Insight – what does the 2% SDLT surcharge mean for overseas investors?

To no-one’s surprise, there haven’t been petitions or concerted pressure from the public, MPs and trade bodies regarding the introduction of an extra 2% stamp duty surcharge on non-UK buyers from April 1 2021.

The surcharge, announced in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first Budget last March, was widely expected, although some anticipated it would be higher.

While many operating at the prime end of the property market – where overseas purchasers make up a big chunk of buyers – were unhappy with the introduction of the extra surcharge, there has been no intense lobbying to government to reverse the decision, more of a grudging acceptance.

As mentioned, this isn’t really a surprise when you consider it will mostly be wealthy overseas individuals and companies who will be affected by the change, and public sympathy for such a cause – particularly at this time – would be very low.

That said, it’s not just rich overseas investors who might be impacted by the change. As HMRC concedes in its own policy paper – New rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax for non-UK residents from April 1 2021 – ‘most individuals will be clear as to their residence status for the purposes of SDLT but some individuals with more complex affairs or who have regular periods in and out of the UK may require additional advice and incur additional costs in determining their tax liability’.

What’s more, it adds: ‘Customer experience could be negatively impacted as this measure may create complexity for individuals in establishing the rate at which SDLT is payable on their property purchase. To support, we will produce guidance setting out how individuals can determine their residence status and whether they are entitled to claim a refund.”

“This measure may impact family formation, stability or breakdown by increasing upfront costs for some non-UK residents purchasing a home in England or Northern Ireland. It could affect customer decisions around the type and location of property purchased.”

Expats who have residence or dual-nationality elsewhere, or those who move between countries on a regular basis for work or investment purposes, could find themselves affected. The legislation is likely to prove very technical and nuanced, with some potentially forced to pay the extra stamp duty even when this shouldn’t be the case.

What is being brought in and who is likely to be affected?

The new measure will introduce new rates of stamp duty for buyers of residential property in England and Northern Ireland who are not resident in the UK, and will also affect conveyancers and other professionals who advise on such transactions.

The new rates will be 2% higher than those that apply to purchases made by UK residents, and will apply to purchases of both freehold and leasehold property, as well as increasing SDLT payable on rents on the grant of a new lease. The stamp duty will be on top of the 3% owed on second and buy-to-let homes and the normal rates of stamp duty everyone must pay when purchasing a property in the UK (outside of the current stamp duty holiday, which is set to end on March 31 2021).

Operationally, the measure will apply to land transactions with an effective date of April 1 2021 or later, but where contracts were exchanged prior to March 11 2020 but complete or are substantially performed on or after April 1 2021, transitional rules may apply.

Transitional rules may also apply where a contract is substantially performed on or before March 31 2021 but does not complete until April 1 2021 or later.

As was stated in the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto, the revenue raised – previously stated by Sunak to be around £650 million each year – will be put towards tackling rough sleeping, with the main objective of the policy being to make house prices more affordable, ‘helping people get onto and move up the housing ladder in line with wider objectives on homeownership’.

Theresa May first mooted the measure at the Tory Party conference in October 2018, to make it easier for domestic buyers to buy homes that might otherwise go to wealthy individuals or companies from abroad, who then keep them as investments (often known as Buy to Leave) or rent them out at ’inflated’ prices.

Previously, the government pointed to figures which show that 13% of new London homes were bought by non-residents between 2014 and 2016, while it’s also stated that it’s unfair that foreign individuals and companies who do not pay UK tax can buy homes as easily as those who already live here and contribute.

The surcharge introduced in April represents a beefing up of the 1% tax consulted on during Theresa May’s time as Prime Minister, but a slight downgrading of the 3% proposal put forward by the Conservatives during 2019’s election campaign

It was stated that, under those proposals, a wealthy overseas buyer of a £1.5 million home in London would pay £183,750 in stamp duty compared with £93,750 for a Londoner buying the property for their own use.

Brexit has already caused a decline in the number of properties owned by overseas companies in England and Wales, and the future double whammy of Brexit and the 2% surcharge – plus the current travel restrictions caused by Covid – may dissuade overseas investors from investing money into the UK. Equally, some expats who have been living elsewhere and now want to return to the UK may find it much harder to buy without facing increased levels of stamp duty.

We will only know how many people will be affected, and how smooth the system functions, when it has been introduced and has had time to bed in.

There has been no mad rush from overseas investors to purchase homes before the new stamp duty is introduced as of yet. The fact that there will have been more than a year between the announcement of the measure and its implementation has allowed investors plenty of time to prepare, while some suggest it has largely been baked into the market already.

For the prime London market, the pandemic has meant a mixed picture. Astons, an international property and residency consultancy, recently claimed the sold prices of homes in some prime London locations have collapsed by up to 40% during the pandemic, while other prime London postcodes have seen sold prices soar – in one case by 54%.

Knight Frank said at the end of last year that it believed the conclusion of a Brexit deal before the end of the transition period meant that 2021 would see more international buyers in the UK, but that was before Lockdown 3.0 and much tougher border controls and restrictions on travel were introduced. It also seems likely that the extra surcharge will have some kind of dampening effect on the market, as a further deterrent to overseas investment.

How will the market function after the introduction of the 2% surcharge?

Camilla Dell, founder and managing partner of buying agency Black Brick, believes the 2% surcharge for overseas buyers will have some impact.

“It’s unlikely to be the same as we’ve seen before, when typically, stamp duties have been absorbed into the market,” she says.

“There will certainly be some parts of the market that will be more vulnerable to the 2% surcharge from April 1 and will see prices come down in line with the increase. This includes high-density new-builds in secondary/tertiary parts of London which are very much focused on the overseas buyers’ market, for example Battersea Power Station, Canary Wharf and Lillie Square.”

Will the new surcharge along with Covid and Brexit have a dampening impact on overseas investment in Britain moving forward?

“It’s difficult to remember the last time a client asked about what impact Brexit is going to have on the London property market, so we feel this is less of an issue this year,” Dell comments.

“In terms of any impact on pricing, we believe it’s been baked into the market already and prices are unlikely to be affected by Brexit now we’ve left the EU, secured a deal, and established that the hundreds of thousands of people that were predicted to leave the city haven’t.”

She adds: “For our overseas clients, what’s more of a concern to them is the foreign exchange rate and some of that advantage has evaporated for US dollar clients as sterling has strengthened this year.”

