2020 and 2021 undoubtedly saw a large increase in enquiries and moves from urban areas to more rural ones. There were two kinds of people: Those who moved lock stock and barrel and those who bought a place in the country and retained either their home in the city or ever downsized in the city. So far, following the success of the inoculation program, we have not seen a return to the city, with many movers now settled into their new areas and successfully working from their new home office. Locations near transport have been key and as long as there is an excellent road or rail network nearby, there has been little limit to how far from the city they are prepared to go, perhaps restricted by time instead.
For example, at the time of writing we have a couple buying a beautiful mews house within stunning rural converted stables and surrounding lakes and lawns, forming part of a larger manor house, whilst they retain their home in London. They love the idea of being close to their children and grandchildren, only a few miles away, yet they can be at their London home within 45 minutes. Our mailing list has increased exponentially with buyers looking for the perfect family house away from the city and at some point this will slow down, but right now, all the evidence is for this market to continue.
Most of the properties that have been taken up by this migratory force have been the larger family homes. Families with younger children through to late teens. Great schools nearby have been important, although many of the children stayed at their school, as long as they are boarding or commutable. At below £500,000 the market has been pushed along by factors such as the stamp duty holiday but also the pent-up need to move over the last year caused by working from home, births, employment etc. In prices over £1,000,000 it tends to be houses with great gardens and a good home office that have the greatest appeal and as said before, close to transport, yet away from the busy roads.
Buyers remain interested in unmodernised properties that they can renovate to their own specification and design but also, especially properties that are presented fully completed.
Properties in the commuter belt remain hot targets for buyers with a shortage of good stock and buyers waiting to pounce. A great house will sell very well and within a short period of time. Buyers are there waiting. Buyers from the UK and from international hot spots such as Hong Kong are longing to find the perfect house and if it is priced at the market value and presented well though all the mediums available, this really is a great time to sell or let your house. With the new school year fast approaching, buyers have every reason to capture the market today. Not only will they potentially save £15,000 stamp duty, they will enjoy their new gardens throughout this probable staycation summer.
Q1 has indeed been a much busier than expected market for sales. The key drivers being the opportunity for domestic buyers to come into the market with a fewer number of overseas buyers. The lack of travel and restrictions of quarantines has meant that people from overseas have held back on visiting for investment. This however is leading to a pent-up demand of overseas buyers waiting to pounce once these restrictions lift, we will have further updates on this on 17th May.
The Stamp Duty deadlines are approaching, and buyers, agents and lawyers have probably not been busier in terms of people wanting to beat the deadline. Come the end of June the first deadline will be here, with the phasing then continuing over the next three months.
Hong Kong buyers are continuing to be prevalent in the UK market, and we expect this to continue and grow as the travel restrictions lift.
This quarter alone we have sold a high number of properties including a bulk sale for £15m, the Iconic Lost House by Sir David Adjaye, £6.5m, a house in Hampstead for £16m, and Eaton Place £4.25m. The current level of properties under offer is at its highest yet, and these sales are primarily a result of lifestyle changes, investment and “life after lockdown.” The key requirements that people continue to request are space (indoor and outdoor), light and views. Lockdown restrictions are lifting, and we can now meet clients for outdoor lunches, visit pubs and begin high street shopping again. In the business world, JP Morgan have announced that employees should be back in their offices by July, which only emphasizes the importance of the continuation of City living!
Regarding the effects of the Covid-19 Lockdown on incoming post-secondary student activity from China to the UK, existing students are making-do with online classes but have expressed missing out on the quality and efficiency of classroom teaching, in particular face to face communication with teachers and classmates. We are receiving questions about whether Chinese families will continue to send their children to the UK for education – and the answer is YES. However, it is too soon to tell the quantity.
In the short term, Coronavirus may have dampened our will to travel worldwide, and we do expect a certain reluctance to take long-haul flights. The English may fear going to the country of origin, and the Chinese may fear coming to the European hotspot where we are still in the throes of battling the virus. In the long term, there are other socio-economic and political factors at play. However, we are seeing a particularly swelling level of enquiries from Hong Kong looking at the UK as a potential “safe-haven” with the political uncertainties and the welcoming gesture made by Boris Johnson on the promises of citizenship.
For those students and families looking to emigrate out of China, achieving an education in the UK is still a desirable and valuable option. However; if we are considering Hong Kong’s situation with respect to political changes enforced by China, we may see a new wave of immigration via education.
From the Chinese perspective, UK has performed incredibly well to offer support during the lockdown and their prevention methods were also successful in flattening the curve. So will we see more Chinese students arriving to the UK post-Coronavirus any time soon? It might be a while.
