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Buying a Property in London – everything you need to know about acquiring property in the capital

Despite Brexit and, more recently, the pandemic, the UK’s capital has far from lost its cache and appetite to buy a London property remains high. So strong its pull that over thirds of London’s citizens were born in a foreign country. The capital also offers parkland, meaning you can escape the bustle once the sun eventually shines. London also gives foodies a great variety of restaurants and possesses 87 Michelin star restaurants.

The capital’s tourist is served by three primary airports, Gatwick, Stanstead, and Heathrow. The latter being the 3rd largest in the world, offering flights to hundreds of far-flung locations.  

The property market in London

Whilst globally, the ‘race for space’ has thrown shade on many capitals’ cities appetite for a home in London remains strong. The capitals workers are slowly returning to offices, and for many, life is fast approaching normality. In June 2021, the London property market has seen its most significant fall in a single month. The average London property is falling by a touch over 2% to an average of £491,687. Even with this recent price decline, values have appreciated by 3.3% over the year. Many feel that the practicality of living in London will eventually see price rises. Track or bridge the gap with other more rural areas which are currently seeing significant levels of demand.

Inventory is also improving, knocking the edge off the toppy London market with post lockdown sellers now coming to the forefront. There is also a strong probability of international buyers and English expats returning to the market once travel begins. This renewed accessibility is also likely to provide a massive shot in the arm for London property appetite.

Whilst prime real estate arguably has underperformed compared to historic price gains. Certain pockets of greater London have shown significant growth. These areas include Waltham Forest, Hackney Barking and Dagenham, Lewisham and Haringey.

London property market forecast 2022

Whilst certain areas of the London Property Market have endured challenges causes by both the pandemic and Brexit has driven hesitancy, other regions have flourished.

Prime London Property Forecast

Insight from Spears property ‘Top advisor’ Chris Jones of Warner Heath 

North London Property Forecast

SW London Property Forecast

Should you buy or rent a property in London?

In recent months the appetite for those wanting to leave London searching for space has seen rents drop. Whilst many remained in London, landlords have had to rethink the rates their properties command, with many now able to rent for much less than a year ago. 

A current lack of appetite for London, combined with historically low-interest rates, has seen many first-time buyers venture out of London searching for their first property. 

Despite this dip, in-demand properties with rental rates in line with the recent price correction remain popular. Many also are attracted by the convenience of renting, leaving the landlord to manage the cost of reparation and upkeep. Others don’t have the 10-15% needed to make the first move onto the UK property ladder. 

Pros of owning Property in London 

Here are some of the pros of buying a home in London vs renting a property. 

  • Own an asset that will likely double in value for every decade of ownership
  • Lay down routes in area you love, looking to call it home for the foreseeable.
  • Fix your costs using a mortgage with no risk of your home costing you more 
  • Use your savings wisely! 

Advantages of renting in London

A few of the pros of renting over buying a property in London 

  • Only commit to a living somewhere for as long as your comfortable with
  • No financial commitments relating to upkeep or repairing of the property
  • Renting a home often includes the cost of utility bills

Best places to buy property in London

The areas one receives as the ‘best in London’ are entirely subjective. The super-rich will be attracted to the luxury of Knights bridge, Mayfair and Westminster. Those raising a family could be more tempted by leafier areas such as Fulham, Chelsea or Wimbledon. 

Here are some less obvious areas of London which warrant a closer inspection and rank amongst the best places to Buy in London.

Wandsworth – One of the safest and vibrant areas in inner London, Wandsworth is popular with young families and those that are making their first steps onto the property ladder. It’s well-positioned for commuting to the city and Canary Wharf, with mainline stations servicing the route well. A broad range of period and newbuild properties are available, and the average price in Wandsworth is shy of £800,000.

Battersea – Slightly more expensive than Wandsworth, Battersea boasts lots of open space, particularly its fantastic park on the shore of the Thames. Average property prices are around the £870,00 mark.

Richmond – offers investors and buyers the leafier side of London; its park is picturesque and characterful. The suburb is one of the most affluent outsides of central London prime areas. Properties in the suburb command an average price of £1,030,000.

Royal Docks – Highlighting the value compared to SW is the Royal Docks. The riverside east London location enjoys excellent transport links and proximity to London’s financial hubs. The newly created residential towers are well underway, providing many more homes and attractions adding to the amenities. Average home prices in The Royal Docks are around £460,000.

