moreton Place in Pimlico, and South Kensington’s Onslow Gardens and Cranley Gardens.

Alongside, Hong Kong, the UAE and India, overseas interest is also strong from buyers in Singapore, the United States and Italy, with Dexters saying that over 80% of overseas investors are cash buyers.

The most popular property with foreign buyers is currently a spacious two-bedroom apartment with an outside terrace, located in an apartment building with a hotel-like concierge or porter. Overseas buyers are also keen on properties that have living spaces closer to the entrance, with the bedrooms beyond and a separate, rather than open-plan, kitchen.

According to Dexters, whether overseas or domestic buyers, the typical prime London apartment purchasers are couples without children in their 30s or 40s, or mid-to-late 20s buyers with help from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’. Buyers of houses, meanwhile, are more likely to be late-30s to mid-50s parents with one or two children.

“Due to the pent-up demand that surfaced after the lockdown and people choosing to holiday in the UK this year rather than overseas, there is a particularly strong market this summer,” says Richard Page, Dexters’ marketing director.

“All the activity we are currently seeing gives us every confidence about the outlook for the Prime Central London property market.”

By Conor Shilling

Source: Property Investor Today