Tips for Hong Kong Buyers Looking to Invest in the UK Property Market

Posted in Ask An Estate Agent, Before You Buy

Unless you’ve been taking self-isolation to the extreme, you’ll be aware of the recent political developments in Hong Kong — more specifically, the enactment of the national security law — and how it’s been a cause of international concern.

As a result, leaders of countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom have suggested reassessments to their visa systems, offering Hong Kong residents new routes towards citizenship, should they feel the need to relocate. Yesterday, on 22 July 2020, the United Kingdom became the first to confirm its renewed visa policy, specifically directing to the three million British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong.

According to the statement, Hong Kong’s BNO holders can apply for a special visa starting in January 2021, which will allow them the right to work and study in the UK for up to five years. They will then be able to apply for settlement, and seek citizenship after a further year.

Many are expecting an influx of affluent Hong Kong citizens moving to the UK following such an announcement, especially over the next 12 months. In response to these developments, London-based Montague Real Estate is establishing a new division — of Cantonese translators, legal experts and lifestyle advisors — to help meet this anticipated demand for premium properties for High Net Worth Hong Kong citizens. We’ve gotten in touch with founder and CEO Thomas Balashev, who shared with us some of his knowledge of the UK’s prime residential property market, as well as tips and advice to those seeking to relocate to the country.

Can you tell us a bit about the prime residential property market in the UK?

TB: The UK property market has always been a prime investment opportunity for international buyers, including those in Asia. London isn’t just a desirable place to live and do business, it is a stable and reliable point for investment. With world-class educational institutions, a stable economy and a central hub for business internationally, the UK property market makes for an attractive investment. This, coupled with the current nine-month stamp duty holiday the UK government has introduced [from 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021], has created an injection into the market meaning it is a prime time to buy in the UK with some buyers saving on additional costs. 

As the current economy has seen the majority of the UK working from home, and with many organisations looking to continue this for the foreseeable future, consumers have become more aware of their space at home, both inside and out — which has become a priority for buyers. Buyers are now not only looking for a definitive line between working and living, but private outside space which has meant that houses have become more popular than flats. 

Five bedroom terrace house for sale in Knightsbridge, London

How would the surge in demand for premium residential properties from Hong Kong affect the current market?  

TB: Whilst it is, of course, natural that demand will increase following the announcement from the UK government and current political position in Hong Kong, London has, and always will be a favoured destination to buy and invest for overseas clients. With over 200,000 properties in London being owned by Asian clients, we have seen an increase in activity from Hong Kong buyers over the last two to three years. Some may question inventory levels as a result of the surge, but the majority of our previous transactions for our HNW and UHNW clients have happened off-market so inventory is never an issue. 

So far which areas are of particular interest to Hong Kong buyers? Are there different areas suited for young professionals, families, and older demographics?

TB: Neighbourhoods in London, like anywhere, have different offerings which naturally appeal to different clients. Our previous buyers have taken interest in Knightsbridge, Belgravia and Islington. However, we often see younger clients such as students and young professionals opt for regenerated spaces in East London which reflect the high-rise living they are accustomed to in Hong Kong. These developments usually come with serviced living options and progressive smart home interiors making them as modern and sophisticated as possible.  

With that being said, a number of clients invest in areas surrounding open spaces such as Hyde Park and Richmond Park. These locations offer an escape and the more natural side of London — something that isn’t overly accessible in Hong Kong. Our clients with families, however, have taken an interest in our super-prime listings in the home counties such as Surrey and Kent, with accessible links to central London and key airports for global travel. 

11 bedroom detached house for sale in Surrey

Are there any legal restrictions for overseas buyers with a BNO passport? 

TB: The details of the BNO visa are yet to be fully revealed. However, having a five year stay assured would allow buyers to feel confident in investing in an area like London, knowing they can build a life and a future here.

Any advice for those who might not wish to relocate yet, but looking to invest in a property to hold on to or rent out for now as a safety plan?

TB: Foreign investors buying properties in London with a view to rent them out has always proved popular. There is a strong rental market in London suiting all budgets, with a quarter of all those aged under 40 in the UK looking to rent. The devaluation of the Pound Sterling over the last few years also makes now an excellent time to buy.

Depending on a foreign investor’s circumstances, they may or may not need to pay income tax on their rental income. However, in the long term, investing in a property will be a steady source of income whilst providing an option to relocate permanently.

What should Hong Kong buyers be aware of before deciding on a purchase in the UK?

TB: Buyers looking to invest into the UK property market should be aware that there are different requirements for different types of property acquisitions. These requirements will also differ between buy-to-let and buying for residential purposes.

