Overseas Buyers Of Prime UK Properties Are On The Rise, As Investors Start To Look Beyond London

Exclusive London properties are selling at their biggest discount to asking price in over a decade, and attracting more foreign buyers, particularly from the Middle East, than domestic ones, according to research from Hamptons Property Agents.

The trend looks to be spreading beyond London, too; research from Knight Frank released in February this year suggests that very nearly half of all country estates in Britain with a value above £5m were sold to foreign nationals in 2017.

Around 30% of all London property purchased last year was snapped up by buyers from overseas, no doubt attracted by falling prices; the price of prime London property has reportedly dropped around 5% below peak 2014 prices, whilst agents controlling London’s “Prime Central” areas where the most luxurious properties can be found are typically accepting offers for property at an 11% discount to asking price.

It seems that the “Brexit Effect” is contributing to the changing trends. In the aftermath of Britain’s decision to engineer a divorce from the European Union, the number of European buyers of London property dropped significantly, but as the pound sterling exchange rate began to slide against almost all major currencies, most notably the Euro and the Dollar, property buyers have clearly begun to sense an opportunity.

Whilst the number of European buyers has dropped from just under a quarter of all prime property purchases, pre-referendum, to just over one tenth in 2017, the number of Middle Eastern buyers has grown; from less than 5%, to more than 15%.

In Britain’s rural areas the proportion of foreign buyers has grown significantly – they account for 45% of all £5m plus properties, up significantly in 2017. The figure in 2015 was just 21% , rising to 28% in 2016.

There has been an increase in the number of buyers from the Asia Pacific region, who accounted for one fifth of all new purchases of country estates, whilst a strong return to the market from Russian investors – who claimed just under 15% of all properties sold in 2017, from 0% in 2015; underpinned the changes.

It’s clear that the weakness of the pound has stimulated the market. Overseas buyers have sensed an opportunity to take the plunge and acquire property that has traditionally held its value over the long term at a discounted price. The question is, will the sterling recover its losses, to form part of a stronger UK economy that will create stability within the housing market and reward buyers of luxury property?

According to Knight Frank, the market for prime residential property in the UK was up 7% year-on-year in 2017, with North Surrey the most sought-after area to buy in outside the capital – accounting for 40% of all “super-prime” country estate sales.

Knight Frank also referred to an “underlying low interest rate and low mortgage rate environment” which, alongside a weaker Sterling, was a contributory factor to the uptick in sales of super prime properties.

When it comes to the super-rich, it is often hard to determine what motivations might prompt them to make large investments; of course, properties are not always purchased as family homes, but for reasons of status, tax efficiency, or as short or long term investments.

Whilst London looks to protect non foreign buyers in the market, introducing new rules and guidelines around the purchase of new-build properties, it’s clear that London’s Super-prime property market is no less sought after post-Brexit.

In fact, it could be argued little has changed – the super-rich tend not to have worry about events such as Brexit, whilst most of us worry about the ramifications of leaving the EY and the effect it may have on our finances, to the world’s super-rich, it is just another opportunity!