New UK properties find strong Asian support

7 November 2011, The Business Times (Singapore)

Singaporeans make up 10% of buyers in projects where construction hasn’t begun

By UMA SHANKARI (Singapore)

SINGAPOREAN buyers now account for around 10 per cent of all purchasers at ‘new-build’ properties in Central London, industry players say.

According to estimates from sales agents at major property firms, buyers from Asia make up about 40 per cent of all investors for new-build projects (that is, projects where construction hasn’t begun) in Central London. And Singaporean buyers figure prominently, accounting for about a quarter of transactions by Asian buyers, they said.

Many UK-based developers now launch properties in Asian cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur ahead of their UK release dates to capitalise on buying interest from this part of the world. In Singapore, this has translated to some two to three new projects from London and the rest of the United Kingdom being marketed here every weekend, industry players said.

James Talbot, Savills head of international sales, told BT recently that UK developers hope to sell enough units in Asia to fund the start of construction. This is because Asian buyers are more willing to buy properties off the plan, while buyers in the UK prefer to pick up units in only completed properties, he said. ‘Asian buyers accounted for about 40 per cent of new developments that were sold in 2010, and the buying trend has continued into the first three quarters of this year,’ Mr Talbot said.

He said that Singapore buyers could account for about half of these Asian buyers at some launches. Other agents put the figure at closer to 25 per cent.

UK-based property consultancy Black Brick Property Solutions has also noticed the keen Asian interest in ‘safe haven’ London.’Asian clients represent over 22 per cent of our client base as they have a huge appetite for London property,’ said Camilla Dell, managing partner at Black Brick. ‘It is viewed as a safe haven, many children are educated in the UK, and the weakness in sterling is a key driver.’ Black Brick noted that Singapore clients are benefiting from a 35 per cent discount on London property prices compared to 2007 as a result of currency movements. Similarly, Hong Kong buyers now benefit from a 25 per cent discount, while Malaysian buyers are seeing a 28 per cent discount.

Central London estate agency Kay&Co also noted that bigger homes are still in vogue. Some 41 per cent of the firm’s overseas applicants – 25 per cent of whom are Asian – purchase properties in excess of £2 million apiece, Kay&Co said.

But buyers here are not indiscriminate, agents said. Asian buyers are looking for attractive ‘buy-to-let’ investments in London. Mark Collins, head of residential at CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), said: ‘They are ideally looking for properties in areas of strong rental demand and from developers with established and trusted brands.’

Added Knight Frank Singapore’s head of international project marketing, Linda Chern: ‘Right now, week in week out, there are a lot of property launches (in Singapore), so clients are spoilt for choice. So unless you have a good location and attractive prices, the take-up is not going to be good.’

But there is no doubt that sales are taking place every weekend. Buyers are usually a mix of investors and those buying for their children who are studying in universities in London.

Knight Frank, for example, marketed Baltimore Wharf (in London’s Canary Wharf) several weeks ago, and sold around 15 units in the 473-unit project in Singapore. Ms Chern attributes the take-up to the project’s good location.

Boutique London developer Vision Homes also recently brought The Metropolis to Singapore. The small 15-unit development in the Elephant & Castle area sold well and Singaporeans bought around 30 per cent of the units sold, the developer said.

Savills is marketing Caro Point, which is next to the Thames Embankment (among other projects), while CBRE launched Langham Square in Putney, London. Knight Frank recently previewed One Tower Bridge, a luxury development on the banks of the River Thames.

Singaporeans make up 10% of buyers in projects where construction hasn’t begun

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