Attracted by all those newly built British apartments being displayed in Hong Kong estate agents' windows? Be careful. I am an accidental landlady, having bought a small, newly built flat in the north London borough of Haringey in 2004, which I rented out after moving to Hong Kong. My flat is near universities and borders the 2012 Olympics development zone. It is a 15-minute train ride from London's financial district, and offers stunning views of the historic Alexandra Palace. A Land Registry search suggests it is worth around GBP170,000 (HK$2.09 million), which is about the same price as units in many outer London developments being touted in Hong Kong. Estate agents would probably call it a fantastic investment. But I recommend you do not buy anything like it. Being an overseas landlord is painful. My previous tenants have skipped rental payments, knowing I am not around to hurry them along. Then, because most British apartment blocks do not have 24-hour doormen, there is the vandalism. Once, the electronic lock on our door broke. A homeless lady immediately installed herself on the stairwell, which would have been fine had she not been quite so fond of smoking heroin. Then a gang of teenagers rampaged through the corridors, spraying graffiti. Still attracted by brand new flats in London or Manchester? You may not be able to get a mortgage. That is because British banks, who know a thing or two about economic forecasting, suspect the value of newly built apartments is heading south. I have a 70 per cent mortgage, a perfect credit history, and reliable tenants on a three-year lease. When I was shopping for a cheaper home loan recently, brokers said I could only borrow 60 per cent of my apartment's value. They explained British banks view me as a high-risk borrower, because I live abroad. But Hong Kong is not Honduras or Haiti. I am unlikely to be caught up in a military coup or felled by an earthquake. Instead, I run the risk of an appreciating currency making my salary, in sterling terms, look higher. Hong Kong's low tax rate also means I also risk saving lots of money and repaying my home loan early. British banks are probably looking for any excuse to reduce their buy-to-let exposure. Consultancy Capital Economics reckons British house prices are 20 per cent overvalued. And newly built flats seem the most vulnerable. Buy-to-let investors contributed to a huge house price bubble that ended with the 2008 recession. As they rushed to cash in on rising prices, landlords often remortgaged their existing flats to buy more. Builders went into overdrive to meet this burgeoning demand. The result, particularly in northern cities such as Manchester, was a glut of new apartments owned by landlords. There were 650,000 empty homes in Britain at the end of last year. The Empty Homes Agency estimates 85 per cent of vacant properties are buy-to-let flats. A two-bed, newly built duplex in Ribbleton, near Manchester, sold at auction last month for only GBP14,000. Even though Britain has 7.8 per cent unemployment, which could rise further as the new coalition government is slashing jobs in the public sector, British property does look tempting. Rental yields in some London boroughs are running as high as 6 per cent. And the weak pound makes real estate purchases even cheaper. But I still wish I had bought a flat in Hong Kong.