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After the Brexit referendum catalysed a drop in the pound not seen for 30 years, estate agents report having been inundated with calls from buyers across the globe looking for investment bargains. Simon Barry, Head of New Developments at Harrods Estates, said that in the 48 hours after the vote he was swamped with calls, each regarding UK property investment opportunities.
It has perhaps been commonly assumed that the fall in the sterling and consequentially favourable exchange rates provided a boost in property investment post-referendum. However six months on, it may be too simplistic to assume that these are the factors sustaining the interest of foreign investors. But what are the other potential factors at play?
The UK - A property "safe-haven" offering "attractive investment characteristics"
Investors from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and UAE seem to still regard the UK as one of the safest regions for real estate investment. This could be accredited to the positive reputation of the UK's legal system and regulatory structure which can create a highly liquid, transparent and accessible market for those looking to invest.
Ajaz Ahmed, managing partner and Head of Corporate Finance at MBU Capital, states the UK property market remains "the most liquid in Europe", indicating the ease with which investors can enter and exit the market. This liquidity is in part bolstered by the array of investment opportunities across many sectors of the asset class. From offices to industrial assets, and student accommodation to hotels, the market offers the diverse opportunities investors require. This combination of factors therefore ensures the market appeals to a potentially broader spectrum of investors with varied investment goals.
Some investors might also consider the UK financial system as "sympathetic" with the Government’s continued promotion of Islamic finance in the UK, favourable property taxes and record low mortgage and interest rates. Additionally, the lag on house building activity seen over the past two decades translates into strong demand versus supply keeping prices at an attractive high. Whilst some state the combination of low rates and high prices indicates market volatility, investors seem willing to take the risk. Indeed, with predictions from RICS that the property market will "stabilise" in the coming year, there may be merit in investors' confidence.
When compared with other countries suffering from domestic market volatility, the UK appears to more resilient than expected post the leave vote. This appears to have conversely created an increased confidence in the UK property market despite the vote to leave the EU. Liz Peace, former CEO of the British Property Federation stated that this reaffirms the UK's "long history of strong property investment opportunities".
Should we have more confidence in the UK property market?
Although the UK has not started the formal process to exit the EU, the appetite for UK property
indicates that foreign investors still believe property-market-fundamentals are worthy of investment. This apparent market confidence sends the positive message that Britain is an attractive place to invest whether in or out of the EU. Paul Smith, Chief Executive of Haart estate agents, echoed this sentiment: "of all the UK's sectors property is the strongest and it stands to gain from Brexit".
Going forward, the much-anticipated Housing White Paper is due to be published shortly. The paper covers planning, housing supply, tenure mix and investment and may be a key turning point to look out for in the future.