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Investing in UK Residential Property

For years residential property has become an irresistible commodity both to UK and overseas investors. The latter invested strongly in Prime Central London which experienced enormous price growth from 2010 to 2014 in particular. Price growth has since slowed and prices have started to drop.

The reversal in prices is largely due to changes in the tax regime over the past few years many of which have had a punitive effect – especially on overseas investors. These changes included the introduction of Capital Gains (CGT) for overseas investors, increases in Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) and the introduction of the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED).

These changes initially impacted overseas investors but have had knock on effects for domestic investors. Further tax legislation, including the gradual reduction in mortgage interest relief and the introduction of 3% SDLT surcharge on the purchase of additional dwellings, has hit the Buy to Let sector hard.

Fears over the implications of Brexit have further weakened confidence in the market and price growth overall in England has now slowed considerably.

However the UK has always had a faith in residential property investment due to historical long term price growth and the fact that residential property prices have not always correlated with economic downturns. Moreover there is an undersupply of residential property which means that there will always be demand. Home ownership has always been an aspiration for many in the UK.

Leading property agents have predicted that prices will start to recover over the next five years although such price growth will be slow.

But for investors happy to wait, there will be gains to realise from investing in the current subdued market. Investing whilst sterling is weak provides an instant advantage in terms of affordability. In addition, investors will avoid the cost implications of the additional 1% SDLT surcharge to be levied on purchases by overseas buyers which the UK Government is considering imposing.

Although the cost of borrowing remains low and mortgage finance widely available, there are certain opportunities for cash investors in this market to acquire properties which are unattractive to lenders and therefore for which financing may be hard to obtain. Such opportunities include buying short leases where there is the possibility of extending them under Leasehold Reform Legislation and also buying “distressed” properties at auction.

Bargains can still be negotiated on off-plan purchases in developments under construction which will be completing when prices are recovering and therefore providing some capital growth.

There is also a growing market where buyers can acquire existing off-plan contracts for new build developments where there appears to be an oversupply of new units and where sellers are seeking to sell their contracts at a discount rather than complete on the purchase of what now appears to be an over expensive unit, or lose their deposit by failing to complete.

With the prospect of weak price growth, investors are focusing more on a strong income rather than capital growth. Tax changes and increased mortgage regulations affecting interest-only mortgages have made standard Buy to Let investments less attractive.

The UK Government has been promoting Build to Rent schemes in recent years. These schemes offer a different and attractive product offering long term rentals with the provision of communal facilities such as gyms and function rooms. These schemes are particularly attractive to larger investors due to a good yield and the provisions of a reliable income stream.

Student housing also offers strong returns as today’s students seek better quality accommodation than the traditional student digs that they occupied in the past.

UK tax

Careful navigation is required to avoid unnecessary complications and unexpected exposures to UK taxation in relation to rental returns and/or gains made in relation to investment property

Typical non-domicile ownership structures include:

How Edwin Coe can help

Edwin Coe is ideally placed to advise clients looking to invest in residential property. The firm provides a full service offering which has been developed for clients who are looking to invest in or relocate to the UK, in particular to offer a “one-stop-shop” which includes providing advice in relation to:

  • efficient tax structuring
  • establishing required trust or corporate structures
  • working with other trusted advisors including valuers, property agents and surveyors
  • working with lenders on financing including advising on Shari’a compliant funding for borrowers
  • advice on carrying out development or major alterations of residential property
  • working with our commercial team on purchases of mixed use buildings
  • enfranchisement advice for both landlords and tenants both in relation to claims made under the leasehold reform legislation as well as advising on structuring titles to avoid the risk of enfranchisement
  • immigration into the UK (if relevant)

The firm prides itself on being able to provide speedy, efficient and cost effective advice and solutions on each of the above areas and more.

Edwin Coe also prides itself on providing a fully “joined-up” service to clients looking to invest in residential property. Our residential specialists are part of a larger property team with considerable expertise in dealing with commercial premises, financing, construction and enfranchisement.

The key also to building relationships with clients is the wish to become a trusted advisor to steer clients through making business decisions and achieving successful outcomes.

The service provided by Edwin Coe is fully Partner led with Partners dedicated to each client and who remain in regular contact with clients from the outset, and who are therefore fully aware of the client’s requirements and intentions.

Our relationships

We try at all times to be entrepreneurial and to where possible make suitable introductions either to third parties or other potential opportunities.

We have an extensive range of contacts in all parts of the residential sector particularly in the Prime Central London market.

This includes introductions to other professional advisors such as mortgage brokers, banks and lenders who may assist either in relation to banking or loan facilities including bridging finance, or setting up bank accounts in the UK.

We work very closely with estate agents and property consultants who can source or advise on potential investments in residential property. Our contacts often have access to properties that are “off-market”.

The Partners of Edwin Coe have built a large network of preferred third parties which is invaluable when investing in the UK residential property market.

Edwin Coe also has strong professional links in Europe, the US, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Russia, and the Far East.

We frequently assist clients with global business issues.

We have links with certain International firms – particularly in the Far East – who can work alongside us in supporting clients who are based in those countries and require assistance in their native language.

Commencing the process

We strongly advise all clients who are looking to invest into UK residential property to first take proper “bespoke” advice from us in relation to structures and tax efficient means of investing funds into residential property. This is extremely important particularly in relation to tax and especially minimising UK tax exposure or potential unexpected tax consequences as a result of the many tax legislative changes which have been introduced over the last 3 to 4 years.

If a structure is recommended – as opposed to investment in a personal name – the process to set up a structure and then suitably document it and create any relevant trust of corporate vehicles (including potentially in overseas jurisdictions), can take several weeks which can have a delaying effect on a transaction.

Edwin Coe regularly work with client’s other advisors such as accountants in their home jurisdiction, or one of the off shore jurisdictions, to create a bespoke and efficient structure.

Language capabilities

We are able to offer support for clients with native speakers in Arabic, Farsi, Cantonese, Mandarin, Urdu and French.

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