In terms of the pandemic, Dell says her clients are not worried about its effect on property prices, ‘it’s more about staying safe on viewings’.

“What we’re seeing is the really serious buyers coming through; gone are the window shoppers, so what we’re seeing are committed and serious domestic and overseas buyers which is really positive,” she continues.

“Despite the current lockdown and new travel restrictions, overseas buyers will still be coming to the UK looking for purchases, including from countries such as the US. The pace at which Black Brick has signed new clients so far this year is extraordinary and a sign that appetite for London property is still strong. Since January 1, Black Brick has acquired six new clients – four from overseas (including the US and Africa) and two from the UK.”

 

London house prices: are there property bargains to be had in the big city?

The magnetism of living in the capital is losing its power. Is now the time to make your move, asks Melissa York

The magnetism of living in the capital is losing its power. Is now the time to make your move, asks Melissa York

To walk around the streets of central London today is to know what it’s like to be in a zombie apocalypse. Streets empty, shops closed, pubs forlorn, the desertion would have been unthinkable only a year ago.

Like the rest of the country, the city is in national lockdown, but what will it look like when restrictions do finally ease? Blinded by the big city lights, will we happily hand over half of our salaries again to live in shoebox flats with no outside space, or will we decide that there’s more to life than theatre and fine dining?

This isn’t just a London problem. In New York, 300,000 residents have fled, many of them to warmer, low-tax states, reports the US Postal Service. The same number could leave our global metropolis, according to PwC’s latest economic outlook paper. It would be the first time that London’s population has fallen since 1988.

And that’s a conservative estimate: a survey by the London Assembly carried out in August — as in, two lockdowns ago — found that 4.5 per cent of Londoners, or 416,000 people, said they would definitely move out of the city within the next 12 months.

Many already have. The number of homeowners buying outside of London hit a four-year high in December, despite the housing market being closed for nearly two months, according to data from estate agency Hamptons International.

As a result, there are more homes on sale. London is the only region in the UK that has seen an increase in supply of new properties coming to market.

Even with buyers rushing to get sales through before the stamp duty holiday deadline, in the first two weeks of the year there were 12 per cent more homes to buy in the capital, says property portal Zoopla; nationally, there were 12 per cent fewer.

Most of these are flats, with owners trading up to houses for more space and investors selling off their buy-to-lets in the face of falling rents amid talk of a change to capital gains tax in the upcoming budget.

 

Space is at a premium now, so bargain hunters are much more likely to get a discount on a flat than a house. At the end of last year the price of a flat in prime London fell 1.3 per cent compared with the same period in 2019, but house prices increased 5.7 per cent, according to data analyst LonRes.

Indeed, there was a 6 per cent rise in the amount spent on houses in London’s top postcodes in 2020 compared with 2019: this in contrast to flats, where purchasers spent 15 per cent less.

One buy-to-let investor we spoke to said he recently bought a one-bedroom former council flat built in the 1980s in Archway, north London, for £374,000. The couple he bought it from, fleeing to the suburbs, paid £420,000 for it in 2016.

“I think it’s a combination of wanting to meet the stamp duty-holiday deadline, outward gentrification and people reaching a certain age and wanting that lifestyle change,” he says. “I believe in London.”

Does this mean values are set to go the same way as rents? Are there, in fact, bargains to be bagged in London?

As always, it depends what you are buying and where. Research by Swiss bank UBS suggests that a third of London listings have had their price reduced, up from a quarter in June.

A heatmap using data from PropCast, which looks at the percentage of homes under offer to see where demand is highest, is flooded by an icy blue all along the central boroughs that line the River Thames.

Drill down into individual boroughs and it’s clear that the highest share of reductions are happening centrally, rather than in the outer London villages. Prices are down as much as 23 per cent in Westminster and 14 per cent in Islington, UBS says.

Buyers looking for discounts, or looking to upgrade to a bigger home, would do well to look in areas where demand has fallen the most since January 2020.

In east London, PropCast data highlights the Olympic Park in Stratford (20 per cent fewer homes under offer) and London Fields (10 per cent) as good places to negotiate. King’s Cross (26 per cent), Camden Town (14 per cent) and Holloway (19 per cent) have seen double digit falls in north London.

South of the river, buyers are going cold on Herne Hill (15 per cent) and Stockwell (18 per cent). Out west, Holborn (30 per cent) and West Kensington (15 per cent) have seen a notable drop-off in buyer demand.

Hamptons International figures show that the competition increases the farther out you go. Overall, London homes are only spending three days longer on the market than other homes in Britain on average. But in Zone One homes are languishing for nine days longer; and in Zone Two they are taking more than a month longer to sell, at 34 days.

With fewer international buyers around, UK investors are snapping up homes in prime locations for a relative steal. Camilla Dell, the founder of buying agency Black Brick, says she’s negotiating on a bulk buy of properties inside Battersea Power Station for a UK buyer, who foresees long-term value there.

One overseas client of hers was looking for a modern two-bedroom flat in Belgravia, central London. Dell says she found one in Ebury Square and watched the value tumble from £4.25 million to £3.7 million. She then negotiated during the last lockdown and knocked another £378,000 off the asking price.

What’s more, house prices in inner London are expected to catch up with those in the suburbs eventually. A five-year forecast by estate agency Savills predicts house price growth of 17.5 per cent by 2024 in London’s poshest postcodes, and growth of 18.1 per cent in the suburbs over the same period.

The long-term value of a central London property is apparent from the number of international owners shelling out large sums to property management companies to look after their empty mansions.

One such business, Eccord, says it is being hired, or being asked to pitch for, one super-luxe property a week, often owned by international families prevented from travelling to the UK as a result of border restrictions.

“A Middle Eastern family appointed us to manage their 10,500 sq ft house in Knightsbridge, which they purchased in March 2020 for £35 million, and are now unlikely to visit for another two years,” says founder Jo Eccles.

A portion of international buyers are buying sight-unseen, but the vast majority are still not prepared to spend millions on a property they cannot view in-person, even to avoid the 2 per cent foreign buyer stamp duty surcharge coming in in April.

Although 300,000 existing Londoners are expected to leave, the same number of British Overseas passport holders in Hong Kong are expected to apply for fast-track British citizenship. Many of these people will be professionals — business-minded — and they will want to live in London.

