House prices in London are soaring as demand is driven up by foreign buyers, with as many as 15 per cent of of new apartments the the capital going to foreign investors, writes Nicky Burridge.
Foreign investors, particularly from China, have become a significant force in the London property market, as they look to cash in booming house prices.
It is estimated that overseas buyers currently account for around 6.5 per cent of all London property sales by value, although in prime areas of central London the figure can be much higher.
Foreign investors are particularly active in the new build sector, with the Greater London Authority estimating 10 per cent to 15 per cent of new apartments in London are sold to overseas buyers.
“I suspect the proportion of overseas investment in London that comes from China will steadily increase”
But other estimates put the figure at double and even triple this level in certain areas of the capital.
Although there are no official figures giving a breakdown of which nationalities are investing in London property, anecdotal evidence suggests Chinese buyers are playing an increasingly big role.
Some large UK developers, including Barratt Homes, now have offices in Beijing and Shanghai to cater for the demand from Chinese investors, while seminars on investing in UK property are a common occurrence in Hong Kong and Mainland China.
Jonathan Harris, of mortgage brokers Anderson Harris, said: “Much has been made of the influx of overseas buyers into London, with a substantial increase in the number of wealthy and middle-class Chinese buyers looking to invest in the major cities in Britain.
“Some of the larger developers have opened offices in Beijing and Shanghai to cater for demand for new-build apartments.”
He said many Chinese buyers were purchasing new build properties on premium developments across the capital, either for themselves or their children to use while studying at British universities, or simply as an investment.
He said: “On the right development, a Chinese investor may well snap up several apartments.”
China has the highest savings rate in the world, with people typically setting aside more than 50 per cent of their income each month.
But savings and investment options in China are limited, with bank deposit rates kept artificially low and very few investment products available. People are also keen to get their money out of the country.
Meanwhile, London property appears good value to Chinese investors who are used to sky-high real estate prices, with a 600 sq ft apartment typically selling for more than £1m in some of Hong Kong’s popular residential districts.
China’s renminbi has also recently weakened against sterling, adding to the attraction of investing in Britain.
Harris said: “The exchange rate is important, particularly as many of these buyers will buy for cash so will need to bring their money into Britain.
“However, it may be possible for these buyers to get a mortgage as the Bank of China will lend to Chinese investors in sterling.”
Land Registry figures show that house prices in London soared by 17 per cent in the year to the end of April, and foreign buyers played a significant role in pushing up demand.
Ray Boulger, of mortgage brokers John Charcol, said: “There is no doubt that foreign buyers have been extremely important in the fact that the London market has been massively outperforming the rest of the property market.
“China is one of the biggest emerging economies, and I suspect the proportion of overseas investment in London that comes from China will steadily increase.”
But while the influx of Chinese investors may be good news for existing homeowners in the capital, it is bad news for first time buyers.
Not only are they forcing up prices generally, but they are also targeting new build one and two bedroom apartments that are typically bought by first time buyers.
They also complicate the Bank of England’s task in maintaining economic stability, as cash buyers are beyond the reach of many policy tools, such as higher interest rates and tighter lending criteria.
Which are the most popular properties in June so far? From renovated TV personality homes in Kent to mansions fit for leisure enthusiasts in Warwickshire, here are the most viewed properties on Zoopla.
1. You may get, er…’square eyes’ if you look at this stunning Kent property for too long. Owned by Gogglebox’s ‘posh’ couple Steph and Dom, it boasts an eight bedroom main house , a further four bedroom property, a gardener’s cottage, a coach house and a tea room.
2. A new entry this month is this four bedroom detached property in Leicester for £220,000. There is off road parking to the front and a garden to the rear.
3. What would you pay for a five bedroom flat? If you are seeking one of the apartments at London’s iconic One Hyde Park, you will need £68m. The accommodation spans an entire floor and boasts views of both Knightsbridge and Hyde Park.
4. If you love entertainment, this Warwickshire property may be the home for you as an entire wing is devoted to leisure. It includes everything for a fun loving buyer, from a multicoloured lighting system to a cinema room and an infinity pool.
5. This newly built ambassadorial-style and stucco-fronted London home has 11 bedrooms and is spread over five floors – including a lower ground and basement.
6. This high-tech home in Frodsham boasts keyless doors with fingerprint recognition and natural climate control. It was once a tiny and dark two bedroom cottage, but is now flooded with light despite a substantial section lying beneath ground level.
7. An exciting opportunity to buy a three bedroom period terrace in London’s Peckham. It has an asking price of £650,000, but needs modernizing.
8. Every little thing this property does is magic. Owned by rock star Sting, this nine bedroom terrace house in London’s Westminster includes a garden, roof terrace and overlooks St James’ Park.
9. A nine bedroom detached house in London’s prestigious confines of Kensington is being offered (POA) with full planning permission to extend the property to include a separate cottage, tennis court and garden pavilion.
10. An opportunity to buy a 17,000 sq ft family home in London’s prestigious area of Mayfair.
The strength of house price growth during 2014 has taken many economists by surprise as demand from potential buyers has soared.
