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How to beat the overseas buyers

Posted: August 2015

By Jo Eccles

Q: I’m hoping to buy in one of London’s new build schemes but feel I’m up against a lot of competition from overseas buyers – how can I get ahead?

A: It’s not always easy getting onto the property ladder in London, regardless of what you’re buying. However, buying a good new build flat can sometimes feel like an impossible feat.

The challenge for UK-based buyers is that a lot of the new build developments are marketed off-plan to overseas buyers before they are released in the UK. Typically, the sales team – plus their lettings colleagues and property managers who can oversee the properties if overseas buyers rent them out – carry out a roadshow across different overseas locations over a succession of weekends. They will often rent a hotel suite and showcase the development through slick presentations, amazing models of the development, and so on.

So it’s no surprise that in the past few years there have been claims that up to 85% of new build properties have been sold to overseas buyers. Competition is fierce, particularly as they usually get given first choice of the properties and they often benefit from an exchange rate saving, meaning that they can pay more for the flat than you might be able to.

This is truer for some of the larger developments where buying can be a bit trickier. For example, we recently wanted to buy four off-plan flats in a Putney development for a client, but the flats had only been released to Asia-based buyers. We initially approached the UK new homes team but they didn’t even have access to the flats, so in the end we had to use our contacts within the new homes team in Singapore to secure the flats for our client.

Not all is lost, though, so don’t despair; if you’re focusing on a smaller development, the development is probably too small to warrant doing an expensive overseas marketing roadshow, so it’s very likely that the flats will all be released to the UK market first. Most developers also tend to ‘drip feed’ their properties to the market, so they will usually hold back certain apartments until the released ones have sold, ensuring that they don’t flood the market with the entire development in one go. Therefore, if you’ve seen a development you like but none of the available flats are appealing, see if you can charm the sales negotiator to let you buy one of the unreleased flats. We’ve done this many times with clients so do always ask if this is a possibility.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email info@sourcingproperty.co.uk or tweet her @joeccles.