Investment advisory London Central Portfolio says there has been a 41 per cent increase in traffic from Hong Kong to its website in the past six months and almost 60 per cent of its buyers from the region are looking for a home rather than an investment.

There was similar interest after the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, says Ed Lewis, head of London residential development at estate agency Savills. “What’s distinctive at the moment is that they’re thinking about where they would like to live and the wellbeing of their family.”

With this in mind they are looking at two and three-bedroom apartments, with average budgets around £700,000, says Lewis, putting them firmly in competitive London village territory.

There is increasing evidence that, in the end, this won’t be seen as a flight from the city, but a race to the suburbs. “If you’re a professional that has a budget between £600,000 to £700,000, then I can see how the thought of selling up and having a three- or four-bedroom house outside the city appeals,” says Dell, from Black Brick. “But you make that move at your peril. Will we all be working from home in five years? I doubt it. And once you’re out, it’s a lot harder to get back in.”

Dell says she senses that more homes will come on to the market once the vaccines work their magic because people are put off by restrictive viewings and a less-than ideal sellers’ market.

Even if working from home becomes the norm, the textiles factories of Shoreditch, now some of the city’s most sought-after homes, are testament to London’s rich history of turning commercial space into residential.

“I think people will be desperate to live in the centre again. Every time there has been a partial unlocking, you can’t get a restaurant booking for love nor money,” says Lewis from Savills.” Once this is over, people will remember how cool London is.”

Another overlooked demographic are the millennials and Gen Z, who have been working from home and quietly adding to their deposits for almost a year now.

“Twenty-year-olds are not going to want to sit on Zoom calls in their parents’ house in Surrey any longer than they have to,” Weir says. “They will want to get back here as soon as they can. London has constantly reinvented itself and it will do it again.”

Estate agents report busy January, as buyers rush to beat stamp duty holiday deadline

By Joanna Bourke

A number of estate agents have reported a good performance for January, as buyers raced to get deals over the line before the stamp duty holiday deadline.

The stamp duty holiday, which was launched last July to help boost the housing market following the first lockdown, is due to finish at the end of March.

New data from Nationwide today said annual UK house price growth slowed for the first time in six months in January. It slowed to 6.4% last month, from 7.3% in December.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “To a large extent, the slowdown probably reflects a tapering of demand ahead of the end of the stamp duty holiday, which prompted many people considering a house move to bring forward their purchase.”

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But some estate agents recorded a busy January as purchasers look to complete deals before March 31, while one housebuilder said demand looks encouraging from buyers unlikely to meet that deadline.

Chestertons said comparing January 2021 to December 2020, it conducted 21% more viewings, and agreed 18% more sales transactions.

Nick Barnes, head of research at Chestertons, said: “Following a record December, the sales market has maintained momentum throughout January.”

Winkworth, which has 60 branches in London, said 2021 got off to a strong start, with the number of sales agreed in January outperforming the Boris bounce of last January when there was a surge in sales following the decisive outcome of the General Election.

Visits to  Winkworth’s  website last month were up 20% year on year.

Meanwhile housebuilder Crest Nicholson’s boss Peter Truscott recently said the company will be monitoring how demand is when the stamp duty holiday finishes at the end of March. But he added: “The evidence so far is we are still making plenty of reservations for completions that go beyond the stamp duty deadline.”

A number of people have reassessed their housing needs during lockdowns, with some wanting more outdoors space for example.

Camilla Dell, managing partner at agent Black Brick, said the company had its busiest January since it was launched in 2007.

How changes to Britain’s stamp duty scheme affect Middle East property investors

By Alice Haine

Buyers that complete purchases before March 31 can make significant savings

When Dubai resident Mohy Shams heard about UK finance minister Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday for residential property purchases last July, he jumped at the opportunity to make a saving.

Briton Mr Shams, who has lived in Dubai since 2014, already owns five properties in the UK and two in the emirate as part of an investment portfolio.

By completing his deals ahead of March 31 when the tax break ends, Mr Shams will only pay £8,400 ($11,497) in Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), on a £100,000 property in Stockton-On-Tees, Country Durham and a £180,000 off-plan home in Bicester Village, Oxfordshire.

After the deadline, not only will the tax holiday disappear, but Mr Shams will also be subject to a 2 per cent surcharge on purchases by non-resident buyers. If he had waited to close the deals, this would have bumped his total tax bill up to £15,100, meaning he will make a total saving of £6,700 by completing earlier.

“The stamp duty holiday encouraged me to pull the trigger before March 31 because I was getting a great deal,” said Mr Shams, a senior executive at a global research company.

Britain’s property industry ended 2020 on a record high, with prices up 7.3 per cent from 2019, according to UK bank Halifax, the highest growth in six years as the property market surged amid a raft of policy measures and a shift in how people want to live.

However, the “stamp duty cliff edge” could see the sector’s services industry lose billions of pounds due to collapsed deals, according to property analysts TwentyCi.

One in five of the 457,358 purchases made subject to contract at the end of 2020 are likely to fall through, while 31,250 of the 125,000 sales agreed this month will likely be abandoned.

Additionally, the end of the holiday has caused a backlog in transactions as the logistics of the housing market have not been able to keep up with demand.

While it is unknown how Mr Sunak will tackle the stamp duty holiday in the March budget, there are calls to make the holiday permanent or scrap the tax altogether.

However, David Hannah, founder and principal consultant of Cornerstone Tax, said this is “unrealistic given the levels of public debt and the £12 billion tax take it generates each year”.

“But having such a strict cut-off point, particularly in such a turbulent and difficult housing market and economic climate could result in a catastrophic drop in demand and prices,” he said.

Under the current tax break, people buying homes worth up to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland pay no stamp duty, with a reduced rate of between 5 and 12 per cent for homes above that value. For someone buying a £500,000 property, the saving is worth £15,000.

If the property is a buy-to-let or a second home, an additional 3 per cent SDLT applies.

But after March 31 the holiday is scheduled to disappear, with overseas buyers having to also price in the extra 2 per cent surcharge.

“Basically you are paying an extra 5 per cent as an overseas buyer,” said Camilla Dell, managing partner at Black Brick, which helps Middle East investors purchase property in the UK. “This is because they must pay the 3 per cent for buying a buy-to-let or second home as well as the additional 2 per cent.”