Our China Desk has made a significant sale of £12 million over the lockdown period, and have continued to make strides with closing property investment deals where virtual viewings were sufficient to satisfy investor needs. While we know the bigger investors have been relatively minimally impacted, the investors with a more modest budget will wait to hedge their bets till the time they can fly over to view in person. We continue to provide a wealth of information, promoting our virtual viewings and virtual reality options to Chinese enquiries coming in from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vancouver; thus they gain a UK Sotheby’s International Realty education in UK real estate for both clients and buyers without the classroom setting.
Surrounded by a rewarding mix of modern style and iconic history, London Dock is situated in the heart of the capital, moments from Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, St Katharine Docks and the City. With a number of London underground and Docklands Light Railway stations within walking distance, London Dock offers quick and easy access to London’s main financial centres of the City and Canary Wharf, as well as the exciting cultural and creative neighbourhoods of Shoreditch, Whitechapel and Bermondsey.
Wapping is a truly authentic destination, filled with independent cafés and restaurants, which has for hundreds of years been a vibrant part of London life. The Prospect of Whitby – London’s oldest riverside pub – was popular with Charles Dickens, diarist Samuel Pepys and renowned artists Turner and Whistler. By the river, Hermitage Community Moorings attracts sailing barges, tugs and small boats, keeping alive Wapping’s river heritage.
In the latest of our Global Series interviews we are taking you to the “land down under” where we spoke to Jaime Upton who is one of the top brokers in the city of Sydney. Originally from the U.K, Jaime and Guy have worked together on a few referrals between both London and Sydney and the clear connection between the cities and countries. We even managed to not talk Cricket or Rugby!
1. Which City/ area are you from?
Born in Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Raised in Sydney, Australia from the age of 4.
2. What are the best things to do/ see where you live?
Sydney is located on one of the most beautiful harbours in the word – Sydney Harbour surrounded by incredible Pacific Ocean coastline. With summer-like temperatures around 8 months of the year active outdoor activities are some of the best things to do and see in and around the harbour and ocean such as boating and walking, you can even climb the Harbour Bridge! Dine your way through a stay. I love Sydney restaurants, there are plenty of them from casual to fine dining and some of the very best I have experienced in my travels. Long relaxing family, friends and client Friday/Saturday/Sunday lunches are a Sydney institution, often overlooking our magnificent harbour. Sydney is the arts and theatre epicentre of Australia with the Sydney Opera House as a showstopping venue leading the way. When the weather turns a little cooler, just 2 hours’ drive from Sydney is The Hunter Valley, a spectacular wine region and countryside.
3. Tell us a little about your market?
Sydney prestige market has been thriving for many years and decades with the exception of, in my lifetime, the GFC period to which it recovered and went on to experience exponential capital growth. Some might say that Sydney real estate punches well above its weight on a global scale and has often been featured over the years within top 10 most expensive real estate cities in the world-reports. Most expensive apartment sale achieved to date at AUD140,000,000 is a soon-to-be complete 1,600m2 city penthouse which sold in 2019 to an Australian Chinese family. Most expensive house sale achieved to date at AUD100,000,000 is located on 11,200m2 of prime harbourside Eastern Suburb land in the country’s most expensive postcode – 2027, Point Piper which sold in 2018 to an Australian tech-entrepreneur.
4. What is your favourite listing currently on your books and why?
‘Tresco’, a stately sandstone waterfront home which dates to 1868, has stood the test of time on its original Elizabeth Bay site as our Harbour City exploded around it. It’s also on the market for AUD50,000,000 — but the 150 years of high society stories this Victorian manor and its cascading gardens hold are priceless. ‘Tresco’ was owned by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and used as the official residence for senior officers for almost 100 years until it was bought privately in 2004. While it has served as the scene of many glittering gatherings, its most famous visitors were in 1986 when Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth was the guest of honour at the RAN’s 75th birthday celebrations.
This trophy home is set on 3,300m2 of prime Sydney-east waterfront land making it very unique on many fronts. Attraction has been drawn from high net worth Sydney and overseas based ex-pat buyers because of their interest in owning a large compound-style secure trophy home on (call me biased) the best harbour in the world less than 3km from Sydney’s CBD with direct waterfront access and boating facilities. As the property has its own double sided wharf and with extra sea wall pillars, those with involvement in boating have especially sought out to inspect my favourite listing.
5. How has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected your location?
Fortunately real estate services are considered essential in Sydney at the moment. Whilst mostly staying indoors has provided the opportunity to build business, we have been able to show our listed properties by appointment only, one person at a time. This has allowed for moving forward of property sales including those which are scheduled to go to auction. Virtual auctions are now taking place instead of onsite. Certainly, we are more than ever embracing technology with video virtual inspections offered via Facetime and Zoom and interactive 3D virtual inspections conducted for each property listing. Of all sales results achieved, we have not seen any direct evidence of COVID-19 affecting our market in any significant downward fashion as yet. So far, so good!
