International Property

Why buying properties in Britain is good parenting for Hongkongers

Some Hong Kong residents buy London homes when their children are still babies, say UK agents

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 2:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 7:43pm

Preparing for their children’s education is the major reason why many Hongkongers and mainlanders invest in properties in Britain, a trend that has been accelerating since the Brexit vote weakened the value of the pound, according to agents.

Peter Gibney, director of City and East London residential development with Jones Lang LaSalle, said many parents use property investment to finance their children’s education in Britain.

“There are a lot of children from Hong Kong, China and South East Asia who are studying at boarding schools or universities in Britain. The British education system has a good reputation so that if the children can get a prestigious degree at Oxford, Cambridge or other universities in Britain, they could easily get jobs internationally,” Gibney told the South China Morning Post in an interview in London.

“Many parents thus bought the properties in London or Britain for their children to live in during their study, while some are investing for their future education fees,” he said.

“These parents are very good at planning. Some buy the British properties when their children are still babies. When the children grow up, their investment gain in the properties could be used for their education fees in Britain.”

Gibney said these investors are not chasing quick and sharp investment gains of 20 or 30 per cent, rather they would like to have stable, long-term returns to pay for the education of their children.

“Britain is not having a crazy property price hike every year but it has a stable return. In London, the return is about 7 to 10 per cent every year over the past five years which is better than many other European cities,” he said.

Gibney added that British building regulations require that the propery project must be completed on time and as planned, which makes Chinese and Asian investors feel comfortable.

Edwin Chiu, managing director of Vantage Properties, also said education plays a key role in the UK property market. “Many Hong Kong property investors want to invest in the British areas close to their children’s study,” said the Hongkonger who set up his property agency in Canary Wharf in 1992.

“They don’t just keep an eye on investment returns when they choose what to invest in. They want to buy a property their children would like to stay in when they are studying in Britain. This is why properties in locations close to well-known collages are most sought after,” Chiu told the Post in London.

Chiu said they also looked for properties close to good transportation facilities in order to access the school areas.

“Some of my clients started buying these properties when their children were only seven or eight years old. They hope that when their children grow up they can enter well known universities and live in the properties. If not, they can still rent out the places to other students,” Chiu said.

Chiu said an 800 sq feet two-bedroom flat in London has risen in value by six times since 1992.

Many Hongkongers have asked for information about buying property in London in recent weeks, Chiu said, as they sought overseas investments after the Hong Kong government doubled the stamp duty for non first-time home buyers to 15 per cent in early November.

Gibney also said he has had many Hong Kong investors calling up in the past two weeks.

One residential project attracting the attention not only of Hong Kong investors, but those from Asia as well as in London, is Spire London – now on sale with JLL as the agent.

Developed by mainland China’s Greenland Group, the £800 million project will be completed in 2020, and at 235 metres and 67 storeys high will become the tallest residential tower in Western Europe. It will accommodate 765 apartments priced from £685,000 (HK$6.65 million) each.

Gibney said a shortage of residential units in London has pushed up prices as the London government targeted to provide 40,000 units every year but eventually could only build about 20,000 a year.

“The location of Spire is right in the heart of Canary Wharf which is just a few minutes walk from the offices of HSBC and other top commercial buildings in the area. Highly paid executives want to live on the top floors and enjoy the swimming pool and cinema at the 35th floor of the building,” he said.

Gibney said the Brexit vote in June, when Britons opted to leave the European Union, has boosted sales of properties in London because the sterling has since fallen 15 per cent against the US dollar.

“The exit of the European Union would also mean Britain no longer needs to follow the EU rule to cap the bankers’ bonus. We can pay higher bonuses to our bankers to attract the best talent to work in London... this is positive for the property market outlook in London,” he said.