Henry Faun, partner and head of Knight Frank’s Middle East private office, said the new surcharge is expected to “apply to non-resident buyers regardless of the type of buyer (e.g. company or individual) subject to very few exceptions for specific collective investment vehicles such as REITs [Real Estate Investment Trusts]”.

Mr Shams, whose portfolio is set up under a limited company, said he will continue to invest in the UK despite the increase.

Other buyers could be put off, says Louise Reynolds, who runs Property Venture, a property agency based in Surrey where she acts as a buying agent for expatriates looking to buy in the UK.

She experienced a flurry of interest from clients hoping to make a saving in the run-up to the SDLT changes.

One Dubai client with a budget of about £250,000 hopes to save £6,700 in stamp duty by getting the deal across the line before March 31.

“The surcharge will really make expat investors think twice. They will be more price sensitive and may well only move if they can get distressed stock to try and compensate for the increase in tax,” said Ms Reynolds.

“All of these fees can be offset against capital gains tax when they exit so it’s not completely lost money but it depends on what their strategy is. Certainly in the high price brackets, it’s going to make a big difference.”

However, Ms Dell said the tax changes will not deter her high net worth buyers who are shopping for central London properties.

“The stamp duty holiday has been a nice to have but it certainly hasn’t made the difference to whether any of my clients want to buy or not,” said Ms Dell, whose clients target properties worth over £1 million.

“Effectively it saves them £15,000 so in the scheme of things it’s not a game changer. The ending of it for my clients is almost irrelevant. It has far more relevance for people buying outside London for below £500,000, where every penny matters, as opposed to the high net worth overseas buyers.”

Instead, Ms Dell said the focus is to beat the deadline for the 2 per cent surcharge coming on April 1 for anyone who is not tax resident in the UK.

“That has far more consequence than the ending of the stamp duty holiday because basically you are paying an extra 5 per cent as an overseas buyer as you have the 3 per cent plus the additional 2 per cent,” she said.

As a result, Ms Dell said the company had a very busy start to the year with six new clients coming on board with a total combined budget of more than £20m.

“I’m seeing really strong levels of demand and trying to do these transactions when you are not living here is a challenge with travel restrictions, quarantine – there are all sorts of barriers,” she said.

“Having said that, London, even with this additional 2 per cent surcharge is still pretty competitive in a global context when you compare property taxes here with New York, Singapore, Hong Kong or Sydney,” she said.

Mr Faun of Knight Frank agreed that his UK-focused clients will be unfazed by the tax changes.

“If there is an additional closing cost, we expect our clients who may currently take a five to 10 or more years investment horizon to extend this a little,” he said.

“The demand for homes in London and the UK is an emotional purchase for Middle Easterners to use for themselves and their families to enjoy whilst in the UK, usually on holiday. For the relatively small changes coming up, we do not foresee this having a significantly dampening impact on the demand for UK homes.”

Post-pandemic city exodus? These property hotspots are bucking the trend

By Liz Rowlinson

City living has suffered during the pandemic, but some village-like pockets have thrived

In the past year, many of us who live in towns or cities have been forced to embrace a more local way of life. Working from home, we’ve become regulars at our local coffee shops, or at neighbourhood businesses we rarely used before, patronising those on our doorstep instead of rushing off to the office for a Pret al desko.

This idea of communities that offer everything we need within a quarter of an hour’s walk, without getting in a car – the so-called “15-minute city” – is the dream of many town planners. It has been created anew in the community of Poundbury in Dorset, championed by the Prince of Wales, and is being sketched out in Fawley Waterside, a project it inspired on the site of a former power station in Southampton.

Prince Charles embraced the term “urban village” 20 years ago, yet there are dozens of vibrant villages within cities that have evolved organically. Many have become highly desirable places to live, even before the pandemic accentuated the appeal of “staying local”.

Properties in such areas can cost nearly double the average house price of their city, according to data from estate agency Savills. While the current property boom has been characterised by buyers fleeing urban life for more rural or suburban areas, small pockets of cities are holding their own.

Frances Clacy, of Savills, said: “Rather than turn their backs on the ambience and amenities of the city altogether, there are signs that some buyers want the best of both worlds.” Here, we find some of the best 15-minute cities.

Manchester

Just four miles south of the city centre is Didsbury, an area that is big enough to offer more than the one village. While East Didsbury is the most affordable option, there is also Didsbury Village and West Didsbury. In the latter, the average house price is £336,494, according to Savills.

Helen Tabor and her family have lived in the area for 12 years. “West Didsbury is more bohemian, with many independent shops on Burton Road, while the Village is more family-orientated,” she said.

With three parks, good schools, sports clubs and the famous “Didsbury Dozen” pubs, there is enough on the village’s doorstep to make the 40-minute peak-time drive into the centre of Manchester a rare event. “During lockdown, sitting outside the café in Fletcher Moss Park along the river has helped us keep our sanity,” said Mrs Tabor, 50.

There are plenty of late Victorian homes to choose from, with two-bedroom flats for sale from around £400,000, three-bedroom semis at £550,000 and new detached six-bedroom houses up to £2.45m. These prices are far higher than comparable suburbs around Manchester.

Sheffield

West of Sheffield city centre are the villages of Dore and Totley. Here, buyers pay a hefty premium to live in this ancient rural enclave on the edge of the Peak District that is popular with families for the Ofsted “Outstanding” rated schools (local resident and Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill is an alumna of King Ecgbert secondary).

Dore and Totley have all the amenities necessary to make sure you rarely have to leave: pubs, Indian restaurants, the all-important fish and chip shop, a hairdresser and a car mechanic. A train from Dore and Totley Station is only six minutes into Sheffield.

Katrina Wooltorton rents in Dore with her boyfriend, Jon, who has recently graduated from university. “Within five minutes, you are into Ecclesall Woods, or it’s only 10 to the village of Hathersage, sitting in the beautiful Hope Valley in the Peak District,” said Ms Wooltorton, 23. “We love the community feel of Dore.”

However, it’s not great for first-time buyers. “When we buy our first home, it will need to be in a more affordable area – such as the village of Dronfield – before we hope to move back again.”

To buy a small detached house, you’ll need £450,000, according to James Ross, of agent Eadon Lockwood & Riddle. “We are seeing a lot more buyers from down south. The market for three-bedroom houses at £350,000 to £500,000 is really strong, but you can pay up to £2m.”

