London housing market shows rising bubble risk as Asians buy

Singapore property investors looking to park their money in a booming overseas market should take note that London’s housing market is beginning to show “bubble-like conditions” as overseas buyers bid up prices and locals take on more debt to purchase properties, according to a report by the EY Item Club.

The average London home will cost about 600,000 pounds (S$1.25 million) by 2018, the Bloomberg news agency cited the report as saying. It is about 404,000 pounds now, according to the Land Registry.

Prices across most of the UK “remain well below their pre-crisis peaks and there seems little danger of a bubble,” Mr Andrew Goodwin, senior economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said in the report. “But London, which is suffering from a combination of strong demand and a lack of supply, is increasingly giving us cause for concern.”

Surging London home prices, buoyed by demand from overseas investors and government initiatives to aid buyers, have prompted economists, analysts and politicians to warn of unsustainable gains. Asia has been a particularly strong source of demand for the best London properties, EY Item Club said, citing brokers. Investors from countries such as China and Singapore are taking advantage of the pound’s depreciation since the financial crisis to buy London homes.

Reducing the risk of a London property bubble could be difficult because values in prime districts have outperformed the city’s peripheral areas, according to the EY Item Club report. Values in London’s best neighbourhoods, such as Mayfair and Knightsbridge, are 27 per cent above their 2007 peak, broker Savills said in November. That is more than double the gains for Greater London, according to Land Registry data.

“Bursting a bubble at the luxury end of the market, which continues to attract interest from international cash buyers with the seemingly irresistible global draw of London’s X-factor, may prove tricky,” Mr Dean Hodcroft, UK and Ireland head of real estate, hospitality and construction at EY, said in the statement.

The pound’s recent gains against Asian currencies and an abatement of the euro region’s debt crisis will reduce demand for homes in the UK capital’s best areas, the report forecasts. Rising supply will also curb home-value gains in London’s prime districts, it said.

London’s prime housing market “has completely different drivers to the rest of the UK,” according to the report. “There is a strong argument for ignoring the excesses of the prime central London market” and “arguably it would be more appropriate to treat it as an investment market, rather than a residential market”.

Source : Today – 3 Feb 2014

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