London’s reputation as a safe haven for property investment is well known. But recent news from the Halifax Index that in March, a year on from the start of the first national lockdown, UK house prices were up 6.5%, the first house price rise in a recession in modern history, was staggering!
Our own statistics echo these trends. The number of sales we agreed in May (our latest figures) was up 12% on last year while the number of market appraisal requests we carried out was also up 12%.
While London has not seen the same intense level of activity from homebuyers as many other areas of the UK, mainly due to greater uncertainty caused by the pandemic together with reduced demand from overseas buyers due to travel restrictions, there is an upside to this.
Overseas investors return to the London property market
While in other areas of the UK, demand is likely to settle down by the end of the year, London has not peaked so dramatically but as a result is expected to maintain its momentum, and we are now seeing overseas investors returning to the market in growing numbers.
And in fact, in terms of super prime property sales, London has overtaken Hong Kong as the world’s busiest super prime property market, recording a 3% increase to USD 3.75 billion worth of deals in 2020 while transactions in Hong Kong fell 27% and New York fell 48%.
So overseas buyers are taking advantage of the weak pound and low interest rates, buoyed by a cautiously optimistic feel to the UK economy as a whole now that the UK’s successful vaccination programme is proving to be so effective. These investors recognise that there is still value to be found in London property and now that the rental market is picking up dramatically, healthy rental incomes are at the forefront of their objectives.
Our ‘Saving tax for landlords’ webinar for buy-to-let investors attracts 500 attendees
A clear indicator of the current interest from investors was our recent webinar which looked at ways that property investors and buy-to-let landlords can restructure their businesses to be more tax efficient. The webinar was hosted by our Finance Director Vidhur Mehra together with two leading tax experts and examined the most tax-efficient company structures that allow buy-to-let property business owners to remain competitive in a challenging market.
With 500 attendees, this was our most successful webinar yet, revealing a clear message from investors that London buy-to-let properties remain a very important part of their overall investment strategy in the future. Go to video hub to view the webinar in full.
Homebuyers’ priorities continue to evolve
For homeowners, requirements have changed considerably over the last year, as buyers look for more space and ideally some outside space – and for many these requirements are now deal breakers.
How the North London property market is changing
Let’s look at North London as an example. Demand for studios and one bed flats in Hampstead and the surrounding areas, especially flats without outside space, is currently much lower than before the pandemic.
Buyers’ requirements have clearly changed as many now work from home, at least some of the time, while homes have become sanctuaries where we spend much more time than previously so gardens are a ‘must have’ too now.
Huge demand for larger properties
In contrast, the market for larger family homes and garden flats in Hampstead is red hot right now. Much of this demand is for unmodernised properties in need of a complete refurbishment.
Space is at a premium and buyers are willing to take on the hassle of getting the work done themselves if it means they can afford a larger property – something they would previously have avoided. This is highly unusual in North London where pre-pandemic demand was almost exclusively from buyers looking for a house that was modernised and ‘done’. Priorities have clearly changed.
Demand settles down after the Stamp Duty holiday deadline
Another point to recognise is that sales enquiries have dipped a little recently in Hampstead, Highgate, Belsize Park and Dartmouth Park, because there is no longer any rush to beat the Stamp Duty holiday deadline which has now passed. Anyone buying a property now will have missed the deadline and at best will pay the tapered rate of Stamp Duty (which lasts until September 30th), so market activity has quietened. So potential buyers will probably hold back over the summer, waiting for September when more stock becomes available after the traditional summer lull.
Contact our sales team if you are you thinking of selling your North London property
For vendors, this is therefore a good time to put your house on the market as there are fewer properties for buyers to choose from. We’ve taken on a number of new instructions recently but still desperately need more stock as there are buyers out there looking, albeit with less urgency than before.
View all posts by Philip Lingard