Bristol

In northern Bristol, separated from fashionable Clifton by the thoroughfare of Whiteladies Road, is Redland, another popular village within a city. Chandos Road is cherished for its restaurant scene, although the Michelin-starred Wilks has shut permanently because of the pandemic.

Good local schools will continue to draw families, said Francine Watson, of estate agent Knight Frank. “You get more for your money, plus bigger gardens and more off-street parking in Redland than in Clifton,” she said. Family homes cost £600,000 to £1.4m.

London

The capital is fringed with urban villages that have recorded some of the highest levels of activity within the city during the pandemic. Camilla Dell of Black Brick, a buying agency, said: “Buyers that might have bought in central London have been looking at Richmond-upon-Thames, Kew, Wimbledon, Chiswick, Hampstead, East Sheen and Dulwich. Access to parks has become more crucial.”

Dulwich, in south-east London, has been especially popular since the pandemic started, although the area has always been in demand, with house prices steadily growing.

The average property value in the area grew 1,150pc between 1995 and 2017, which was the highest in the UK, according to Knight Frank.

The area has an abundance of parks, and while the hub of Dulwich Village has Gail’s Bakery and the Crown and Greyhound pub, there are more shops and restaurants along Lordship Lane in nearby East Dulwich.

A good choice of independent schools is another draw, but state options such as the Charter School North Dulwich and Dulwich Hamlet Junior School are also pulling buyers from outside the area, said Christoper Burton, of Knight Frank. “The family house market in Dulwich Village is around £1.4m, but you get more value for money in East Dulwich, where there are plenty of smaller Victorian terraces from £700,000.”

Further west, sandwiched between the River Thames and the green spaces of Sheen Common and Richmond Park, is East Sheen. It has everything you may need: a Waitrose, a library, cafés such as Valentina Italian Deli and great schools, which is just as well as this area of west London is not very well connected.

Demand for East Sheen Primary and Sheen Mount Primary keeps property prices up, and values are higher “Parkside” – close to Richmond Park, said Michael Randall, of Savills.

“You’ll pay over £1.2m for a four-bedroom family house in the school catchment areas, or £1.7m to £2.5m for one of the bigger Edwardian houses near Richmond Park,” he said.

“But people love this area as you tend to get bigger gardens and more lateral space than in nearby Barnes or Richmond. Buyers coming out of central London like the slightly slower pace of life.” And it looks like they will pay a premium for it, too.

Village feel and green appeal lure homebuyers to Dulwich

The growth in sales was strong over the summer, but activity is waning as the end of the stamp duty holiday draws closer?

On Crystal Palace Road in East Dulwich, there’s a new resident: Albus Dumbledog. He’s the golden retriever puppy that Cat Hughes and Kieran Holmes-Darby, a couple in their twenties, bought last month — and one reason for their recent move to this area of south London.

“It got to the point where a one-bedroom flat wasn’t big enough, and we’d saved up some money with some help from the family so were looking around London for a two-bed with a private garden because we wanted to get a dog,” says Holmes-Darby, who moved with Hughes one month ago from Crouch End in north London.

Sitting just south-east of Brixton, Dulwich has excellent schools and an urban village environment — spacious period houses, woods, parks and even a golf club — which have given it a timeless appeal to those looking to settle down, upsize and have a slice of countryside life while keeping one foot in the big city.

In the third quarter of 2020, the average property price in Dulwich was £815,229, up 7 per cent from the end of 2019, according to Land Registry data. The Countrywide group, which owns Hamptons International and other agents, says it has sold 65 per cent more homes in Dulwich in 2020 than in 2019, largely thanks to a summer boom: between July and September, sales were up 100 per cent, but have dropped since.

“It’s so popular at the moment because we’ve seen this real need for a sense of community — a high street and outside space,” says Caspar Harvard-Walls, partner at buying agent Black Brick. “People want to be a part of the area they’re moving to. They want to know people on their high street — who the butcher is, say hi to the guy they get their coffee from.”

Mel Carter, head of Dulwich sales for Hamptons, says a number of buyers had been considering areas like Clapham, but switched to Dulwich for something “a bit more rural” after being cooped up over lockdown. The prime spot is Dulwich Village, with its white wooden fingerpost signs and enormous Georgian mansions.

Neighbouring East Dulwich attracts a slightly younger crowd, as more of the homes are smaller terraced houses or flats, and its organic grocery stores and cafés adjoin the buzzier Peckham.

While those spending millions for homes in the village are unlikely to be greatly affected by the UK’s stamp-duty holiday — saving buyers up to £15,000 — for Holmes-Darby and Hughes, it helped offset the cost of an extra bedroom and a garden for Albus Dumbledog.

“Being in lockdown in a one-bedroom flat without a garden made us really realise we do need more space, and the stamp-duty holiday really accelerated the process because it made it more financially viable,” says Holmes-Darby.

Many move to Dulwich so their children can attend its top public and state schools. But Sam Lloyd, a 25-year-old hockey player, needed to be close to them for a different reason — his girlfriend is a teacher at Alleyn’s, one of several well-regarded private schools, including Dulwich College and James Allen’s Girls’ School.

Lloyd, originally from Derbyshire, says it’s a “nice halfway house” between the countryside and the rest of London. “Dulwich is more hectic, obviously, than Derbyshire but it’s got a proper village feel about it, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

That village feel is largely maintained by the Dulwich Estate, a charity set up in 1619 that owns 1,500 acres of land and controls development in the area. “There’s a terrific shortage of property in Dulwich,” says Gareth Martin of Harvey & Wheeler, an independent agent. “There’s been a little bit of building but not a huge amount, and you’ve got these huge green spaces that will probably never be built on.”

One recent change has ruffled feathers in the village, however. To increase space for pedestrians and reduce air pollution, Southwark council has closed some residential cut-through roads, as well as the junction between Calton Avenue and Court Lane in Dulwich Village.

While some approve, others say it is a nuisance that increases congestion on already busy roads and has left some residents spending hours taking the long route round to access residential roads near the closure. “I have had one or two people saying I don’t want to be in that location because of the road closure,” says Carter, who’s hoping the scheme is disbanded.