The recent [reduced rates for stamp duty land tax] mean that until 31 March 2021 buyers will only have to pay stamp duty on properties over £500,000 (previously it was set at £125,000, or £300,000 for first-time buyers), but note that the government does implement a ‘holding charge’ on residential properties valued at over £2 million owned by non-UK domiciled persons. As for those from abroad who don’t live in the UK, don’t have UK citizenship, and don’t want to pay in cash, it is of course still possible to secure a buy-to-let mortgage in the UK to cover the property purchase price.

Thomas Balashev is the founder and CEO of Montague Real Estate, a London-based boutique real estate firm and private office specialising in complex global property investments and acquisitions. Balashev’s involvement in the property space stretches a decade, partnering with key developers in Cyprus, Dubai and Mainland Europe to provide luxury real estate to his clients across the globe.

Cindie Chan

How Battersea Power Station Is Re-electrifying the London Property Scene

Posted in Distinguished Developers

Originally built by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott at the behest of the London Power Company, Battersea Power Station was considered one of the world’s largest brick structures until the 1940s. The massive coal-fired power plant, situated on the southern estuary of the River Thames, is well-known for its imposing four-chimney structure; and its pervasive status in pop culture. (It features prominently in the cover art for Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals, and more recently, was an important shoot location in the 2008 film The Dark Knight.)

Now, 37 years after being decommissioned, the ‘Temple of Power’ has emerged from years of redevelopment as one of London’s most exciting new lifestyle, living and heritage destinations. Work on the long-defunct Battersea master site has been overseen by a consortium of Malaysian developers (i.e. SP Setia, PNB, Employees Provident Fund, Sime Darby Property) with Circus West Village — the first phase of the project — recently completed.

This regenerated neighbourhood is currently home to over 1,000 residents: A vibrant community made up of hundreds of homes and various retail and dining outlets, against a backdrop of the Thames and the original Power Station building. Reportedly one of the fastest-selling developments when it was first offered to the public in 2013, Circus West offers the sort of well-rounded living experience that has since become a benchmark for premium estates in London: residents occupy a variety of one to three-bedroom flats or a handful of exclusive waterfront penthouses, all of which confer access to the Riverhouse members’ club.

The best, however, is yet to come, as Battersea management continues to work (amid the unique challenges of London’s post-lockdown environment) through the second and third phases of the development.

Battersea Power Station
Retail complex at the Battersea Power Station.

At the centre of phase two is a top-to-bottom refurbishment of the Power Station itself, with architecture firm WilkinsonEyre instructed to infuse the original Art-Deco structure “with a 21st century sensibility.” Currently scheduled to open to the public in 2021, the Power Station will house 253 new apartments in addition to a multi-storey retail complex (mocked up above). Among a host of big international names, Apple has announced it will move its London campus to the building.

Battersea Roof Garden, by Foster and Partners.

For the third phase of Battersea’s redevelopment, both Foster and Partners and Gehry Partners were tapped to design the Battersea Roof Gardens and Prospect Place respectively — intended to function as “the gateway to the entire development and new Northern [underground] line extension.”

The Frank Gehry-designed Prospect Place.

Despite still being in the preliminary stages, Prospect Place is already being hailed as an extremely important project for Gehry Partners — the firm’s first private residence in the UK. It’s reported — in the convention of the traditional London townhome — all buildings will be built with access to a private garden; whereas every individual apartment will have access to its own terrace or winter green space.

For inquiries, email sales@batterseapowerstation.co.uk or visit Battersea Power Station online for more details.

Randy Lai

London Rising: 6 Notable New Developments in the British Capital

Posted in What to Buy

Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, it it apparent that investment in the UK’s residential property is still on a high and was seen to go up 150% in 2018 (as reported by broker JLL London), thanks to the lures and luxury of London. But with so many new developments in all stretches of the capital, where does one even begin to scout property? From brand new buildings to historical transformations, these are the most intriguing developments in London to follow, visit and perhaps invest in right now.

Chelsea Barracks, Belgravia

Formerly the British Army barracks, which was out of public reach for over 150 years, the Chelsea Barracks has been something of a controversial talking point since real estate investment company Qatari Diar paid a record breaking record amount for British land, GBP 959 million (approx. HK$9.2 million), in 2007. But now, over 12 years on and the first residents have finally moved in, while new penthouses and townhouses go on sale and more phases are in construction for eventual completion. Other elements to open up include landscaped public green spaces that have a distinct theme. Today, Chelsea Barracks continue to offer luxury British living at its finest, making it evident that they will still be one of London’s newest and most esteemed enclaves. 

