Indians trigger London property boom

Indians trigger London property boom

As Indians become increasingly global in their outlook and lifestyle, the idea of owning a second home has also undergone a transcontinental shift. A documented surge of cash-rich, high net worth individuals in the country has thrown up an interesting trend of lucrative property investments in the heart of London. Latest sales figures show that foreign buyers now outnumber Britons when it comes to London properties in the £2 million-plus range and a large chunk of these are owned by Indian millionaires. Estate agents Peter Wetherell and market intelligence group Dataloft found that last year almost a quarter of the houses and flats that sold in Mayfair, for up to £3,500 per square foot, were bought by Indians. Even the rent market seems to be dominated by foreigners from that part of the world, with Indian students from wealthy families renting some of central London's most desirable and expensive flats. Mihir Kapadia, CEO of UK-based Sun Global Investments Limited, believes it has a lot to do with comparative real estate analysis. “Property in London has long been coveted by Indians but a few years back it was considered quite expensive. Whilst the current levels of London property prices may be mind boggling for even Londoners, the price rise in real estate in India and other emerging markets has been phenomenal. Prices of ultra-trendy and high-end residences in New Delhi or Mumbai match the same as in London and in some cases even more, hence buying a property in London has come well within reach for Indians,” he explains. One of the most attractive elements about London is the relative risk-averse security it gives an investor, compared to that offered in other more turbulent parts of the world. Currency has also been a strong driver in recent times. Robin Staal of Healys LLP, which also offers legal advice in international property matters, believes the renaissance in interest in London as a commercial property market is largely to do with such local factors. “The fundamental reason is that London is seen as an ideal location for longer term wealth protection. Almost uniquely, the UK commercial lease is a significantly longer term commitment than those used in other jurisdictions. These days 10 years is common, but more frequently with lease breaks at five years. London appears to be currently popular not least because political or economic difficulties in other countries seem to make the city a safe bet, in the context of the perception of the economy here being cautiously optimistic,” Staal says. “Indian individual investors have long been a mainstay of the higher end residential market. This has fluctuated somewhat over the last few years, but demand for the high end still seems to be outstripping supply,” he adds. Besides some of these factors, there is a softer power that pumps Indian cash into London homes. Deepak Varghese is the founder-director of Moonbeam Advisory and specialises in real estate transactions among other financial advisory services. He feels: “London was a destination for the nawabs and maharajas to be seen in the summer during the British Raj. This latest trend is a reflection of the dramatic rise in affluent millionaire India. “Quite a few of the children go to London for higher education so this becomes their home for a few years instead of a hostel. They can be monitored by loyal assistants and household help of the family.“Besides, there is an inability to see the Middle East or Far East as a post-retirement home compared to London.” According to the Boston Consulting Group's private wealth report forecast, the number of Indian millionaires is expected to rise to 250,000 by 2017 -a growth of nearly 50%. The natural corollary to these estimates is that the trend of Indian-owned homes in London would only see a further spike. “This trend is likely to follow the economic graph of India. If the economy, which has been sputtering in the last few months, continues to grow at well above five percent, Indians will continue to flourish and maintain their buying spree in London. But the weakness of the Indian Rupee will deter a few people. It may sound funny, but the graph of the Bombay Stock Exchange Sensex will easily forecast the buying interest of Indians,” Kapadia says.

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