Road closures aside, activity in the local market has slowed, with England in its third national lockdown and the stamp-duty holiday due to end in March. By the end of 2020, the average price in Dulwich was £816,418, only marginally up on the third quarter, according to Hamptons’ Land Registry data.

“It’s by no means dead but it’s perhaps a little quieter than we’d expect at this time of year,” says Carter. “Maybe a lot of people just don’t want to look at houses at the moment, they feel that it’s just not appropriate and they’d rather wait till after the vaccine,” she adds.

Buying guide:

  • Dulwich is in the London borough of Southwark, where the annual council tax for homes in the top tax band is £2,881.
  • Dulwich does not have a London Underground stop, but there are National Rail services to North Dulwich, East Dulwich and West Dulwich.
  • In the past decade, the average property price in Dulwich has increased by just over 66 per cent; across London, the average has increased 61 per cent.

What you can buy for . . .

  • £4.3m A five-bedroom Grade II-listed family home with a large garden and a carriage driveway, just across the road from Dulwich College
  • £2.45m A six-bedroom, double-fronted detached Victorian house with a large garden and conservatory in West Dulwich
  • £730,000 A two-bedroom Victorian house with a south-facing garden in East Dulwich

How will the PCL property market fair in 2021?

By Nicholas Wallwork

The UK property market, like everything else, has been affected by COVID-19. As we head into 2021, we have to question what’s in store for the Prime Central London (PCL) market as we face Brexit, COVID-19 and the new 2% stamp duty surcharge for non-UK buyers.

One question many property investors and developers will have is how Brexit will impact the PCL? Caspar Harvard-Walls, a partner at buying agency Black Brick, highlights that the most prominent effect of Brexit so far has been the strengthening of the sterling against the US Dollar; from $1.22 to £1 on April 4th 2020 to more than $1.35 to £1 today. This change in the exchange rate cannot be attributed solely to Brexit, but it is crucial for international property developers and investors. 

For example, if an American investor purchased £1 million worth of sterling on April 4th last year, it would have cost them $1,227,430. However, at the end of January 6th 2021, this £1 million would be worth £1,360,000. This is an increase of over £132,000 in just nine months. With the new 2% stamp duty surcharge for non-UK buyers coming into effect in April 2021, this gain in money would more than cover these costs – as well as the 3% surcharge if it was a second home.

So, we understand the impact of Brexit on PCL, but what about the other colossal cloud looming over our heads right now – COVID-19? Caspar suggested that 2021 will be a year of two halves – the first six months will see minimal buying and selling activity. He predicts that many sellers will wait until summer when he expects to see the last 12 months’ property demands to influence the PCL’s pricing and volumes.

With travel bans and restrictions in place worldwide, the market is expected to stay quiet for the next six months. As a result, only the most desperate to sell will place their properties on the market. Whether or not someone will bite during these uncertain months can not be predicted. Instead, the first half of 2021 is expected to be centred around the domestic buyer – people looking for gardens for isolation, good parking and nearby attractions to visit when restrictions ease.

However, once the travel restrictions are lifted, the latter half of the year should see an increase in the number of international buyers looking to develop and invest. This means people looking to invest in property in PCL have a six-month window that has already started. The next six months present the opportunity to buy property without the typical competitive global market.

Assessing the impact of the 2% stamp duty surcharge for international buyers, we also have to question whether this additional cost will make Britain look less attractive to foreign investment. Caspar suggests that in the global context, the UK’s property tax regime is not extreme, and there are many other countries which are most expensive to purchase property in. While it is expected that some buyers will see the increase in stamp duty as enough to ward them off purchasing UK property, especially PCL property, for most it will not be enough to prevent them from investing. In fact, Caspar has even highlighted how many of his clients have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by looking at their property investments as not just assets, but as an essential part of the health and happiness of their families.

From private chalets to penthouses: property trends for the ultra rich in 2021

Will it be a £66m penthouse or a two-bed home on a remote Greek island? Experts predict what the ultra rich will be investing in for 2021

By Zoe Dare Hall

After a tumultuous year, what lies in store for London’s prime property market in 2021? And where will the wealthy be looking to invest? The experts share their knowledge.

London calling

For many City workers no longer needed at their desks, 2020 was about an escape to the country. 2021 will see the reverse, thinks Camilla Dell, managing partner at Black Brick buying agency. “Half of them stayed commutable in the Home Counties. The other half moved to Somerset, which is risky if you are suddenly called back to your desk at 8am tomorrow,” says Dell. 

Most didn’t sell up in London, though; they just bought the country house too – which is just as well because in 2021, “the masses will flood back to the city,” Dell adds.  

Post-Covid – or, at least, post-vaccine – London will also see the return of overseas buyers. For UK buyers with serious money, their absence currently opens up opportunities in prime central areas such as Mayfair and Belgravia. “Apartment prices in central London’s golden postcodes have fallen by 8.2% in five years and houses are down by 1%. There are no viewings taking place and none of the usual audience is here. But by next summer, it will be more competitive again,” says Dell. 

Some foreign buyers will feel compelled to tie up purchases before that, though, as April sees the introduction of an extra 2% stamp duty for non-UK residents. “We currently have two overseas UHNW buyers who are unwilling to travel at the moment. One has a budget of £40m-£60m for a family house, so will save at least £1m if he buys before April,” says Marc Schneiderman, Director at Arlington Residential in St John’s Wood.  

Wealthy UK-based buyers are keeping the super-prime market ticking over nicely until foreign buyers can travel again, though. “Despite the vaccine, expect more house moves, upgrades and a continued search for space in 2021,” says Liam Bailey, global head of research at Knight Frank. “London is seeing a surge in demand for larger houses. The £10m+ market is very strong and this strength will continue into 2021.”

End-user buyers will be looking for areas with easy access for weekend escape – given many have invested in holiday homes in England instead of abroad this year. That trend is already in evidence Television Centre in White City, where a number of owners flee to their Cotswolds homes every Friday. Flats in the latest Architects Series cost from £3.4m through Savills

East London is also “one to watch”, says Camilla Dell – and handy for a weekend home on the Suffolk coast. “People who wanted to live in leafy parts of north London – especially those working in the media or tech – now prefer to be East,” says Dells. Long & Waterson in Shoreditch – with apartments from £715,000-£2.16m through Savills – is just the kind of new development they’ll like, she thinks. 