At the beginning of the year the consensus forecast for house price inflation in 2014 stood at around 7 per cent, according to a poll of economists carried out by Reuters.
But by the end of May, property values had already jumped by 4 per cent, with seven months of the year left to go, while the annual rate of growth was running at 11.1 per cent, according to Nationwide.
Matthew Pointon, property economist at Capital Economics, said the strong house price growth seen in the early part of the year had prompted the group to revise its forecast for the full year up from 5 per cent to 8 per cent, with the risk on the upside.
He said that while demand from potential buyers had increased in line with expectations as the UK’s economy recovered, many economists had been surprised that supply had not also risen.
He said: “We thought there would be more sellers coming to the market during the spring season, but we did not get as many people selling their homes as we expected.
“Supply and demand remained very tight and that is putting upward pressure on prices.”
Recent figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors showed that the number of homes on the market had fallen for five consecutive months in May, while demand from potential buyers continued to grow, pushing prices up.
The strength of house price growth has sparked concern in a number of quarters that the market could be overheating, with the Bank of England warning that the property market posed one of the biggest threats to the UK’s economic recovery.
Today, it announced that the number of homebuyers able to borrow more than 4.5 times their income will be restricted. A total of 15 per cent of mortgages offered by a bank will be allowed at or above this level.
But there are signs that the market may already be beginning to slow naturally, with tighter lending criteria introduced under the Mortgage Market Review appearing to be having an impact.
Recent figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders showed that total advances were unchanged in May, the first full month that the new rules have been in force.
Bank of England data has also shown that the number of mortgages approved for house purchase fell for three successive months in April.
Mortgage lender Halifax is less surprised by the way the market has performed this year.
The group pencilled in house price growth of between 4 per cent and 8 per cent for 2014 and is sticking to its forecast.
Nitesh Patel, Halifax housing economist, said: “Average prices in 2014 are 4.9 per cent higher than at the end 2013 and within the forecast range of 4 per cent to 8 per cent.
“However, transactions have eased since January, which may impact prices as the year goes on.”
Ray Boulger, senior technical manager at mortgage brokers John Charcol is also sticking to his original forecast of 9 per cent house price growth in 2014.
He said: “The London market clearly has been the key driver for high house price inflation.
“But the rate of increase in London will start to decline, and the rate outside London will increase as the ripple effect becomes more prominent.”
He added that while he did not expect prices in London to fall in general, there were likely to be some drops in areas that have seen particularly strong growth.
The number of homebuyers able to borrow more than 4.5 times their income will be restricted, the Bank of England announced today.
By October, banks will only be able to lend 15 per cent of their total residential mortgages at or above this level. Any mortgages offered from today will count towards that proportion.
The main region to be affected will be London, where 19 per cent of loans were equivalent or above 4.5 times the borrower’s annual salary, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. It compares to just 9 per cent for the whole of the country.
The measure is aimed at preventing a damaging housing bubble, but experts called for greater flexibility – particularly for those living in the capital and the south east.
Adrian Anderson, of mortgage brokers Anderson Harris, said: “These new rules will have a much bigger impact on borrowers in London and the south-east than elsewhere. The key in London will be assessing what income the lender applies the 4.5 times multiple to. More people in London are on basic salaries with a bonus element and this needs to be taken into account.”
The cap is one of two proposals by the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee to limit the future growth of risky high loan to income mortgages.
The other proposal asks banks to check borrowers can afford their mortgage if interest rates rose by 3 per cent.
CML director general Paul Smee said: “It’s important not to confuse these measures, which are designed to ensure financial and economic stability, with wider housing policy, for which the Bank is not responsible.
“Additional housing supply to help correct the imbalance between supply and demand is the main way of relieving affordability pressure and household indebtedness attributable to mortgage borrowing over the long term.”
It comes as the Government also restricts the maximum amount those using the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme will be able to borrow to 4.5 times income.
Lenders are already placing their own restrictions on the scheme, with Nationwide only allowing first time buyers to apply for the equity part of Help to Buy.
Latest figures show a total of 22,831 people bought a property through the equity loan part of scheme during the 14 months to April 1 last year when the scheme was launched.
The Help to Buy scheme enables people buying their first home or trading up the property ladder to purchase a property worth up to £600,000 with a deposit of just 5 per cent.
The Government will then either top up the 5 per cent deposit with 20 per cent of the property’s value, known as an equity loan, or it will offer lenders advancing high loan-to-value mortgages a guarantee on a portion of the debt.
Britain’s smallest £1m property offered less space than a London Underground Tube carriage, it was revealed earlier this year. Zoopla looks at what other properties of a similar size are currently on the market.
Own your own tiny corner of South West London with this one bedroom bungalow in Southfields. It has been recently decorated and comes with no chain. It is currently on the market for £365,000.
This pretty terrace house in Kent has one bedroom and a shower room upstairs, with a kitchen and living room downstairs. Subject to planning constraints, there is scope to add a single extension to the rear to relocate the bathroom downstairs in order to gain that ever important first floor second bedroom. The property has an asking price of £172,500.
Meanwhile, this studio flat is ideal for an investor, being within a short walking distance to Leytonstone’s busy high street. It is currently on the market for £110,000.