Kilburn – providing a more pocket-friendly alternative to upmarket Hampstead. The South Kilburn estate is experiencing a vast regeneration to bring the area in line with its close neighbours. The regeneration includes new developments and improved infrastructure. Its proximity to London City is a significant pull for investors. Proximity to the West end and Regents Park add further cache. Average prices here currently sit at around £660,000.

Southall – Offering a unique and lively environment, Southall is currently benefitting from significant redevelopment. These improvements include transports, schools, shopping areas and public spaces. Property prices are expected to rise significantly, with the average property price being just shy of £400,000.  

Whitechapel – laden with charming Georgian properties, Whitechapel is well located in zone 1. The area also offers plush newbuilds, providing the convenience of new with the charm of Georgian period properties. The average property prices sit at £730,000.

Hackney has turned its reputation from negative to positive, much in the way. Kings cross has. Hackney’s property market is going from strength to strength. It is well connected to central London and is a popular hotspot for city workers and young families. The average property price is around £630,000. 

Can a foreigner buy property in London?

London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Despite Brexit instigating policy changes to those who can live full time in the UK. There are no real hurdles for those wishing to buy a second home or investment property in the capital. 

Those wishing to send their children to London to study will encounter no issue and apply for a student visa. Providing your child has been offered a place in higher education, they possess enough money to support themselves and can speak English to a reasonable level. 

The UK and notably London remain a welcoming and accessible destination for foreigners. Despite the UK’s rear about becoming a less influential financial hub, the UK continues to attract many high skilled workers and hasn’t lost much of its appeal. 

Associated costs of buying property in London

Buyers in the UK will have the following buying costs to consider when purchasing property in London.  

  • Solicitors’ fees – This Will typically range from £1000 to £2000 if selling a home and buying this fee will increase.
  • Stamp duty  This Will depend on the property’s value and whether this is your primary residence. It is derived from the purchase price and buying circumstance. 
  • Property survey – A surveyor will typically charge between £500 and £2000, subject to the size of the property. In some cases, lenders will arrange a survey on the property to satisfy their needs. 

 

Newbuild or resale property in London?

When considering buying either a newbuild property or a resale property in London, there are a few key things to consider. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for both options:

Newbuild property in London

Many enjoy the convenience and peace of mind offered with newbuild properties.

Pros of buying a newbuild home

  • Blank Canvas – a new home can be tailored to your specifications. This spec will include carpet colours and interior decoration. If your budget stretches, you can even have patios etc. laid before your arrival. 
  • Move-in sooner– when buying a newbuild, the chain stops at you, which will mean fewer delays and the likelihood of moving into the property more shortly. 
  • Properties are more efficient – insolation, heating and water goods are more efficient than many resale properties.
  • Financing schemes – many newbuild projects can be financed using the aid of government schemes. These including ‘Help to Buy’, which can make them more affordable for first-time buyers. 
  • Newbuild warranties – Reputable developers will offer a 2-year warranty on a new home. Once this initial warranty expires, the property is covered by a 10-year insurance policy from the NHBC or national home buyers council. This insurance won’t cover every issue but does cover a lot. 

Cons of buying a newbuild property in London

  • Living space – typically, newbuild homes in London will have much less surface area than period homes.
  • Lack of character – whilst completely subjective, newbuild properties can lack some of the character of a period property in London.
  • Potential delays – when buying an off-plan property, the likelihood of delays can be strong. Move-in dates can be postponed, especially if something unforeseen takes place with the construction.
  • Parking – the number of car parking places per dwelling has significantly decreased in recent years. Meaning a two-car family may be put off by newbuilds. 

Pros of buying a resale property in London

For those preferring to move into a house which has stood for years and potentially has more character. The points below should be considered. 

Better value – existing properties tend to be cheaper than newbuilds in the sale area. You’ll also typically have more scope to negotiate on the price. 

Better location – an existing property in London may be better located and enjoy a superior set of amenities.  

More charm – Period properties typically possess a lot more charm and character. London is known for its vast array of Georgian and Victorian properties, which burst with quirky original features.

More space – Typically, period properties will enjoy more space and larger rooms that can appeal to families and storage needs. 

