Investing in property is a mainstay of most Asian portfolios and the UK
has typically been among the most desirable of destinations. Recent data suggests that despite the uncertainty created by Brexit and
the upcoming general election, Asian investors are flocking to the UK's shores
more than ever before. Research from property investment firm JLL indicates that Asian
investors accounted for 28% of the transactions in the UK property market in
2016, up from the 17% the year before. London in particular continues to be a strong attraction, especially for
Asian families who have long had a link to the city.
Pamela Kirpalani's family is originally from India, but she now lives
and works in Singapore and runs her own training consultancy, Singapore Inner
High Living. Her family are long time investors in the UK property market.
"London for us will always be a safe haven," she told me. "Our families are spread across India and Singapore and eventually
we would like our kids to go to college [in the UK]."
Pamela's family has recently bought their third place in the heart of
the city. "London is London," she said. "Even with the panic of
Brexit, and things go up and down in the economy, property prices in the centre
of London just always bounce back. So you just can't go wrong with that kind of
It's investors like Pamela that led Manchester-based Select Property to
set up an office in Singapore in 2015.
Elliot Vure is the Asia sales manager for the firm. He showed me a model
of the latest development - Affinity Living - that the company is building in
Manchester, and selling in Asia. On average one of the flats in the building
costs about £275,000. "We've probably seen 30% to 40% of the development being sold to
Asian investors," he told me as we toured the firm's offices in Singapore. Mr Vure added that there's a unique aspect to the way Asians buy their
property in comparison to other buyers. "The vast majority of almost all of the investors in this region
are cash purchasers. There's no real desire to get a mortgage," he said. "People in the UK look for financing and a mortgage, but in Asia it
seems to be the opposite."
A lot of that wealth is coming from China, which has been one of the
biggest buyers of UK property in the last year, buoyed by the weaker pound in
the wake of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.
According to Juwai.com, which calls itself China's leading international
property portal, growth in the enquiries into UK property in the last 12 months
has jumped 60%, and Chinese buyers are increasingly interested to the UK. "A lot of our buyers are the average Chinese mom and pop looking to
invest overseas," Sue Jong, the chief operating officer of Juwai.com told
me. "The large portion is the middle to upper middle class, that's
interested in a good stable investment and may be thinking about emigrating or
sending their kids to school there."
The demand for property amongst Asian investors has convinced many that
this is a market worth expanding in. But it's not just physical properties that Asians may be interested in
buying. Prop-X is a property exchange launching later this year, offering Asian
investors a shot at owning a share of a property, without so many of the risks.
"What seems to be a fundamental part of the culture is that Asian
investors have had a preference for investing in bricks and mortar," chief
executive Rohin Modasia told me. "It's a long standing trend. Post the global financial crisis, the
UK has performed pretty well. And Asian investors now are more willing to say
I've seen it happen, I've seen my friends do it, and I'm keen to get in on the
By some estimates, two thirds of the global middle class by
2030 will be living in Asia. They've been the driving force behind investor
appetite in global real estate markets, including the UK's. As Asia's middle classes get richer and more aspirational, that appetite
is only likely to grow.
Source: BBC News