UK homes for 'export' offer investors potential rewards

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 1:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2012, 3:54pm

Some investment advisers say Hong Kong buyers of British property are better off purchasing older homes than brand new ones. Second-hand homes can be less expensive to buy, produce higher rental yields and can have more value adding improvements made to them. And yet, many Hong Kong buyers continue to buy new builds. Why?

One reason is that it's easier, as David Roberts, Asia CEO of architects, Aedas, will testify. The Hong Kong-based architect bought a lower ground floor flat in a Georgian property in Bayswater, west London, but sold it without even spending one night there because the local planning authority would not permit him to make internal changes. “Even moving a wall to make the master bedroom bathroom was rejected,” he says. He then opted to buy off-plan because it was less time-consuming, purchasing a two-bedroom apartment at One Tower Bridge, a Berkeley Homes scheme being built next to the Thames in Southwark, for £1.6 million, a few months ago.

Working within British planning rules is difficult even if you are in the country, but the 10,000 kilometre distance and eight hour time difference makes it prohibitively so for many Hong Kong buyers. It is the same for purchasers from other distant locations.

Ironically, this planning “nightmare” has created a dream sales market for British developers well versed in the planning system to build and refurbish homes for “export” to foreigners. Even some British home-owners knock down their own abodes to replace them with bigger, furnished houses designed to appeal to overseas buyers. It can be highly profitable. For example, Newnham, a brand new, £15 million house in Surrey, a county bordering south west London, is five-times more valuable than the century-old home it replaced, because it has the mod cons and lavish entertaining spaces wanted by Russian buyers. Of course, this means Hong Kong investors who develop British properties can reap big rewards too. Anyone want to share a success story?