High property prices and a property investment market slump are leading both Hong Kong residents and investors to look elsewhere for property. One location favoured by many Hong Kongers is the UK.
Hong Kong Property Slump.
The Hong Kong property market is one of the most notoriously unaffordable property markets in the world. But recently, according to reports from Bloomberg, the Hong Kong property market is seeing alarming falls across the board. Prices in Hong Kong are currently at a five-year low and this is causing Hong Kong investors to view their domestic market with caution, which is evident in the low number of sales.
Even with the declines in property value in Hong Kong, property is still well out of reach for many Hong Kong residents. Further, the expense of property in Hong Kong also translates to the rental market, making Hong Kong one of the most expensive places in the world to live. The high price of rents further hampers buyer aspirations in Hong Kong, with median-income residents having to devote their entire wage to saving for 23 years to be able to afford a mid-sized apartment. The lack of accessibility for both buyers and renters in Hong Kong is forcing many residents to look elsewhere for both investment and living purposes. It is because of this that Hong Kong’s population fell from 7.41 million in mid-2021 to 7.29 million in 2022.
‘The situation in Hong Kong means that both Hong Kong residents and Hong Kong property investors are being encouraged to look elsewhere for properties’ says Stuart Marshall. ‘The obvious question is ‘where should Hong Kongers look?’ But there is one market in particular that jumps out and has a tried-and-tested appeal for investors – the UK. The UK housing market has long been a favourite for foreign investment, largely because of its reputation as a hugely profitable and stable investment location. However, the UK market holds a particular appeal for Hong Kong investors and residents looking to buy property, due to a number of important factors.’
Why the UK?
One notable reason why Hong Kong nationals are looking toward the UK is to do with the UK’s visa scheme for BNO passport holders, which was introduced in 2021. This scheme provides a fast-track to British citizenship for any BNO passport holder. This was an incredibly popular option for Hong Kong residents priced out of their domestic market and between June 2021 and 2022 alone, the UK government received 140,500 applications for the scheme. Hong Kong investors have also had a long-standing reputation of looking to the UK property market for investment purposes. This is a result of the comparative affordability of the UK market versus their domestic market, as well as a favourable exchange rate from Hong Kong Dollars to British Sterling. Strong rental yields and capital growth potential also add to the attractiveness of the proposition for Hong Kong investors.
One thing that Hong Kong investors might be concerned about is the falling property prices in the UK at the moment. But, while property prices are also dropping in the UK, the situation has some important differences from the situation in Hong Kong. For one, property prices are seeing moderate declines after a period of massive prolonged growth. This is compared to the five-year lows seen in Hong Kong at the moment. Further, falling property prices in the UK are doing very little to make a dent on the massive price gains that most properties made over the last couple of years. This is testament to the very stable nature of UK property that makes it such a valuable asset and so desirable for investors.
In further contrast to the Hong Kong rental market, the UK’s rental market is booming at the moment. The demand for rental property in the UK is currently 46% above average and supply is 38% behind the average. There are many reasons for this including affordability constraints and a turbulent market, however there are also greater numbers choosing to rent more generally, with the England and Wales Census showing a 28% increase in the number of households renting compared to 10 years ago. The competitive rental market is putting upwards pressure on rental prices, with new tenancies on average 12% more expensive than a year ago. Popular city centre locations are seeing price increases as high as 15% for new tenancies. Even existing tenancies are seeing an average increase of 4%. Hong Kong investors are looking at an incredibly lucrative rental market then, and with prices temporarily depressed, it’s a good time to get a valuable UK investment property.
Hong Kong-Specific Deals.
‘One final thing to note is that the demand from Hong Kong is causing lenders to create specific deals for Hong Kong buyers in a bid to win business from a lucrative sector’ says Stuart Marshall. ‘These products are available for both residential and buy-to-let properties on new purchases and re-mortgages. These deals are offering impressive rates compared to average mortgage products, with lenders understanding that the Hong Kong market can be lucrative, so creating new, competitive products is a must. The range of available Hong Kong-specific products is also likely to keep growing with data showing that a quarter of Hong Kong citizens under 35 are planning to move overseas to work. With this in mind, specialist brokers find themselves in a unique position when it comes to keeping abreast of an evolving landscape of mortgage deals and helping lenders to understand the types of products that Hong Kongers need. They are also in a unique position to help Hong Kong residents looking to buy in the UK for both investment and residential purposes and this is why an expert foreign national mortgage broker is one of the best tools that Hong Kong buyers can utilise.’
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