'Remain' vote may spur home buys by Singaporeans

Apartment buildings, with skyscrapers in the background, at London's Canary Wharf. PHOTO: REUTERS

A burst of London property buying by Singaporeans could be unleashed if the Remain camp wins today's European Union referendum in Britain. Many potential buyers here have been waiting on the sidelines over the past few months until they see how the vote goes.

Sales of prime Central London property have fallen by more than half by some estimates, although experts feel volumes could recover quickly if Britain stays in the EU.

Management consultant Jimson Cheng, who owns a condo unit in Central London, said that while he is not selling, he has put off making any further investments. "I've friends with over 10 London properties who have decided to liquidate a few due to the uncertainty, and as prices are higher now."

He noted London's pull for property investors, with housing demand far outweighing supply. "The advice most people give is to hang on to your unit."

Mrs Doris Tan, regional director of London real estate firm Strawberry Star Group, said sales have been slower since the start of this year partly due to the referendum.

This wait-and-see approach has seen transaction volumes across all types of property fall by about a third, said Mr Alistair Elliott, Knight Frank senior partner and group chairman.

The best sales in the past few months have tended to be outside Central London (Zone 1). Central London continues to be popular with Singaporeans and Hong Kongers but only at prices up to about £1,200 (S$2,360) per sq ft, noted Mr Richard Levene, Colliers International's director for international properties.

Mr Elliott said should Britain leave the EU, the biggest short-term impact would be a run on the sterling, which could encourage foreigners to buy.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Remain' vote may spur home buys by Singaporeans. Subscribe