According to the latest research from Chestertons’ London Residential Property Market Report Autumn 2020, lower property prices, the current stamp duty holiday, and the weak pound are motivating Middle East investors to purchase property in the capital.
Overall, during the period July to September, the London property market gathered considerable momentum, with a 21% increase in the total number of properties available for sale at the end of September compared to the end of June and 30% higher than September 2019. Sales have also increased, a direct result of overseas investors from the Middle East, Hong Kong, China, and France.
Dennis Chan, Chestertons’ Global Head of International Sales, said: “Sales and enquiries from overseas buyers witnessed a surge in the last quarter, a direct result of the weak pound, lower prices in many sought after areas, and savvy investors looking to take advantage of the current stamp duty holiday which is scheduled to end at the start of April 2021.
“This has been buoyed by forecasts of recovery within the UK economy with economic growth in 2021 of 6.4% compared to a projected fall of 10.1% for 2020 as a whole. However, the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 crisis remains to be seen.”
The report revealed the number of sellers opting to reduce the asking price of their properties between July and September rose by 129% compared to the preceding three months, and 76% higher than the same period last year.
Chestertons’ price index showed that average prices for properties in London’s higher value locations, such as Chelsea, Knightsbridge, and Mayfair, were 1.4% lower than at the end of June and were 0.7% lower than in September 2019.
Investors are also able to take advantage of the UK Government stamp duty tax holiday initiative, either as a homeowner, by purchasing second homes or buy-to-let properties.
A homebuyer purchasing their first property will be exempt from paying any stamp duty tax, up to GBP 500,000 (AED 2.36 million), resulting in a potential saving of up to GBP 15,000 (AED 70,000). The zero percent rate was only previously applicable to properties valued up to GBP 125,000 (AED 587,500), with the rate increasing to 2% up to GBP 250,000 (AED 1.175 million) and then 5% up to GBP 925,000 (AED 4.347 million).
“This would mean Middle East investors purchasing second homes or buy-to-let properties up to GBP 500,000 (AED 2.36 million) will be subject to a 3% surcharge. From the 1st April 2021, this will increase to 5%, therefore an investor from Dubai purchasing a buy-to-let property in London worth GBP 300,000 (AED 1.14 million) between now and the 31st March would have the potential to save GBP 6,000 (AED28,200),” said Chan.
This is further compounded, particularly for UAE investors pegged to the US dollar, to take advantage of the weak pound, resulting in their UAE dirham earnings going much further.
In the London leasing market, although rents fell by 7.5% from January to September, demand remains incredibly high with Chestertons recording a 170% increase in the number of tenancies it agreed compared to the previous three months and a 42% increase compared to the same period last year.
“From a property price perspective, we expect prices to grow by up to 2% in 2021, and believe there is potential for rents to recover more quickly if corporate demand picks up and foreign students are confident of returning to the UK. This underscores the strength of the market and could provide further impetus for Middle East investors,” concluded Chan.