Watch your flat being built

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2012, 10:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2012, 10:17am

It’s that time of year, when a London property developer’s thoughts turn to that reliable source of building finance, the Hong Kong speculator, er investor. This involves lining a Mandarin Oriental hotel room with swish computer-generated images of swanky residential blocks with an impressive address, such as Millharbour Village, Canary Wharf. Plus a team of eager agents. These flats only exist in the developer’s imagination, because you, dear investor, are going to hand over the money for him to build them. Or he will arrange for you to borrow the money to give to him, etc, with “free mortgage advice” on hand.  

Then, construction complete, the remaining flats will be marketed locally in London, at, you and the developer hope, a higher price. Having been through this process, the London buyers then do a double-take when they move in to find their neighbours and landlords are mostly from Hong Kong.

Buying off-plan gives your average British property investor a nervous twitch, but stoic Hongkongers are made of sterner stuff. They happily hand over Hk$5 million to a developer 7,000 miles away, before piling even starts, for completion three years hence. The gamble being that in three years prices will have risen and everyone will be happy.

Buyer Beware

Last weekend’s off-plan exhibition offerings for London featured several developments. In addition to the Greenwich project, there was Lincoln Plaza, Millharbour Village, Canary Wharf. Strange; when I lived two streets away, this spot was 20 Millharbour in Poplar, Isle of Dogs, otherwise known as the Docklands and Canary Wharf was a brisk 25 minute stroll away. I always took the bus. Lincoln Plaza has a compact one-bed 468sq ft net flat for sterling 335,000, and a 2-bed 680sq ft net for sterling 445,000, completion 2015.

Up north is Regent Canalside, Camden, London NW1, (on Camden Road next to Sainsbury’s, if you’re local,) described as being “in the heart of London’s coolest postcode.” Very debatable. A 560sq ft net one-bed here will set you back sterling 480,000, completion 2014, with 52 units and  no parking spaces, big clue to where the developer is coming from. This is not the worst example of property advert lily gilding.

Worse and more typical is the Greenwich block, which claims it will be “a historical London development, in the heart of Greenwich, yet moments from the city.” Historical? It’s brand new. Moments?  If they mean the City of London, as in the financial district, it’s a good half an hour away. If they mean the West End, add an extra 15 minutes. Didn’t Richard Teoh think this was misleading the punters?

“We’ve had no such comments from clients,” he retorted. Isn’t that because they are unfamiliar with London? “No. in London a normal commute is one to two hours. It’s subjective. Relatively, this is “moments,” he added, unconvincingly. Did he really think that?  “Well, no I agree with you,” he admitted, reluctantly. If the agents themselves know the truth, who writes this rubbish?