Middle East’s ‘pent-up’ demand for London property predicted to explode

While west London had been the traditional source of much Middle East investment, cash is now flowing to the east of the UK capital

  
General view of St. Thomas' Hospital next to London Eye as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in London, Britain, April 8, 2020. Image used for illustrative purpose only.

General view of St. Thomas' Hospital next to London Eye as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in London, Britain, April 8, 2020. Image used for illustrative purpose only.

REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Middle Eastern property investors frustrated by the pandemic are buying real estate in London without even travelling to the UK, according to a leading housing developer.

Stuart Leslie, international sales and marketing director at Barratt Homes, made the claim as he spoke of the “pent up demand” for properties in the UK capital by the region’s investors.

Speaking from a new development in East London, Leslie said his company had been fielding enquiries from people in the Middle East who were looking to buy property despite being unable to visit the UK because of travel rules relating to COVID-19.

From Monday October 4, travellers to the UK from Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait, will no longer have to isolate for 14 days upon arrival - provided they have received two vaccine doses.

Leslie predicts this loosening of restrictions will see a surge of activity from Middle Eastern investors in the UK market.

He said: “There is a pent-up demand from the Middle East which we’ve never seen before really, to the extent that even the last few months we’ve started to receive enquiries by people looking to make institutional investments or buy-to-let investments even without visiting the UK, which is very unusual for that market.”

Leslie added: “There’s the news that they will be able to travel but it will take a few weeks for those bookings to go up but obviously investors are already getting in touch and clearly there is a pent-up demand from the Middle East.”

While west London had been the traditional source of much Middle East investment, cash is now flowing to the east of the UK capital, said Leslie, which is benefiting from infrastructure developments including the new Elizabeth Line which will see trains reach Heathrow Airport, west of London, in around 45 minutes.

“Investors are really looking for what is the best value for money we can get in London at the moment in a good rental market and they don’t really mind where it is,” he said, adding: “I don’t think they’re looking for either ‘golden postcodes’ or particular areas, they are really chasing that value and that return on investment.”

Signs the market was coming back to life were visible earlier this year, when real estate consultancy Knight Frank revealed that 16 percent of all sales to overseas buyers in the first three months of 2021 were to Middle Eastern buyers, up from less than 10 percent in the second and third quarters of last year.

This was the highest proportion of Middle Eastern interest since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK, according to Knight Frank.

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