AIPP CEO, Peter Robinson, talks to Tim Morgan (below right), owner of ERE Property, a UK based company selling UK investment grade property in Hong Kong to both foreigners and British expats.
Why are you passionate about property and how did that influence the setting up of your company?
You can’t work in this industry without having a passion for meeting people and getting to know them. Our clients know we are passionate but also trust us to deliver the right buy-to-let opportunity for them. This is why our business has grown through referral based on recommendation.
We made a conscious decision early onto focus on investment property outside the saturated and inflated London market. We knew we were driven by a desire to improve the quality of advice for investors. We also knew that we could introduce investors across the world to property in the North and Midlands with yields that would make the investment appealing.
Can you briefly describe the UK buy-to-let property and its global appeal to investors?
For years now, the property market in England has been characterised by a North/South divide with house prices in the South rising much faster than the North. London helped to drive this price hike as international investors couldn’t get enough of property in the city but things have begun to change. At ERE we have seen investor appetite for cities like Manchester and Liverpool get bigger every year. We know that the tenant desire for Northern cities is there – in Manchester in 2015,there were 6 applicants on average for each city centre letting.
We’ve been tracking the major Northern residential markets and have seen the rise in their stronger economies. We expect this to continue over the next few years, especially with the government’s backing of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine programmes. We also are seeing that some lesser known UK towns are becoming a lot more familiar to investors off the back of growth in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.
Who are the foreign investors you work with and how are the properties marketed to them?
ERE has been meeting with investors on the ground in Hong Kong for over five years and we now have an office in the region. Our investors come from various industries but whatever job they are in, a key factor in their decisionto invest through ERE is the strength of our reputation and their level of trust in us. We are lucky to have a relationship with the AIPP, the body which sets the standards of professionalism in the international property industry and we drive the business to meet these high standards. People and property are at the heart of everything we do.
Last year, our sister company Wright Lettings was created so that it could manage the property of ourinvestors. In many instances of the property we sell, we can now offer our investors management services. Offering this service is a great message for our investors and gives them confidence in our commitment to their investment journey.
Will investors continue to see steady returns and what is their exit?
Sales and rental demand are sure to grow over the next few years but the key to sustainable organic growth lies in how national housebuilders and local developers respond in terms of building new schemes. We’re waiting to see how the government acts on its recent housing white paper.
We are expecting steady returns which are improved all the more by employment and income growth across the UK. Interest rate rises and mortgage constraints all frame stable but improving market conditions.The fundamental reason why returns are going to continue is that there is an uncatered for demand which is rising and outstripping supply.
What are the biggest opportunities for property investors in 2017?
It is clear there is significant excess of demand over available supply in the rentals market and in the near-term this will continue to drive rents upward. This is especially true in the major Northern cities and there is a ripple effect being felt in the outlying commuter towns. I’d say that by looking at these lesser known locations, there is an opportunity for investors to secure property under £100,000 which has little or no stamp duty associated with it.
Why are you confident that Brexit and the triggering of Article 50 shouldn’t make investors nervous?
I’m confident because the triggering of Article 50 and Brexit won’t affect the fundamentals of the market, which are that demand continues to outstrip supply.
We expect investors to hold property for a minimum of five years to gain the most out of a property as the markets steadily improve. Brexit is likely to have an effect on the housing market but it won’t be drastic and may create more opportunities for foreign investors waiting for a dip in FOREX. We’ve been through plenty of scenarios where the bottom was expected to drop out of the buy-to-let market and it didn’t – when we look back we’ll see the same thing happened with Brexit.