6. What are your best tips for living/ working from home?
Focus, focus, focus! When I lose focus I use an hour of power trick to make small but truly massive progress. I believe productivity levels are a direct reflection of our energy levels, therefore it is absolutely essential to take care of our health and keep active. I go for daily long walks, minimum 10,000 steps per day and able to get in (morning/evening/lunchtime) livestreaming yoga sessions at home from my regular yoga studio. This alone has been an absolute godsend! Drink lots of water, get a quality night’s rest and eat lightly where possible!
7. Your best real estate story?
Not one story, the whole story. Apart from successfully navigating my way through (and surviving!) some very nice double digit deals and in some cases the opportunity of reselling those properties and servicing those clients to the highest level, I would have to say meeting the most extraordinary people on a daily basis who become clients and sometimes friends for life has become a huge part of who I am. Working within the best luxury real estate brand and network in the world for 8 years where I have experienced the opportunity of referring multiple clients as sellers to our global offices [GPB60,000,000 to London, USD100,000,000 to USA] buyers to many more, has been hugely rewarding not withstanding an incredible value-add to my long standing client-base.
8. Where is on your travel bucket list?
Bahamas, Maldives, Greece, parts of Italy I have not been to, Africa to name a few. And also returning to some of my all-time ultra-favourites – London, South of France, Almalfi, Rome, Paris, Bangkok, Koh Samui and Hong Kong.
9. And finally…….. when are you coming to visit us in London!?
As always, I truly cannot wait to get back to London ASAP. A brilliant city and one in which I feel very at home. Open all borders, fire up the planes and I am there!
In the first of our interviews, we are visiting Hong Kong to interview Binoche Chan, Chief Operating Officer at List Sotheby’s International Realty. Binoche has over 15 years of experience in sales, marketing and working with luxury properties. Hong Kong and London have maintained a special relationship with some of the world’s best luxury real estate. We will explore the best things to see and visit once the travel restrictions are lifted and what is happening on the ground in Hong Kong now.
1. Which city/area are you from?
2. What are the best things to do/see where you live?
Business and investment.
Vibrant night life entertainment, restaurants of all kinds, dim sum is so good here
Hiking – there are so many beautiful trails.
Water spots the beach and ocean is within 15 to 30 minutes.
History and sight-seeing Victoria Harbour, the Peak with day and night panoramas.
Street food – a daring challenge!
3. Tell us a little about your market?
Very resilient and fast trading market support by strong local demand.
Interest rate is very low and financing is easy to arrange.
Commercial Retail market is suffering a lot due to coronavirus.
4. What is your favourite listing currently on your books and why?
5. How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your location?
With the SARS experience in 2003, Hong Kong citizens were very careful and took immediate action to avoid the virus from spreading when the COVID-19 virus first hit Hong Kong in January 2019 with cases principally from mainland China. Everyone wears face masks and uses sanitiser or washes hand whenever possible. At first it was not too serious in Hong Kong but now, we are facing a second hit from cases coming back from all over the world. As a true international city, this is kind of unavoidable. However, given the discipline and efforts of everyone in the community, we have strong faith that Hong Kong will be one of the earliest cities to recover.
6. What are your best tips for living/working from home?
Routine and momentum are most important. You must try to keep a regular schedule similar to how you might work in your office so that you can keep the same responsiveness to your team and clients. Leverage the power of technology, conduct meetings with all kind of apps available so we can keep a closer relationship with your counterparts compare to using purely phone calls.
7. Your best real estate story?
Relationship passes on generations. Clients become friends. When being trusted, I think that’s the best reward. There are some very nice clients who rely on me beyond just pure real estate transactional services but also other things such as financial planning after selling a property. When their families has needs, I am the first one being called.
8. What is on your travel bucket list
Middle East countries and Eastern Europe.
9. and finally… When are you coming to visit us in London?!
I miss London. I can come back anytime when the virus is gone. Look forward to seeing you there!
武汉加油 – In the face of a health threat, it is important to support friends in need. Fear and discrimination has been on the rise in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak. As UK citizens and as global employers, we support our friends in Asia and wish you well. Recover quickly.
Over the past year we have seen a steep increase in interest from Chinese buyers. Aside from rental income and investment, international education has been a huge driver for those looking to London for property.
With respect to the civil unrest between China and Hong Kong, political strife tends to trigger financial safety planning. As tensions have increase over the past year, we are seeing an influx in people from Hong Kong, including British expats, looking to purchase property in the UK as an intent to protect their wealth in the present, and invest for the future. The fear of uncertainty is driving people to take their portfolios to safer political climates, and London has always been seen as a safe haven where they can count on property values appreciating and the prestige of London’s global status has always been attractive.
In recent months, enquiries from mainland China has slowed as anticipated because this is the time of year when they are doing year-end finance. The process of planning ahead includes assessment of their current holdings, and researching into possible options for next year. Now that they can take advantage of the currency rates we would expect the number of enquiries to normalize again after year-end.