After 20 years of uninterrupted growth, the London property market is stabilising. It even seems that, for the first time in more than 20 years, prices have fallen, by 5-10% in some areas. So is it still worth buying a flat in London?
Who knew that Brexit would be voted in? Not many people, and even less so the current Conservative government, which, a few months earlier, had decided to put in place some measures to slow down the property market. The first was to change the structure of the stamp duty by reducing it on “cheap” properties and increasing it sharply on premium properties with the direct consequence of lowering prices on premium apartments or family houses in central London. In addition, the Stamp Duty was increased by 3% for any purchase of secondary or rental property, curbing investors’ enthusiasm. This additional tax, intended to encourage first-time buyers, also had a perverse effect. Instead of buying £2 million flats, investors have sometimes preferred to buy four properties for £500,000, in order to be taxed less. The price of small apartments has therefore had little impact, which is bad news for those who want to become homeowners.
Buying to rent could therefore be less attractive than before. Nevertheless, there are still many advantages to investing in the British capital. London will always remain London, an attractive and safe city for investors. Uncertainties linked to the exit from Europe and negotiations will certainly hinder the development of new programmes, leading to a reduction in the supply of available products and thus increasing the already abysmal housing deficit, probably resulting in higher prices in the future.
The proof is that Savills, a key real estate player in the market, known for its cautious forecasts, predicts 5% growth in four years time.
It is also interesting to note that, despite the “negative” reforms taken in a pre-Brexit context of a property market considered too dynamic, despite the uncertainties linked to Brexit, London property prices have not collapsed. At worst, they have fallen slightly, with a maximum of 10% in some areas (compared with an average increase in value of 10% per year for the last 20 years). It could therefore be that they are rising faster than expected (if, as the latest economic figures seem to confirm at the time of writing this article, economic indicators are good) and that this is therefore a good time to do good business. Are we in a market trough?
With the weakness of the pound sterling, this could also be a good time to buy for those who have savings in euros or dollars.
It can therefore be very interesting, for those who own a property or an apartment in France or elsewhere, to borrow with this property as collateral to get “cash” to invest in London. This has the dual advantage of benefiting from a very interesting exchange rate at the moment (1.10% instead of 1.45% in March 2016) and fixed interest rates over a long period in France (15 to 25 years) instead of two to five years maximum in the UK.
It is also important to note that many Londoners, who own their main residence, invest in small apartments in Buy to Let to pass them on to their children later on. Often they do this without any contribution. Their homes have increased in value, on average 10% per year over the last 20 years. This serves as a guarantee for them. And at the time of “remortgaging” (an operation that consists of buying back their loan with another fixed-rate loan every two, three or five years), they take advantage of this to increase the amount borrowed in order to free up a contribution for their rental investment, the rest of the investment being financed by a “Buy to Let mortgage” (loan) paid back by the rents.