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What and where are smart investors buying when looking to resettle in the UK?

London-based brokers and developers are reporting rocketing interest from affluent Hongkongers keen to buy new homes and relocate to the UK capital under the new British National Overseas pathway launched by the UK government in January.

The pandemic and the constantly changing travel restrictions have put barriers in place for prospective buyers, but experts like Naomi Heaton, chairman of London Central Portfolio and founder of The Other House, say the floodgates are opening as international flights slowly return. She reports a 50 per cent increase in the number of Hong Kong buyers in July 2021 compared to the previous 12 months, plus a 29 per cent increase in website traffic from Hong Kong over that period.

“A smart buyer will be buying this year,” she says. “There isn’t much stock out there and prices are suppressed. You tend to have people who really need to sell [who are] selling at the moment.” Heaton describes the “sweet spot” for Hong Kong investors being around HK$30 million, which will buy a three-bedroom flat in central London.

While buying UK property is nothing new to Hong Kong investors, own-home purchases call for greater consideration of factors like location, amenities, build quality and nearby schools than average buy-to-let or other types of remote property investments. Especially if buying in places like London, making wise and informed choices is essential and working with trusted agents is second only to viewing the place in person.

See also: 5 Property Trends Shaping Our Search for New Homes in 2021

1. The Owo Residences by Raffles

The OWO, the regenerated Old War Office in Whitehall, is suited to buyers who enjoy the serviced apartment lifestyle and who want to own a piece of characterful London history. The super prime development adjacent to St James’ Park will be completed in 2022 and will comprise the capital’s first Raffles hotel with 125 rooms and suites, 85 branded residences, restaurants, bars and a spa.

Head of sales Charlie Walsh says Hong Kong buyers are already staking their claims on apartments. “We’ve had great response from the Asian markets, because of the love affair with London and amazing, authentic and heritage buildings with incredible stories, and having five-star hotel service.”

From HK$62.3 million for a two-bedroom apartment.

2. Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station’s HK$86 billion transformation saw the decommissioned coal plant become a mixed-use neighbourhood of shops, restaurants and homes with its own new Underground station. The iconic, Grade II listed, Art Deco masterpiece has created a healthy demand from Hongkongers, says Mark Hutton, head of residential sales and lettings at Battersea Power Station Development Company. 

“There has been an uplift in the number of Hong Kong buyers looking to purchase a home for themselves or their children at Battersea Power Station due to the appealing lifestyle on offer, the plentiful green space nearby, and proximity to shopping areas and prestigious education institutions.”

From HK9.3 million.

3. Garden Villas

Garden Villas offers rare mews-style living in prime central London, combining a Grade I listed facade and secluded courtyard garden with amenities like a cinema, pool and Pilates studio. The nine three-storey, two- or three-bedroom villas are marketed as “boltholes” for foreign buyers, though their design and location would suit those looking for something more permanent.

Chris Richmond, director at developer CIT, says Hong Kong buyers represent a “sizeable proportion of enquiries”, citing a recent sale to a family who, using virtual tours, purchased a home unseen for their daughter studying in the UK. “Buyers should look out for location and uniqueness. It’s very easy to replicate a new build apartment; my advice is to buy something that can’t be built again and thus protect your investment.”

From HK$55.5 million.

4. Marylebone Square

This contemporary interpretation of a Georgian mansion block in opulent surroundings is set for completion by the end of the year in Marylebone, one of the most desirable areas in London. There are 54 two- or three-bedroom apartments within the complex, which will boast a health club, restaurants and electric car charging points.

The development is recommended by Naomi Heaton, group chairman and owner of real estate investment advisory London Central Portfolio, who says its prestigious location makes it a solid investment. “Marylebone is particularly sought after at the moment as it’s the very centre of London. It’s a fantastic place for public transport connections, being near outside space and shopping.”

From HK$27.5 million.

5. No 1 Millbrook Park

At No 1 Millbrook Park in Mill Hill East, 30 per cent of buyers so far have been a mix of Hongkongers relocating and local British Chinese, according to developer Joseph Homes. All the homes are constructed with sustainability and comfort in mind: from thermally efficient windows to heat recovery systems to low toxicity paint.

The area has a long-established Asian community, plus fast links to central London and green spaces. Sean Ruane, sales director of Joseph Homes, says: “As an area that has had a strong Chinese community for many years, we were determined to introduce buyers to something new... and the high interest and purchase levels represents the success of this.”

Two-bedroom apartments start at HK$6.2 million.

6. South Quay Plaza

Surrounded by the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, South Quay Plaza is a landmark development designed by architects Foster + Partners and developed by Berkeley. Its three towers, set within more than a hectare of gardens, will be among Europe’s tallest residential buildings when completed in 2022. For buyers accustomed to Hong Kong’s clubhouse lifestyle, residency includes access to a gym, swimming pool, business lounge, screening room and private dining room.

Emma Lander, real estate company JLL’s director for residential and international development, says: “Canary Wharf remains one of the go-to destinations for investment across Asia for all these reasons. It doesn’t get much better than the homes on offer here, all set within a global business district with the rest of London within easy reach.”

From HK$8.9 million.

7. No 8 One Thames City

Set within the fast-transforming Nine Elms area in Zone 1, the 12 buildings that make up One Thames City will form one of the UK’s biggest regeneration projects upon its late-2022 completion. The 53-storey Building No 8—the tallest residential building in Zone 1—will offer all the lifestyle services Hong Kong buyers look for, including a 24-hour concierge, swimming pool, private dining, business centre, cinema and gym alongside a newly created urban park.

“The neighbourhood boasts access to the very best of London fashion, education, and the emerging focus of sustainability and wellness,” says Michael Purefoy, global brand director of developer R&F.

Prices from HK$11.8 million.

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