By Rebecca Spong
LONDON: Indian buyers have overtaken those from the Middle East to become the second-largest purchasers of prime Central London property, as Gulf investors’ appetite remains hampered by regional economic uncertainty.
Data from residential property adviser London Central Portfolio (LCP) show Indian investors ramping up their spending in the capital, with the country’s buyers now accounting for 22 percent of prime property sales in the year 2016-17, compared to just 5 percent of sales recorded in the last audit conducted two years ago.
The Middle East slipped into third place this year, representing 21 percent of sales. “Prime” areas of the capital include Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster, according to the LCP’s definition.
Investors from the region were previously the biggest property buyer in the UK capital, with a 43 percent share of all sales, according to the 2014-15 audit. Investors from South East Asia are now the largest buyer of prime real estate in the capital, with a 36 percent share in this year’s audit. The data covers sales of residential and mixed-use properties only.
“The 2014 audit took place during the height of oil prices when Middle Eastern investors were flooding into the prime Central London market,” said Lauren Kemp, senior manager, investment and communications at LCP.
“On the other hand, over the last year, whilst the numbers of Middle Eastern investors remain relatively strong, some buyers may now be feeling less well off with decreases in oil prices, coupled with increased uncertainty in the region with sanctions and credit rating cuts,” Kemp said, adding that tax changes on residential property has also been a factor in the decline.
Indian buyers, in contrast, have taken advantage of changes made in 2015 to the Liberalized Remittance Scheme in India, which increased the amount of capital buyers can bring into the UK to $250,000 per person.
“As India has become a more challenging place to invest in with high loan interest rates and rising prices in the main urban centers, together with increasing global political and economic uncertainty, Indian buyers with a larger amount of capital to spend have increasingly turned to London as an investment destination of choice,” said Naomi Heaton, CEO of London Central Portfolio.
A weakening pound has also made London a more attractive location for US dollar-denominated investors.
Indian buyers now account for a third of the total spend on London prime property, with the average purchase price of £1.77 million higher than the market average of £1.6 million. The Middle East buyer is paying an average price of £932,217.
Not only are private Indian investors moving into the London market, more institutions and developers are investing in the capital’s property.
In 2014, the Mumbai-based Lodha Group bought the Canadian embassy in Mayfair, while Indiabulls invested £155 million in a development in Hanover Square.
The biggest drop in buyers was among those from continental Europe, where the UK’s vote to leave the EU damaged investor confidence, the report found. European buyers account for just 7 percent of sales in the last 12 months, compared to 24 percent in the last audit.