LONDON Safe and Sound

London attracts more foreign investment in real estate than any other city worldwide. But can it be too much of a good thing?

LONDON

Safe and Sound

London attracts more foreign investment in real estate than any other city worldwide. But can it be too much of a good thing?

Never before has the UK attracted so much investment from abroad, with property investment in London at some of the highest levels since the European economic crisis took hold. Why? Because it’s considered the world’s ultimate safe haven city, offering a robust legal system, democratic government, and excellent education, health, infrastructure and housing price performance.

Ultimately, it offers wealth protection on a grand scale, leading investors to funnel assets away from their own country as a result of factors such as domestic turbulence, corruption, fragile economic conditions, ineffective governance and political risk. But while London might lure a Russian investor wanting to escape an escalating crisis in Ukraine, or a Greek businessman hoping to convert his euro assets into sterling, is this huge investor appetite abnormally driving up prices in London? Is such rapid financing sustainable? Will the bubble burst?

Wealthy foreigners are often blamed for the unaffordability of homes in London, fuelling a 10 per cent annual increase in house price growth. Those not on the property ladder might have a point - but without upfront investment from overseas, new-build developments and regeneration projects, the majority of which have to provide affordable housing for Londoners, would never get off the ground.

For those looking for long-term sustainability, London is a shining example. Its market has come through the worst economic crisis since the 1930s yet its housing prices are still up 32% from when the crisis took hold. The London property market may be heading for a slight readjustment, especially with factors such a possible exit of Britain from the EU coming into play, but this readjustment won’t happen overnight.

The bottom line is this: foreign property investment has played an integral part in successfully emerging economies for decades, providing the UK with a solid framework for domestic growth and investors with wealth protection and social security. This is a mutually beneficial exchange that should, and will, continue. 

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