CONCRETE ANALYSIS

Britain's housing market remains strong and stable for savvy investors

Whichever party wins the general election, the housing market's fundamentals will not change, which is good news for investors

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 2:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2015, 2:00am

While the focus in Hong Kong may still be on electoral reforms, in Britain the long-awaited general election is taking place tomorrow. British housing remains one of the first choices for investors in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Some may be asking how a new government could affect the property market in London and elsewhere.

As is often the case with any political milestone, some investors have taken a cautious, wait-and-see approach, preferring to hold off on buying until there is a certain outcome. Others have taken the long-term view, realising that demand for well-located property will continue to grow, regardless of the election outcome. This is particularly true of London and areas affected by the Crossrail development, creating a new east-west route across Greater London and set for completion in 2018.

The good news for investors is that whichever party is voted in, the fundamentals of Britain's housing market will not change. The country has a major housing shortage and demand is continuing to rise due to a number of recent measures such as the Help to Buy ISA scheme and pension freedom reforms. All the political parties have made property development a priority in their election manifestos in order to address this issue.

There could, however, be an impact on high-value investments in London. The Labour Party has proposed an annual mansion tax for properties of more than £2 million (HK$23.4 million). This could further encourage investors to seek out new pockets of value beyond prime central London, such as in outer London or cities such as Manchester, that will fall under the £2 million threshold and offer stable, sustainable yields and capital appreciation.

All the political parties have also emphasised the importance of devolving more powers away from London and investing in second-tier cities. The incumbent Conservative party has set out a powerful "Northern Powerhouse" vision, which will direct more than £7 billion to boost economic connectivity across the main northern cities - Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield. All parties have committed to making sure that the economic future of the north is bright.

In light of these developments, Manchester is rising up the ranks as one of the most compelling investment cases outside London. It has already attracted a great deal of commercial investment, particularly in the digital and creative industries. The city's excellent transport links are also a strong pull for investors. Manchester Airport is Britain's third-busiest airport, with direct flights to Hong Kong, Singapore and other global hubs. Meanwhile, demand for property is soaring, with conservative estimates stating that more than 50,000 people will move to the city in the next decade.

As with any political change, it is important to seek advice from experts familiar with the British property investment landscape before committing to any purchase. Any pre-election lull will likely be followed by a surge of activity as the "wait and see" investors move in. Where property values do rise, the first-mover advantage post-election will be particularly important.

Beyond short-term gains, the reality is that the election's outcome is unlikely to have an impact on the growth achievable by the five- to 10-year minimum investment cycle approach that well-informed investors take. Many people - and not only British voters - will be waiting with bated breath for the election outcome tomorrow. Yet whatever the ballot boxes decide, Britain remains a strong, stable market for any savvy property investor.

Jonathan Benarr is a senior investment manager at IP Global, focusing on Britain and Europe

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