Window for global investors to purchase UK property is closing

11 November 2020 | Investment

With global stock markets in turmoil, many investors are turning to property as a less volatile investment option.

For practical purposes, the question is not whether property is still able to produce good returns, it is which sectors of the property market produce the best returns.

The UK property market

When people talk about the UK property market, they often mean the UK’s residential property market. In fact, investors often specifically mean the UK’s residential buy-to-let property market. This is understandable as it is such a large sector.

It is, however, important to note that the UK also has a substantial commercial property market. Both sectors are underpinned by strong fundamentals.

The residential buy-to-let property market

It’s common knowledge that the UK has a massive shortage of high-quality residential property. Population growth is one reason for this. There are, however, many others.

Most of this hinges on the fact that much of the UK’s housing stock reflects bygone lifestyles and long-surpassed building standards.

There will probably always be a desire for genuine period properties and other buildings with character. A lot of the UK’s housing stock is, however, simply older properties in need of some degree of improvement. It is likely to be quite some time before this is addressed. Even when it is, lifestyle renters will almost certainly ensure continued demand.

Investors should be prepared for the government to continue to tighten regulation in the residential buy-to-let market. This means that there will probably be a greater need for administration. On the plus side, it also means that rogue landlords are more likely to be shaken out of the market, thus improving conditions for everyone.

The commercial property market

Purpose-built student accommodation continues to be a major feature of the commercial-property investment landscape. At present, there’s no sign of this market becoming oversaturated. If anything, further growth is needed.

Investors looking for a similar alternative may, however, prefer to look at residential care homes.

City hotels could be due to make a significant comeback. This is essentially due to local authorities in cities becoming far stricter about short-term rentals. Holiday lets in rural areas, by contrast, are still forging ahead. This may change if the flight from the cities continues. If, so, however, investors have an obvious (and potentially very profitable) exit strategy.

Opportunities for overseas investors

Right now, there is an unmissable window of opportunity for overseas investors. The UK is currently benefiting from a stamp duty holiday. This is due to finish at the end of March next year.

What’s more, in April next year, the government is due to impose an additional levy on property transactions made by overseas investors.

As if overseas investors needed any more incentive to act quickly, right now Sterling is weak and interest rates are low. This means that financing is just about as affordable as it can get.

What’s more, at present, there is limited competition as many people are waiting for Brexit to be over before they commit.

*Mark Burns is the managing director of property investment company Pure Investor

This post has originally been featured in Property Investor Today.