Ultra-prime London launches

London has its fair share of landmark schemes launching, or completing, in 2021 – and views over Hyde Park are a common theme. 

Mayfair Park Residences sees the world’s first Dorchester Collection homes, with Clivedale’s scheme of 25 apartments and townhouses on Park Lane – priced from £4.25m – overlooking Hyde Park. They have access to the adjacent Dorchester hotel’s services, whether it’s 2am mojitos delivered to your door, use of the 10,000 sq ft health club, or dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s first European restaurant, CUT. 

On the park’s Bayswater side, Fenton Whelon’s Park Modern sees 57 new one-to-six bedroom residences overlooking the park and Kensington Palace Gardens. Prices start at £1.95m through Knight Frank.

And in late Spring, expect completion of the £66m penthouse at The Bryanston, Almacantar’s new super-prime parkside scheme in Marble Arch. Other apartments in the high-rise designed by Rafael Viñoly start at £2.6m. 

Among the historic landmarks undergoing transformation is The OWO, formerly known as The Old War Office, which will be home to London’s first Raffles hotel and 85 Raffles-branded residences. No prices have been released yet, but with its historical pedigree, prime St James’s location and kudos of being Raffles’ first ever branded scheme, these will be properties to watch. 

The Herculean task of reinventing Battersea Power Station reaches a pivotal point in Spring 2021, as it’s when the first residents will move into the reinvented Grade II* listed Power Station. The development also sees the opening of the new Northern Line tube station in Autumn.  

Brand new but inspired by the Georgian proportions of Thomas Cubbit’s historic Belgravia homes that surround it, Qatari Diar’s Chelsea Barracks launches its townhouse collection, with the six-storey properties priced from £38m. Each house features a swimming pool that runs under the entire length of the garden, and some have their own mews house. 

Alpine hotspots

In early 2020, ski resorts were considered Ground Zero for Covid in Europe, but in 2021 they will be among the hottest places to invest. What we buy – and how we use it – is changing, though. 

While old-style après-ski is out of the question because of the virus, buyers want to bring the party back home, so large private chalets are in hot demand, “especially those with five-star entertaining areas and wellness facilities,” says Giles Gale, founding director at Alpine Property Finders. With the catered chalet model also largely impossible, and the communal aspect of hotels out of favour, in-chalet/apartment hotel services are on the rise, says Gale. He suggests Manali Lodge in Courchevel 1650, a new luxury apart-hotel residence, where three-bed apartments cost from €2.02m. 

Ski properties aren’t just for Christmas any more, either. Month-long or even entire-season stays will become more popular next year, with work-from-home culture rife among wealthy digital nomads on the slopes, says Jeremy Rollason, head of Savills Ski. Many will seek a large, lateral rental apartment first, so they can try before they buy. 

Buyers shouldn’t expect many bargains in the leading resorts, though. “Covid has increased our appreciation for the natural environment and prices in the top 10 resorts have increased by an average of 7.2% this year, despite the pandemic,” says Rollason. Courchevel 1850 tops the prime price league at €25,000/m2 – making it 60% more expensive than prime Paris. 

For price growth and new development opportunities, Knight Frank tip the French Alpine resort of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville in 2021, overtaking last year’s winner, Val d’Isere. The small Swiss resorts of Grimentz and Champery will also be in demand, says Knight Frank’s head of Swiss Alpine sales, Alex Koch de Gooreynd. “International buyers are looking at Switzerland as a permanent base because of its handling of the crisis and the lifestyle it offers. The appeal of owning a Swiss property is now strengthening too with interest rates negative and Swiss banks effectively charging clients to store their capital,” he says.  

Hotspots for sun, sand and sea lovers

Marbella is ensuring it looms large on the super-rich radar in 2021 with the launch of Epic Marbella, Fendi Casa’s first ever European scheme of branded residences. The 56 apartments of up to 1,000m2, plus 400m2 terraces with private pools, cost from €2.5m-€7.5m and sit on a prime seaview spot on the Golden Mile, near Puerto Banus. There are Fendi touches throughout, from logoed wardrobe handles to rugs, and the five-star amenities include the biggest swimming pool in a European residential development, according to developer Carlos Rodriguez of Sierra Blanca Estates. 

Barbados has also sealed its place in the spotlight in the coming year as the 2020 launch of its Barbados Welcome Stamp – a 12-month work visa, costing $2,000 per person and aimed at digital nomads – has proved a big PR coup for the island. So far, three quarters of international relocators are first-time visitors to the Caribbean island and aged under 45, according to Terra Caribbean. 

For those seduced into buying, Apes Hill, under new ownership, re-opens in November after a £24m upgrade. It promises to be “the best golfing experience in the Caribbean” and include a new club house, a fitness and paddle sports centre, farm shop and three/four bed villas from £1.15m. 

Greece is also garnering a reputation as a UHNW hotspot with such five-star branded schemes as Amanzoe – where two-bed villas cost from €3.2m and – launching in 2021, by the same developers, Dolphin Capital, in partnership with Kerzner International – the One&Only Resort on Kea Island, with turnkey two-bed homes from €3m. The Kilada Country Club, near Amazone in Porto Heli, is another Dolphin Capital resort on its way, with 260 golf residences set around a Jack Nicklaus course. 

Greece also offers the most affordable Golden Visa programme in Europe – newly-relevant to British investors as we wave goodbye to the EU. 

The year the UK housing market defied gravity

The year the UK housing market defied gravity

But there are reasons to believe that the ‘mini boom’ will not survive into 2021

By Nathan Brooker

Aside from all else, 2020 has been the year that really put our homes through the wringer. The pressures of homeworking and schooling have pummelled them into submission. In our flat, the clutter has taken over: boxed and unboxed monitors crowd every table, laptops teeter on piles of books and sprouting from every corner is a tangled mass of cables, unclearable, like a bad case of Japanese knotweed.

At the start of lockdown, a colleague tweeted that we weren’t so much working from home, as living at work. He was right — except that in the office, the neighbours aren’t banging and crashing all day as they extend into the loft. Back in April, after the first lockdowns took hold in Europe, the UK and the US, worldwide Google searches for “DIY” hit record highs.

Sales of premium paint brands such as Farrow & Ball have surged; the managing director of Mylands paint even took a forklift truck driving test so that he could help shift orders.

