Expat couple looking for advice investing in London

Expat couple looking for advice investing in London

10:14 AM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago 12

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First off, great site! As a wannabe investor/landlord for several years, I’ve been a keen follower of this and similar landlord online resources, which have been a great source of inspiration and learning about the landlord business. Many thanks!

My wife and I are now planning to take our first steps into residential property investment in the UK and would be really grateful for any advice and tips to help us in this journey. I have detailed our rough plan and somewhat non-standard situation below and would welcome any advice, thoughts and expert insight from the community.

My wife and I are both British expat who have been living/working overseas (currently Singapore) for close to 4 years now. We are both in our early thirties and are in employment; I do contract consultancy work and my wife has a permanent role with a large multinational.

We are now set on settling back in the UK in the next 1 to 2 years. Living abroad has been a great experience but we would now like to settle down and be closer to family. We plan to continue our careers and, at the same time, build/manage an investment property portfolio.

We are both Londoners and want to invest in London as we feel we know the area and view this as a long-term investment to benefit from capital gains. We are of course aiming for positive cash flow on rental income but do not anticipate huge month-to-month profit given the areas we are considering buying in.

We currently have a sum of £500k to invest and plan to take on BTL mortgages to initially purchase a few 1 to 2 bed flats. From our initial research and calculations, we anticipate that this should allow us to purchase 4 – 5 properties, assuming 75% LTV mortgages, purchase costs etc. We plan to rent these out and have these managed by a letting agent.

We do not currently own property in the UK as we sold our residential home in London before we left. While we do plan to stay abroad in the short/medium-term, we are keen to start investing asap and to start preparing the ground for our permanent move later, including me establishing contacts and looking for work etc.

As such, I am planning on taking an extended trip to London for 2-3 months to start the above process (with the possibility shuttling between London and abroad thereafter). The aim is to better understand the market/our options, start making connections, and scouting/purchasing property if possible. During this period, the wife will remain in her job in Singapore and I will not be formally employed.

A big step for us but one we feel is necessary to make our jump home smoother and to start our property investment plans. It would be great to get your thoughts/advice on this i.e. Does the plan seem sound? How would you go about investing in this situation? What should we look out for?

In particular, we would like to:
– better understand the likelihood of us being able to secure BTL mortgages. I understand that being expats and not currently owning residential property in the UK can make this more complicated.
– get your recommendations on good mortgage brokers/advisors in London (as well as other trusted professional e.g. solicitors, letting/mgt agents) who I could possibly get in contact with.
– get an understanding of the landlord/investment networks, clubs or communities that are around and that I could possibly plug into.

I have purposely put down a lot of detail but do let me know if you have any further questions.

Thanks a bunch!

PaulSingapore Expat

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Addicted to fighting the WBBS

10:40 AM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Dear Paul

Your requirements are exactly what my company provides in regards to services.

So this does not look like I am pitching for business by being a member of this site (involved in several other threads within the site), please feel free to call me directly on **MODERATED - Not a business member** to discuss whenever convenient.

Kind regards, Stu Marshall.

Adam Lewczynski

10:40 AM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Hi Paul, I am a Chartered Surveyor and run **MODERATED - NOT A BUSINESS MEMBER**. We specialise in advising expats and private investors and have been doing so for some 25 years.

My first bit of advice would be to speak to your own bank about mortgage products. As you have an existing relationship with them you may get a better deal. Generally, it seems that lenders are not so keen on expats who are freelance / self employed / working for small companies but it's good that your wife works for a big multinational. We can also introduce you to a couple of mortgage brokers who can advise you further on that.

Yields on single let properties (not HMO etc) are generally around 4 - 6% in London, although about 2.5% in prime areas such as Mayfair. We do a lot with corporate tenants such as Japanese banks but they are quite clear on the types of property they want and in which locations. For example Finchley and Ealing are popular but again its got to be the right part (close to the tube) and style. If you plan on living in the property when you return to the UK then you will have to balance your own personal requirements with those of what tenants are generally looking for.

You also need to take into account purchase costs such as stamp duty, acquisition fees, lawyers, surveyors, mortgage fees etc. These will all vary depending on what the purchase price is and we can advise you further on these on a property by property basis but for now take a ball park figure of about 6% of the purchase price.

Once you find a tenant you should budget about 15% for letting and management costs but once the tenant moves in they will be responsible for running costs such as gas, electricity, water, council tax. The landlord however usually remains responsible for repair and maintenance costs unless the tenant damages something.in which case they will have to pay.

