Investors flock back to London property

Investors flock back to London property

Homes in cosmopolitan London have burst back onto the radar of overseas investors in recent months.

Prices in prime Central London, in particular, have rebounded spectacularly from a trough in March 2009 during the global financial crisis.

They are now about 50 per cent higher than in those gloomy days and have hit a new record high, according to a Knight Frank report.

The price rises resulted in no small part from foreign buyers, who have flocked to the British capital.

They now account for 55 per cent of purchases of properties worth £2 million (S$3.9 million) or more.

Singaporeans have also been leaping into the action, with London property launches here enjoying sales worth millions of dollars.

The favourable exchange rate, safe-haven standing, limited supply and the many renowned universities in London are just some of the factors that have bolstered buying interest.

For instance, over one weekend in Singapore and Hong Kong this year, developer Exemplar sold about 40 units of the 237-unit Fitzroy Place in Fitzrovia, near shopping belt Oxford Street.

The average price was £1,700 per sq ft (psf).

Experts say Singapore and Hong Kong make up the most mature market within Asia and that the buyers are open to "new prime" locations where there is potential for further capital growth.

They include areas such as the Vauxhall/Nine Elms district and the eastern city fringe.

Small turnkey properties that are easy to manage are most popular with these buyers, a report by CBRE said.

Value for money is key across the board. This applies to location, quality of product and ongoing service charge.

"Buyers from Hong Kong and Singapore are renowned for being meticulous and will have researched the local market thoroughly," it added.

"Higher price points are preferred, ideally over £1,000 psf, in line with the desire for quality."

But even as established locations in Central London - such as Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Chelsea - continue cementing their prime status with climbing prices, a few rejuvenated and city fringe

areas in the capital are quickly gaining stature and becoming prime as improvements such as new transport links make them more accessible.

Selected developments are breaking local price ceilings in the City, Canary Wharf, the Southbank and now in areas such as Vauxhall.

"This trend is likely to continue west along the Thames as schemes come onto the market at Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station," CBRE said.

The Sunday Times takes a look at some of these hot spots that are expected to outperform the estimated 30 per cent increase in prices in the prime Central London market from last year to 2015.

Vauxhall/Nine Elms

The regeneration of the former industrial area on the south side of the Thames is leading to a wholesale change of the district's identity into a modern and stylish new centre, experts say.

The 195ha site is expected to feature about 16,000 homes when fully redeveloped with a new town centre built around the redeveloped mega 3,444-unit Battersea Power Station project.

Upcoming developments like Nine Elms Parkside, Riverlight and Embassy Gardens on the riverside in South West London, for instance, will boast thousands of new apartments.

More than £1 billion is also being spent on new infrastructure, including two new Tube stations and the creation of a new linear park sweeping right through the district from east to west.

Experts say the key to this area's success will be the extension of the Northern Line. Under current plans, two extra stops are planned at Nine Elms and Battersea.

This would give the area direct links to Covent Garden, Soho and Fitzrovia, as well as South London.

The potential of this site has already attracted the United States State Department, which is expected to open its new embassy in 2017.

Singaporeans seem to be convinced of the area's potential as well. Over two phases, Embassy Gardens sold almost 200 homes in Singapore and Hong Kong at average prices of £950 psf.

A Knight Frank report noted that while prices hovered around £750 psf last year, they are forecast to rocket 140 per cent - the largest surge of any London district - to £1,800 psf by 2016.

This would see a £500,000 property explode in value to £1.2 million.

However, the report also cited possible congestion due to the large volume of development there as a concern.

City of London and eastern fringe

Knight Frank says that the City of London has already seen an influx of wealthy residents in the past five years.

There has been a more than 30 per cent rise in the number of residents classified as "wealthy achievers" since 2005.

The Crossrail station - a high-speed trans-London rail link due to open in 2019 - at Whitechapel is also likely to lead to demand rippling out from the city, boosting prices further east too.

Developments such as Berkeley Group's Goodman's Fields project near Aldgate East tube station, that was recently brought to Singapore, also enjoyed healthy sales.

About 50 units were snapped up in Singapore and Hong Kong at an average price of about £1,000 psf earlier this month.

Other East London projects that have been marketed in Asia include One Commercial Street, 75 Leman Street and Altitude.

Mr Piers Clanford, managing director of Berkeley Homes (Capital), noted about 16 per cent of buyers in London in general are from South-east Asia, with just over 4 per cent from Singapore.

The city fringe area is attractive compared with prime Central London as it offers lower prices but higher yields, he said.

A new growth area also means a potentially larger increase in capital values in the future.

Yields are 5 to 5.5 per cent for the city fringe, while they are about 3.5 per cent for prime Central london, Mr Clanford said.

Knight Frank expects home prices in the city to jump from about £800 psf last year to £1,750 psf in 2016, while prices in the eastern fringe could surge 60 per cent to £1,200 psf.

Marylebone/Fitzrovia

High-quality properties and former office premises are being redeveloped for residential use in this area, which is tantalisingly close to Mayfair, the Knight Frank report noted.

"The lure of better-value prices has already attracted some wealthy buyers to the area. Buyers will benefit from being within walking distance of both Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road Crossrail stations when the service opens," it said.

Prices are expected to gain 66 per cent to £2,500 psf by 2016.

Others

Other London hotspots identified by Knight Frank include the City Road corridor, Earl's Court, Hammersmith, Farringdon, King's Cross, Midtown, Victoria, Paddington and Bayswater, South Bank and Blackfriars and the White City and Westfield districts.

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