Singaporeans remain bullish on London real estate

Mr Peter Allen, head of marketing for British developer Stanhope, said that the firm aimed to sell 40 flats in Television Centre in West London, when it first marketed the project in Asia. But, it has sold at least 45, with 15 bought by Singapore-bas
Mr Peter Allen, head of marketing for British developer Stanhope, said that the firm aimed to sell 40 flats in Television Centre in West London, when it first marketed the project in Asia. But, it has sold at least 45, with 15 bought by Singapore-based buyers.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Weak pound draws buyers even as home prices fall; many see prospects of long-term growth

Britain's vote to leave the European Union has put a dampener on house prices in London but Singaporean buyers are still looking to snap up property.

Several developers and marketing agents told The Straits Times that the Singaporean appetite for real estate in the capital has not been quashed by the prospect of Brexit. In fact, it has remained robust, with many first-time buyers entering the market.

"I've been doing London property since 2010, and these faces are people I have never seen before," said Mr Dave Loo, managing director of SQFT Global Properties.

"Some of them have invested in other Asian markets, but for many, it is the first time they are entering the London market. They see Brexit as a good time to pick up London properties."

Part of the rush has to do with the currency play, Mr Loo said. The British pound has fallen against the Singapore dollar by at least 10 per cent in recent months. The Singdollar was at $1.99 against the sterling on June 23, the date of the referendum, but was trading at $1.81 yesterday. At its lowest, on Oct 13, it was at $1.69 to the pound.

Mr Loo said that for London homes between £300,000 and £500,000, more than half of Singaporean property buyers would be Housing Board flat dwellers who see better value in buying foreign property than paying the tax for a second Singaporean one.

Foreign appetite for London real estate brought British developer Stanhope to Asia for the first time last year.

It has been marketing Television Centre, the former headquarters of the BBC in West London's White City, in Singapore since last year.

Stanhope's head of marketing, Mr Peter Allen, told The Straits Times that when the company first marketed the project in Asia, it had aimed to sell 40 flats as "we didn't know at the time how the project was going to play out".

But the firm has sold at least 45 flats in Asia, with 15 bought by Singapore-based buyers. Prices for its studios, which are between 369 sq ft and 496 sq ft, start from £600,000.

While Colliers said that it has marketed fewer British properties this year compared with last year, Mr Richard Levene, director of international properties at Colliers International, said Singaporean investors have "steady interest" in London.

"There are many shrewd investors looking to take advantage of the weak pound before it recovers. We are seeing a lot of new buyers enter the market wanting to take advantage of the favourable exchange rate," he said.

There is strong Singaporean interest despite average London house prices falling for a sixth straight month in September, according to British firm LSL Property Services and research company Acadata.

There was a fall of 0.2 per cent from August to September but a growth of 0.9 per cent compared with September last year. However, this annual rise is the lowest seen in London since February 2012, said LSL and Acadata.

Most property experts attribute the strong Singaporean interest to London's market fundamentals, such as the huge shortage of housing compared with demand.

Ms Philippa Bromley-Martin, sales manager at Lodha UK, said the property which she is marketing in Singapore - Lincoln Square - has seen a doubling in the rate of sales.

She said Singaporean buyers had either business links, or are buying for their children who plan to enrol at the universities near Lincoln Square, which include the London School of Economics and King's College London. However, she noted that the top concern of investors in Singapore was "long-term growth" for their properties.

"While the surge in sales is undoubtedly due, in part, to the exchange rate effect, a number of our Asian buyers hold the view that Britain's exit from the European Union will have a positive effect on their country's relationship with the United Kingdom as the UK looks to strengthen trade relationships with non-European nations," she said.

For clients in the legal and finance sectors, "it may open more opportunities for them personally in the UK", she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'S'poreans remain bullish on London real estate'. Print Edition | Subscribe