What opportunity in the UK property market for expat investors?

UK property: Sales

As we are nearing the end of the final phase of the Stamp Duty (SDLT) holiday at the end of September (on the first £250k of property purchases) it seemed apt to reflect on how it may have helped or distorted the market.

The volume of UK House sales declined in July after the 1st main SDLT holiday ended. Tax data showed that residential purchases were 63% lower than in June. So the number of housing transactions fell, but what effect did it have on house prices?

A recent article in the Financial Times quotes a study by the Think Tank Resolution Foundation which reveals that the biggest house price rises were in areas that least benefited from the SDLT tax cuts. So the SDLT holiday may not have distorted pricing as much as many people think.

UK property: Rental market

On the rental side, more Institutional Investors are coming into the rental market, attracted by the demand, returns and stability offered. Today’s rental market has changed dramatically. Demand has continued to increase, with 1.7 million more rental households in 2017 compared to 2007, according to the ONS.

Build to Rent

Institutional investors are entering the market at scale with Build-to-Rent. Purpose-built Build to Rent is a new concept in the UK, which started around 2016, but a model common in other countries like Germany and elsewhere in the European Continent. It means tenants rent off a Corporate landlord. In theory tenants are offered a more consistent service level, in return for higher rents when compared with some of the private rentals on the market.

Landlords like: John Lewis, Legal and General and now Lloyds Bank is the latest to enter the housing market with the intention to buy and rent out 50,000 homes in the next decade. They may offer longer tenures that many tenants crave, but are likely to push rental prices up.

Future for UK First time buyers?

In the end the market may be shaped in a different way. Still difficult for First Time Buyers, as prices are so buoyant and inaccessible. Yet with more rental stock potentially becoming available, the UK housing market could start to look a bit more like Continental Europe in nature in the future.

This presents opportunities for investors in the buy-to-let sector. As prices are still inaccessible for many and the rental sector becomes more homogenised and potentially expensive, renters will still want character, individual properties in the right locations. The bigger block build of Build-to-Rent won’t necessarily be in the optimum locations that many individual, resale properties might be

If you want help on your property investment journey then get in contact +44 (0) 1932 849 536 or e-mail info@property-venture.com

My business focuses on helping time-strapped expats and busy business people who don’t have the local presence, or capacity, to acquire the ‘right’ properties for them. Property Venture® is an award-winning, Boutique property firm that finds the right investment properties for clients.

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What role does ‘gut instinct’ play in property?

When you make decisions you think things through and tend to have a ‘gut instinct’ about whether the decision is right. Sometimes a decision might be based on instinct, rather than what the logic of our brain tell us.

‘Gut instinct’ or intuition accesses accumulated experiences in a synthesised way, so that judgments are formed and action taken without any logical, conscious consideration.

Think about when you’ve gone to view a property, you might instantly take a like, or dislike, to it from the outside. It may look old fashioned, ugly and run down from the outside and you may know from past experience that this is a good indicator, that the inside is likely to be in bad shape. So your ‘gut’ or intuition, tells you that, based on previously seeing neglected properties this won’t be for you if you don’t want to do any renovation work.

Yet another investor might be drawn to the ugliest properties, perhaps because based on past experience they can generate the highest yields and cashflow if they are in the right area and serving the right tenant type.  

These situations create an ‘emotional tag’ linked to a previous experience which influences decision-making, more than objectively assessing the pros and cons of a situation. This means that to protect decisions against bias, you first need to know when you can trust your gut feelings, confident that they are drawing on appropriate experiences and emotions.*

So when can you trust your gut during property investing?

We often push ourselves outside our comfort zone to achieve things we haven’t achieved to date. This can sometimes create the same sort of feelings of unease we feel when we are about to make the ‘wrong’ decision.

So how do we tell the difference?

I talk a lot about Due Diligence, in essence doing the research and checking things out before making an investment decision. This can play an important role in helping understand if we are feeling uncomfortable because we are stepping outside our comfort zone or because there is a real cause for concern.

Role of Due Diligence on property investment decision-making

Before you part with any money, or sign any legal contract requiring future payments, then it is key that you carry out appropriate checks not only on your potential investment, but also on anyone you might be investing with and the professionals you might use along the way.

Whether that be visiting the local area and comparing comparable prices, rental returns, taking stock of the infrastructure, transport links, schools and health care or checking out a developer’s or builder’s reputation, as well as all the legalities.

So once you have checked things out and taken an objective view of the investment opportunity you can use this to supplement your subjective ‘gut instinct’ and check if the gut instinct is based on:

  • identical or similar situations and whether you have experienced this feeling sufficiently to know that the gut instinct is sound?
  • whether you learned the ‘right’ lessons in the past or are not remembering the situation accurately
  • over-reliance on someone else’s judgement to form your decision, who will have a different set of experiences and judgments.

