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UK market attractive for buyers in Hong Kong, China and Singapore

Cooling measures in Hong Kong, the mainland and Singapore are persuading buyers to invest in overseas properties, especially Britain

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 5:07am

Developers of overseas projects are benefiting from the measures being taken by governments in Hong Kong, Singapore and the mainland to curb demand in their property markets.

Some firms plan to speed up launches across the world at lower prices in order to capture the anticipated growth in demand as investors respond to the restrictions by turning to offshore markets. Units are being sold for as low as £43,000 (HK$497,000).

"We are seeing a steady increase in the number of people looking to buy overseas," said Ashley Osborne, executive director of international properties, Asia at consultancy Colliers International.

From January to early March there had been a 20 per cent increase in inquiries from Hong Kong and Singapore when compared with the same period in 2012, said Osborne. Transactions concluded in this period rose at a similar pace.

The steps taken by governments in the region to cool off their property markets is one of the reasons investors are looking for investment opportunities abroad, he said.

Late last month, Hong Kong property investors bore the brunt of a third round of property cooling measures since Leung Chun-ying took office on July 1 last year, including the doubling of stamp duty and a further tightened of mortgage lending.

Singapore and the mainland also announced higher taxes on property ownership and property buying.

"So far this year, we have seen a slight increase in buyer inquiries since the recent cooling measures in Hong Kong, which have encouraged investors to look internationally for property investments," said Paul Eden, chief executive of UK-based developer Regal Homes.

To capture the growing appetite among investors for overseas properties, developers of projects in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, the Bahamas and Dubai were marketing their developments to investors in the region.

Traditionally, investors in the London market shop with budgets of between £400,000 and £800,000. But student apartments priced as low as £43,000 are now being offered in Hong Kong, Singapore, and the mainland to cater for smaller investors.

"Owners can enjoy a guaranteed return of not less than 7 per cent in five years," said a sales agent from Century 21st, an agency that sells student accommodation in Plymouth, in southwest England. Units are sized from 12.2 square metres to 35 square metres and cost £43,000 to £57,000 each. No mortgage is provided and the property can be resold, but it is restricted for student accommodation only, the agent said.

Osborne said other contributing factors behind the increased interest in London properties were the depreciation of the pound, and limited supply in the city. "The rental market is very strong in London," he said.

Earlier, developer Berkeley Group said Singaporeans were the biggest overseas buyers of the UK homes it built. The group sells 40 per cent of its properties to people living outside the UK, it added.

Nick Cassini, director of worldwide sales at Baha Mar development in the Bahamas, said the developer would arrange more exhibitions to educate mainlanders about the Bahamas and the company's projects, because their buying interest in overseas markets was growing.