No surprises – resale properties have stood for years, and you’ll have ample time to view the property several times at different times. Off-plan properties, unfortunately, can only be demonstrated by ‘show homes’; therefore can be daunting. 

Cons of buying a resale property

Buying chains – when chains with multiple buyers are formed, the path to purchase becomes more treacherous. Completions are often delayed, others are unable to buy, and in some cases, these chains break. 

Unforeseen costs – period properties can require immediate maintenance or reparation. However, a good London property surveyor can highlight any obvious significant costs.

Period property efficiency – Existing properties can have more drafts and less efficient heating and plumbing. This inefficiency can mean they are slightly more expensive to run. 

Most expensive areas in London

The most expensive areas in the UK are all located near or in central London. Here is a list of the most costly and luxurious regions to live in in the capital. 

  • Knightsbridge – Attracting the ultra-rich and developers catering for the top 1%. Knightsbridge benefits from excellent amenities, including luxury shops and private banks for its wealthy residents. The average property value in Knightsbridge is £2.6m
  • West Brompton – This pricey neighbourhood with parts of west Brompton being found in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The average home in West Brompton is priced at around £1.5m 
  • Chelsea – Known for its top-tier football club, Chelsea is inhabited by celebrities such as Vivienne Westwood, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Piers Morgan. The average property in this star-studded area is £1.2m 
  • Westminster – More of the most desirable areas in central London, the area boasts many significant landmarks. These include 10 Downing Street, Big Ben and the houses of parliament. Properties have an average price of £1.2m 
  • Kensington – The smallest borough of London and arguably the most exclusive certain areas of Kensington, notably Kensington Palace Gardens, are among London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. Property owners include Eric Clapton, Sir Richard Branson and Madonna. Kensington palace gardens boast amenities which include a private Ferrari Museum, private cinemas and swimming pools. Property prices sit at an average of £1.2m

Best value areas in London

  • Barking – Located in East London and is part of the Borough of Barking and Dagenham. This Greater London town is just a short hop from Essex and a touch over 9 miles to Charing Cross. The average house price in Barking is £263,000, and the area is enjoying a revamp, including an exclusive new Barking riverside development with views over the Thames, mudflats and a nature reserve. 
  • Woolwich – Just five miles from the Canary Wharf business centre, Woolwich now features 5000 new homes, restaurants and bars. Transport links are also being improved with Crossrail transport service due shortly. The average house price in Woolwich is £273,000, up a staggering 77% in the last five years.
  • Old Kent Road – the area is expected to enjoy a significant regeneration program in the coming years, with new developments being planned. Close transport links include Elephant and Castle and south Bermondsey, which takes just a few minutes to reach London Bridge. It has been muted that Old Kent Road will receive an underground station of its own on the Bakerloo line, which would further boost the area. The area of SE15 has enjoyed prices rises of 33% in the last five years, with the average home now costing £570,000.
  • Brentford – An area also under development is Brentford. The area boasts a range of local schools with a ‘good’ Ofsted rating or better and decent transport link from its Zone 4 location. Waterloo, for example, taking roughly 30 mins. Ballymore, a leading UK developer, currently developing a 12-acre site to include a leisure centre, cinema and other facilities, plus the development of just shy of 900 homes. The average house price in Brentford now tops £500,000 with the choice of houses in limited supply.
  • Poplar – Undergoing renovation with 3,000 flats being developed. Poplar just north of Canary Wharf boasts period homes, ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rate schools and enjoys service from the Dock Lands Light Railway. Up roughly 15% in the last five years, average house prices in E14 are £512,000.

Areas in London that are popular with expats

Popular areas with expats living and working in London include the following destinations.

  • Chelsea
  • Knightsbridge
  • South Kensington

Popular with European expatriates mainly, these areas include French schools and a consulate. American, Spanish and Italian residents have long adopted these west London locations.

  • Notting Hill
  • Holland Park

Wealthy expats looking to divert away from west London often choose Notting Hill and Holland Park. The area is popular with Australians and Americans who search for a more relaxed environment.

  • Fulham
  • Southfields
  • Putney
  • Wimbledon

With picturesque Victorian properties a plenty, SW London offers much of the charm of Chelsea and Kensington for those on a tighter budget. French expats flock to these locations due to its proximity to Battersea and the l’ecole de Battersea.