I'm happy to advise you further on areas, prices, yields etc so please feel free to drop me a line to **MODERATED - NOT A BUSINESS MEMBER**

Thanks and best regards. Adam Lewczynski B.Sc. MRICS

10:49 AM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Paul, I wonder how much you've researched the London rental market while you've been away. Renting has become extremely expensive and almost unaffordable for average earners in London, with many forced to commute in from outside London, and others choosing to share to remain in the central zones. Shared living has become the fastest growing type of tenure, and offers appealing investment opportunities. If you haven't considered renting property by the room yet, there's an introductory guide available to download free from the SpareRoom website that's packed full of useful information and tools to help you research the market. http://www.spareroom.co.uk/rentingbytheroom

Good luck with your venture.



11:26 AM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Why London? I no you used to live there but London is very expensive, this is just my opinion but personally I wouldnt touch London with a barge pole, IF there is a housing bubble now or in the future London will be the first place to go pop. If i were you and I wanted to invest in the south east I would look at cheaper areas outside of London that will be along the cross rail route that is currently being build, walking distance of the station,town ect.......... I don't think you will go far wrong with that advice even if I say so myself!

Ian C

14:11 PM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Hi Paul
I too work as a property search agent for expats in the south east but specifically outside of the M25 where we find returns are better. In particular I work with foreign investors looking for BtL properties and you are correct that raising funds has been problematic. However as the market improves I believe more lenders will slowly come back into the market. I'm not a mortgage broker but have been pro-active in talking to some of the international banks and have a couple that will look at providing BtL finance subject to certain criteria. Typically though they require 35-40% LTV and one of them in particular will only look at properties within the M25. It is a good start and has helped my clients but I agree with Adam above that you should start with your own bank and ask about their BtL mortgage offers. If you would like to chat further then please feel free to contact me on **MODERATED - NOT A BUSINESS MEMBER**. Good luck with your search

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

14:56 PM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Sorry but I have had to moderate several posts on this thread.

Soliciting for business is a privilege reserved for business members.

Please see >>> http://www.property118.com/business-sponsorship/

John Constant

17:28 PM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Paul, HD Consultants are Property 118 sponsors and advisers to many members here. We would be happy to listen to your proposals and to offer solid advice on the way forward.

Please see the enquiry form on the member profile of our business Principal, Howard Reuben >>> http://www.property118.com/member/?id=314

Kind regards
John Constant, CeMAP

craig singleton

22:19 PM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Hello Paul, can I please ask where abouts in London you used to live. I live in a place called Hillingdon myself. I've been focusing on Ealing borough a place called Perivale. Prices are reasonable and the rent is very good.

Vanessa Warwick

22:33 PM, 15th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Hi Paul,

To expand on your questions.

You are entering the London market at a very competitive time. The New York Times has just run an article on London property, claiming that it is a "global currency reserve" for the super rich!


So, you are up against people for whom money is no object.

This means you are going to have to buy VERY smartly. I have curated a whole tonne of information about the London market on one thread:


Have a read through and become an expert in due diligence and research. That is the only way you are going to be able to be successful in BTL in London imho.

I have invested in North London for 10 years - 1 and 2 bed upmarket apartments - and would be happy to chat to you about my experiences of the market. Rental demand is very high and likely to remain so in my opinion, but you need to make some wise choices as to the type of property you buy.

My advice would be to look for somewhere where you can add value via a refurb, or use your cash resources to buy a problem property .... solve the problem, raise the value, and then refinance to pull back your cash.

Hope this gives you some fresh inputs and you are welcome to call me for a chat. You can find my contact details here http://about.me/vanessawarwick

Paul Larky

9:36 AM, 17th October 2013, About 10 years ago

Thanks all for all the great advice and comments. Definitely a lot to think about and makes me certain that a trip back is the right thing to do, if only to get to know the market better. I may aim to get in touch with some of you when I do touch down so thanks for the offer!

@ Adam, Ian: Thanks re mortgage comments. Probably one of my biggest concerns at the minute as have a few expat friends who were having trouble with this. Good to know there could be some options. I will be sure to have a chat with my bank first to see what they can offer.

@ Rob: Thanks, Crossrail is something I have definitely been thinking about too. I will take a look closer at some of the spots further out. I had been looking at Ealing, which will be a key hub on the line, but it’s already getting increasingly expensive there.

@ Craig: I have pretty much lived in all parts of London (North, South, East and West), most recently in Balham. I used to live in Acton so am quite familiar with Ealing and Hillingdon (not too far away). Very interested to hear what made you choose Perivale – how is the rental demand and yield there? Also, how do you find the market in Hillingdon at the moment – I see Crossrail will run through Hayes & Harlington – is there much development going on in line with this?

@ Vanessa: Thanks, excellent information in the links! I would be very interested to hear about your experiences in North London. I am also looking at the 1 - 2 bed flats targetting young professional commuters that seem to flock to the Hampstead, Highgates et al. May I ask what you define as upmarket apartments and what type of builds you go for? Period conversions, luxury new builds?


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