There is a place for pushing yourself outside your comfort zone as well as using ‘Gut Instinct’ in property investment. The key is to use due diligence tools and techniques to introduce objectivity to the decision-making process and distinguish whether that gut feel of unease is because you are trying something new or because there is a genuine, logical reason for it.

If you want help on your property investment journey then get in contact +44 (0) 1932 849 536 or e-mail info@property-venture.com

My business focuses on helping time-strapped expats and busy business people who don’t have the local presence, or capacity, to acquire the ‘right’ properties for them. Property Venture® is an award-winning, Boutique property consultancy that finds the right investment properties for clients.

* Strategic decisions: When can you trust your gut?” published by McKinsey Quarterly in March 2010 based on Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Gary Klein work

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8 ways to Outgazump the Gazumpers?

Approximately 28% of UK transactions fall through each year.* Of these 21% of buyers were gazumped – losing the property due to the vendor accepting a higher offer from another buyer.

Given there are about 1m annual transactions, gazumping accounts for nearly 59,000 transactions falling through.

Other reasons for failed transactions included:

• 27% where the seller decided not to sell their home

• 21% of buyers being unable to complete sales on their own homes

• 21% of buyers finding an alternative home to buy

Gazumping is more prevalent in a buoyant property market when vendors are in a strong position. It isn’t always about more money. Sometimes buyers can get caught in a protracted buying process which means the process can be more susceptible to things going wrong.

Given this is a scourge rearing its head again in 2020 and 2021….

What can you do to protect yourself from Gazumping?

  1. Be as ready as you can be at the outset, for example getting finances organised. Or ensuring you have the ‘right’ professional adviser for the type of transaction you are conducting. A process-driven online conveyancing house is not likely to be the best adviser for a Title split or an Options deal.
  2. Request a Lock-out agreement, if a vendor agrees to it. The benefit is it gives peace of mind on timeframes to the vendor as well as the buyer. The predictability means everyone can plan their lives around move dates, so the transaction is far less likely to fall through. The penalty is whatever the financial commitment has been agreed in the Agreement.
  3. Or Exchange early, say with 1% deposit to secure and lock in the deal
  4. Do your Due Diligence up front – researching the area and property as much as possible before waiting for a lawyer to check it e.g. buy the Title Deed from Land Registry to verify ownership, check historical pricing and check boundaries. Or asking for a management pack for leasehold properties.
  5. Go for speed of transaction – which gives less time for the transaction to falter
  6. Build vendor rapport so there is a human commitment and get the property taken off the market immediately. Strive wherever possible for a transparent transaction, so you are aware of every development in a timely fashion.
  7. Indemnity insurance or Homebuyer protection insurance can protect against wasted fees spent on surveyors and searches
  8. Buying at Auction can help address the gazumping because all the buyer’s information is provided up front and the accepted offer is binding.

There are different buying models in other countries

Scotland’s property buying process

Gazumping is rare in Scotland. Solicitors are bound by their professional body (Law Society of Scotland) which bans the practice of Gazumping and are often involved with the marketing and selling rather than just estate agents. Although gazumping can still occur with smaller boutique agents.

In Scotland a Home Report is provided by the Vendor, a bit like preparing the sale for auction in England and Wales. It contains a floorplan, an EPC (up to 6 month’s old), a Gas Safety Certificate, a Survey by a RICs-qualified surveyor, as well as the Utility Providers.

The former Home Information Packs (HIPs) helped in England and Wales , providing EPCs and the Vendor’s questionnaire, but they fell into disrepute and only the EPCs have survived.

France’s Property Buying Process

In France, the 2 contract system also helps mitigate Gazumping – the deposit is paid on signing the ‘Compromis de Vente’ rather than awaiting the ‘Acte de Vente’ the Final Deed and transfer of Title . On the upside, the buyer’s deposit secures the property by contract, the vendor is not allowed to accept any other offer, at that stage. However there are downsides for the buyer, if the buyer pulls out without adequate cause, for example if the survey reveals serious unacceptable faults, the buyer may forfeit the deposit.

Generally it is easier for Homebuyers to get caught out more than Investors, given they are buying more based on emotion and rather than the numbers an experienced investor is more likely to do.

Inspired by a Clubhouse conversation in Toyin Ayandare’s Room 7th May 2021

N.B. *Sprift, A Which? survey of 2,000 homebuyers in February 2016,

If you would like help finding the right property for you then please get in contact.

My business focuses on helping time-strapped expats and busy business people who don’t have the local presence, or capacity, to acquire the ‘right’ properties for them. Property Venture® is an award-winning, Boutique property consultancy that finds the right investment properties for clients.

Disclaimer: Property Venture® is not a tax adviser but has outlined information in layman’s terms to enable top line comparisons, nor is it offering advice.

With regard to in-country legislation, letting licences and taxation laws, then you must take appropriate legal or taxation advice during your purchase process, at which time your solicitor or advisor will discuss with you up-to-date legislation and costs

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