Finding a home in London

For those buyers who are time short or looking for a more personalised service, you may wish to enlist the services of a specialist property buying agent. This agent will typically work on a retainer basis and present you with the best options available both “on and off-market”, in your desired area of London. This consultant will then provide you with property valuation and bidding advice- and assist you with financing and legal matters through to sale completion. Buying agents typically operate at the higher end of the London market on properties over £1,000,000 and profess to negotiate at least their fee off the property’s final sale price. Provide buyers with access to properties that are not for sale on the London property market. This is an excellent service, particularly for those unable to travel due to work obligations or unfamiliar with the local property market and buying process.

Property buying process London

  • Organise the boring stuff – Whether you are a non-resident buyer or a wannabe first-time buyer, get your financial ducks in order. To be taken seriously by agents attempt to get a mortgage pre-approval before viewing. Those buying cash may also wish to bring proof of funds to leverage any future negotiations. If your funds are in another currency, it’s advisable to speak to a currency expert to forecast and manage your budget. 
  • Plan your search – be sure to visit the area where you wish to purchase your new home. Consider doing this at different times of the day, checking traffic flows, parking, and people who frequent the area. Some areas change dramatically during the night, so always ensure you plan your search. If you have children, research schools and your child’s likelihood of receiving a place. Once you feel confident in the area, visit agents in the area.
  • Submit an offer – Once you have found your future home, submit a proposal to accentuate your circumstance. As an example, cash buyer, no property to sale or current property under offer. 
  • Instruct a reputable Solicitor – The importance of getting a great solicitor shouldn’t be underestimated. Find a bad one, and the process will quickly become a battle, with your cornerman slowing proceedings.
  • Conveyancing and searches – The next step in purchasing your London home is conveyancing and searches. The will include verifying the draft purchase contract from the vendor’s solicitor, agreeing to the date of exchange and local property and land searches being completed.
  • Property survey and mortgage offer- The survey of the London property must be performed before the exchange of contracts. Surveys will be completed on behalf of the bank financing the property or by the cash buyer. They shed light on any structural issues and verify the properties sale value. Once processed by the lender, a formal mortgage offer can be made by the lender.
  • Exchange of contracts – Once all enquiries from vendor and buyer have been negotiated and approved, contracts can be exchanged. The buyer’s solicitor will also forward a deposit of roughly 10%. If you are buying from overseas, ensure your FX broker has sent this money to your solicitor.
  • Completion – Roughly 2-3 month after having your initial offer accepted, you should be completing. This planned completion will require the remaining 90% or final payment of your newbuild to be paid. Once this final amount clears with the solicitor, you have completed your property transaction and now own a home in London.

Financing a home in London

UK banks have a vast appetite for lending, and financing London property is far easier than buying in many other European capitals. The terms for buying will depend on, but residents will typically have to deposit a10% of the property value. Those buying from outside the UK will need to budget for a deposit of at least 20%. However but this will depend on the intended purchase and your financial circumstances. There are several specialist mortgage brokers specialising in the non-resident market, including:

These experts have access to the entire mortgage market. They will work in conjunction with a property buyer or investor to get an excellent rate and correct terms.

Transferring money internationally for London property purchase

For overseas investors, currency exchange will be a crucial element when purchasing in London. Whether you are buying a resale home or an off-plan new build, your international money transfer timing is vital. 

New build stage payments can be managed by a foreign exchange broker, allowing you to fix rates and lock in a favourable rate for the project’s entirety. A broker will offer several FX contracts to complement your London property purchase and ongoing property expenses. 

Opening a UK bank account to buy a property in London

To open a UK GBP bank account, you’ll need to provide two pieces of documentation: one to identify yourself another to prove your address. This process applies both in-branch and also online bank applications.  

Showing your identification documentation is easy. You need a passport, driving licence or EU identity card.

You’ll also have to prove your current address by providing one of the following.  

Every UK bank and financial institution has its list of address proof examples that are acceptable as evidence. These typically consist of:  

  • A property rental contract or mortgage application  
  • Recent electricity or gas expense (less than three months old)
  • A recent (less than three months old) financial institution or debit card statement is not taken off the web.  
  • A current UK council tax receipt.  

 

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