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Are the days numbered for foreign property investors? – Hall

by: Chris Hall, head of operations at Mortgage Guardian and mortgage and protection adviser at 1st Call for Mortgages (UK) Ltd
  • 03/09/2018
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Are the days numbered for foreign property investors? – Hall
Following the New Zealand government’s decision last month to ban foreign buyers purchasing existing property in the country, YouGov carried out a nationwide survey in the UK.


The aim of the research was to find out if the people of Great Britain are also fed up of being tenants in their own land?

Could the British government follow suit in a bid to tackle the UK housing crisis?

With an estimated 10% of UK housing stock being owned by foreign investors, the problem is far from being out of control, but Land Registry data could indicate otherwise.

According to research using Land Registry data in March by Kings College London senior lecturer Filipa Sa, property prices have risen considerably over the last 15 years partly due to the influx of foreign interest in UK property.

There is a thirst for UK housing stock by foreign investors including those that buy through offshore companies based in well-known tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles and the Cayman Islands.


Trickledown effect

It could be argued that foreign money flowing into the UK economy is a good thing but with house prices being 20% higher as a result, many first-time buyers are yet again being priced out of an ever-increasing market.

Unfortunately, the data from Land Registry shows no evidence of an increase in the supply of new homes to coincide.

London and the South East have experienced price increases due to a concentration of overseas property investment.

However, foreign buyers have also descended on other cities with Manchester and Liverpool bearing witness to property investors from China, Singapore, Russia, the Middle East and African states such as South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.

It is not just expensive homes which increase in price due to foreign investment as this has a trickledown effect on the rest of the market.


Money laundering threat

There is not just concern about housing stock drying up for first-time buyers.

Laundered money being used to invest on the UK housing market is also a major concern for many especially after the TV series McMafia which highlighted corruption on the streets of Britain.

The British government reacted to this threat earlier in the year by issuing “unexplained wealth orders” and “interim freezing orders” under the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Although not simple, these orders can be presented when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the known sources of the respondent’s lawfully obtained income would have been insufficient for the purposes of enabling the respondent to obtain the property.

Alternatively, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the respondent is, or has been, involved in serious crime.

Details of one of the first UWO’s is scarce but relates to a Politically Exposed Person with an order against property worth £22m.

Although the YouGov poll indicated that 60% of those surveyed would support a ban on non-residents buying in the country, it is not going to happen yet.

Draft legislation on the issue still has not been introduced to parliament which gives overseas buyers the chance to purchase property in the UK at least until 2021.



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