The Mansion, Mayfair

Boasting 23 luxury residences, The Mansion is Clivedale London’s boutique development of unique apartments. By enlisting German-based firm NBK Terracotta, a bespoke terracotta façade warms the building’s exterior while also paying homage to other Edwardian-style homes in the area. Officially complete, the residences range from studio apartments to penthouses, all of which feature a modern yet timeless elegance. Residents of The Mansion will of course, also benefit from amenities and services including a private residents’ lounge, spa, fitness centre, and Marylebone’s longest private indoor swimming pool. Bonus services such as the chauffeur-driven Bentley house car doesn’t hurt either. 

10 Park Drive, Canary Wharf

Down in the Docklands is the first of Canary Wharf Group’s residential developments: Ten Park Drive. Overlooking the South Dock, the development is just opposite of the Herzog and de Meuron development — One Park Drive — and encompasses two towers. The 42-storey and 13-storey buildings offers 345 one, two and three-bedroom apartments in the centre of Canary Wharf’s residential area Wood Wharf. Residents will benefit from the building’s concierge team, sky terrace, private club, and state-of-the-art health club. Inside, the interiors boast the design marks of celebrated interior designers Stanton Williams, and is fitted with a colour palette that complements the building’s surrounding, with natural woods and clean lines to further enhance natural light into the space. Set to complete in the first quarter of 2020, this property is worth keeping your eye on.

1 Ashley Road, Tottenham Hale

Tottenham Hale, said to be one of London’s next great neighbourhoods, is getting something of a facelift with 1 Ashley Road as its first development in the centre of it all. Sitting in a bustling hub for international transport, the area is easy to get to and from. It’s also designed by the team behind the regeneration of King’s Cross, Alison Brooks Architects, and they have created what could be a landmark building with a warm brick façade, street-level shops and garden terraces. Anticipated for completion in 2022, the offering ranges from studios to three-bedroom apartments, all of which have been given interiors of mixed textures and finishings in bright but warm neutrals materials.

The Atlas Building, Old Street

The Atlas Building, London

Standing 152 metres tall over the rest of the Old Street area in London’s Tech City is mixed-use scheme The Atlas Building, which saw its first residents move in this month. With just a handful of the 302 apartments remaining, this new development is hot property and one to keep a watchful eye on. Designed by MAKE Architects, which was funded by Foster + Partners architect alum Ken Shuttleworth, the building is said to embody the area’s creativity, culture, energy and entrepreneurship. This can also be seen in the office spaces, urban farming and a restaurant that occupy some of the other floors. Meanwhile The Atlas residences can also benefit from lifestyle amenities such as a gym, swimming pool, spa, cinema room and private lounge. 

Principal Tower, Hackney

When Foster + Partners, who also transformed The Murray hotel in Hong Kong, designed their first London residential tower, it was obvious that both architecture and design would be exceptional. This rings true for Principal Tower, which combines residential, office, and retail space alongside a half-acre public piazza. Rising 175 meters above the city of London and Shoreditch, the building is Central London’s tallest and has views looking towards Canary Wharf in the East and the Houses of Parliament in the West. 

Fontaine Cheng
Born and bred in London, Fontaine is a self-proclaimed foodie with extensive experience in the luxury lifestyle landscape. When not exploring the world — discovering cultures and tasting new dishes — she can be found sipping a nice cup of tea (or G&T) hoping to adopt a puppy.

London’s High-End Property Market Is on the Rise Again

Posted in Market Report

London’s high-end real estate market is showing continuing signs of recovery, according to the latest property index from Coutts. Prime property prices in the city crept up again in the second quarter, leaving them 3.1% higher than they were at the end of last year, said the private bank and wealth manager in last week’s report. 

Helping to support prices is a lack of supply and increasing demand. Sales activity was up 21.4% in the second quarter compared to the previous three-month period. 

Despite the recent uptick, prime prices are still 14.5% lower than they were in 2014, making high-end properties in the city good value to buyers. But those same low prices are also discouraging sellers from listing their homes. The number of prime properties on the market in London is down 12.5% compared to the same period last year. 

“Fewer properties on offer means that competition can be intense among buyers for desirable properties when they come up, and it’s not surprising to see gazumping on the rise,” Katherine O’Shea, of Coutts real estate investment services, said in the report. 

Gazumping refers to the unfavorable practice of accepting a higher bid on a property at the last minute despite having already accepted a verbal offer. 

Prime supply has dropped most in the neighborhoods of Kensington, Notting Hill and Holland Park, where inventory across the three areas is down roughly 25% compared to the second quarter in 2018, the report said.  It’s up most in the neighborhoods of Kings Cross and Islington, where there has been an almost 15% increase in supply in the same time. 

Staff Writer