Bitten by the home-improvement bug, my wife and I rearranged all the furniture in our living room. A couple of weeks ago, we moved it all back. Turns out there is no way of placing a sofa that will make a room bigger by 30 sq ft. Our homes have become everything to us this year: offices, schoolrooms, restaurants, weekend retreats — it is no wonder we’re sick to death of them. This is a level of contempt usually reserved for the weeks following Christmas when, after being cooped up with our families for days on end, traffic on property portals begins to rise.

Between December 26 last year and January 8, the number of daily visits to Rightmove increased by 71 per cent. This year is different, of course, but Camilla Dell, managing partner at buying agents Black Brick, still thinks people will find the time for some mindless festive scrolling. “This time of year people are always drawn to the portals for some good old ‘property porn’ — and perhaps this year more than ever as, let’s face it, there isn’t much else to do,” she says. “But, whether this will translate into a flurry of new transactions in the new year remains to be seen. I think a lot of people wanting to make a move this year already have.” Estate agents have come to celebrate the beginning of the year as
one of the busier times of the calendar.

But at the start of 2021, the “mini boom” in the UK property market might start petering out, as a series of government schemes that have helped shield house prices from the economic realities of the coronavirus crisis are withdrawn. The stamp-duty holiday — which waives the charge on the first £500,000 of any home purchase, saving buyers up to £15,000 — is due to end on March 31.

When it was announced on July 8, about 8.5m people logged on to Rightmove to see what was on offer; it was the portal’s busiest day of the year. The end of March is also when the business loan schemes are set to close, and new applications for the mortgage-holiday programme. A month later, the worker-furlough scheme will end.

We are, thankfully, in the process of rolling out the coronavirus vaccine, but it is anyone’s guess how long the UK property market can continue its gravity-defying run — which, given the fact that the UK is facing the worst economic
recession in 300 years, is a source of perpetual bemusement.

Last month, the average house price was 7.6 per cent higher than in November 2019, according to Halifax, the strongest annual growth rate for four years. Even now, the booming market is not being felt by everyone. Many first-time buyers have had their dreams upended by the impact of the pandemic on their incomes and savings. Many of them have struggled to get financing, as lenders have reduced the availability of higher loan-to-value mortgages — though this is slowly coming back.

Above all, I am reminded of the homeowners I spoke to this year who have had to put their lives on hold because they have been caught up in the cladding crisis.

One campaign group estimates that 1.93m people in England cannot sell their flats because they need a new fire-safety certificate, known as an EWS1 form, before lenders will offer mortgages to any would-be buyers. Among them, there will be thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, who must face spending this Christmas in homes they
do not feel safe in.

It rather puts a few monitors and unruly cables into perspective.

Property market predictions for 2021 – what can we expect?

By Matthew Lane

The property predictions for 2021 continue to roll in, as the sector looks ahead to the upcoming 12 months.

Here, we get the thoughts of leading property developer GRE Assets and leading, independent buying agency Black Brick, on where the market will go next year.

A promising start to 2021

GRE Assets believes that, with pent-up demand after Lockdown 2.0 and promising news surrounding a Covid-19 vaccine, the UK property market should expect an encouraging start in 2021.

Michael El-Kassir, managing director of GRE Assets, which specialises in residential property development and regeneration in strategic locations across the UK and Spain, below explains what the company has experienced in the latter half of 2020 and how he believes this will inform the market as we approach 2021. 

“As 2020 draws to a close, the market is showing continued growth with interest from both buyers and renters in new-build developments located in towns and cities undergoing major regeneration,” he comments.

“This trend directly aligns with our criteria for identifying investment locations which offer affordability, transport connections and ongoing regeneration, as seen in our Ashford and Peterborough projects.”  

He says, with the imposed lockdown restrictions meaning people have spent much more time at home this year, this has led to a distinct rise in the number of people seriously considering their next property move.

“Low interest rates, the existing Help to Buy scheme and stamp duty incentives have also created a sense of urgency,” he adds.  

“The pandemic has been a wake-up call for prospective buyers and renters, who have reassessed their priorities when looking for their next home. Not only are they spurred on to make the leap from London, they also recognise the importance of having access to green space, whether that is nearby parks, balconies, terraces, and gardens.”  

El-Kassir also points to the vast shift in the working world, as employees and companies have adapted (in many cases seamlessly) to working from home.

“While people will return to the office as the latest restrictions ease, we strongly believe businesses will continue to work flexibly moving forward, meaning adaptable

space and connectivity at home is of high importance for new homeowners,” he explains.

“At GRE Assets we pride ourselves on delivering high-quality, well-connected homes which respond to residents’ long-term and short-term needs. Our Riverside Park project in Ashford is a great example of this. The provision of outdoor space, Hyperoptic broadband and space to work from home has proven to be especially popular in 2020, and we are confident this will continue into the new year.”

In particular, he thinks the South East will continue to be one to watch in 2021, with GRE witnessing increased demand and lack of supply in this area post-lockdown.

“While UK-wide we have seen a rise in house prices and activity, it is the South East that really stands out,” he insists.

“The region offers the near-perfect package of high-quality, affordable homes in popular regeneration areas with excellent connectivity to London. Demand here is currently outstripping supply, which is something we intend to continue to address as we head into 2021.”

The company already has properties available in Ashford, and is exploring other opportunities across Kent and the wider South East, to ensure its clients ‘receive the best investment options’.

GRE Assets also anticipates that the recent news of the successful Covid-19 vaccine trials will kickstart a positive wave from house hunters, as people can start to see the end in sight and are, as a consequence, more confident about planning ahead.

“Even though we know the vaccines will not be rolled out to all for a number of months, it is enough to give people the hope they need to start their property searches. The news is likely to provide a green light for people that were previously apprehensive and boost buyer confidence within the market as we move into 2021.”

GRE Assets has a number of key developments in its UK portfolio, including Nene Wharf Apartments in Peterborough, Riverside Park in Ashford, Brighton Marina, City Tower in Reading and One Smithfield Square in Manchester. Additionally, it can point to Brises Diagonal Mar, Bac De Roda and Morales in Barcelona.

As well as its UK operations, the Oxford-based property development and investment company has an ever-expanding international operation, with additional offices in Riyadh, Dubai, Barcelona and Madrid.

 

Predictions and trends for 2021