London Property Investment Guide for Overseas Investors
Considering property purchase in the UK or London? Find out all you need to know right here.
The UK is a wonderful place to have a home - and London, its capital, is the nation’s star attraction. To own a property in London is to have probably the most fascinating city in the world on your doorstep; and whether you want to buy a property as an investment or as a place in which to live, you can rely on Galliard to help you make all the most important decisions about what to look for and where to buy. For example, you may wish to purchase in a location that’s close to London’s business and financial centre (known as The City of London or The City for short), in which case we have properties located within a short distance of The City. Alternatively, you may want to buy on behalf of younger family members who are attending university or college in London and need a place to live - in which case we can help you to look for property close to major places of learning. There are many historic and modern parts of London where you can live close to wonderful cultural, shopping and entertainment areas - and once again, we can direct you to these areas, pointing out the Galliard developments we have close by.
A Good Time to Buy in the UK
Financially, the UK is a highly attractive investment for overseas investors right now. The relative weakness of UK pound against international currencies makes property more affordable than in many other countries and their capitals. In addition, the UK’s political stability, safety and prosperity make our nation a highly attractive place in which to live. Whilst you may be looking for residential property in the first instance, you might also want to build up a portfolio of other types of property, such as retail premises (shops, shopping centres, supermarkets, department stores and retail warehouses); leisure premises (restaurants, pubs and hotels): offices or office accommodation in business parks; or industrial premises (warehouses, industrial estate premises) - but whatever type of property you’re looking for, Galliard can help.
How Ownership is Demonstrated in the UK
If you lease a property from someone and pay rent to them on a regular basis, you never actually own the property; however if you buy the property, you own it - and in the UK, your proof of property ownership will be found on a public register at the Land Registry. Registration proves the identity of the owner and their title to the property. The register also describes the property, the land that comes with it - and any benefits or obligations that come with the land or property.
Freehold or Leasehold?
If you buy a UK property, it may be freehold (ie you own it outright) or it may be on a long lease, indicating that there is a time limit on your ownership. However, many properties (especially apartments in central London) have long leases of up to 999 years, which gives you virtually the same rights as freehold - and in many cases, the freehold can be purchased and the leasehold removed.
How Much Will You Have to Spend?
The first thing you need to consider is the cost of your property - and naturally, property prices in key areas of central London are higher than elsewhere in London or outside the capital. However, London is a highly buoyant property market, and your initial investment is likely to see capital growth over a relatively short time. Other costs you will need to bear in mind include:
- Valuation and survey fees
- Legal costs plus Value Added Tax (known as VAT)
- The cost of searches and enquiries of public bodies (to check that the property you’re buying is genuine, legal and not burdened by obligations or limitations)
- Land Registry registration fees
- Stamp Duty land tax
- Value Added Tax (VAT)
The Purchase Process When You Buy a Property
1. The seller appoints property agents (often known as Estate Agents) to sell the owner’s property via newspapers, magazines, the internet - and via potential buyers who have registered with the Estate Agent.
2. If you wish to buy a property, your offer is presented to the seller through the Estate Agent, who will want to know how your purchase is being funded, how quickly you want to buy, and who your lawyers are (you’ll need to appoint lawyers to act for you in your purchase).
3. The seller’s lawyers draft a sale agreement - and when its terms are agreed by the seller and you, copies are signed by both parties. Once the signed sale agreements (or contracts) have been exchanged between both parties’ lawyers, the seller and buyer are legally bound to proceed. At the time of exchange, you’ll need to hand over a deposit to the seller.
4. Completion of your purchase takes place on a mutually agreed date (which can be the same day as exchange). The balance of the purchase price is handed over on completion and the formal documents transferring the property are dated for the day of completion.
5. At this stage you become the owner of the property, with the legal title passing to you once the transaction is registered at the Land Registry. Stamp Duty land tax (see below) is payable to the Land Registry within 30 days of completion. This process will be carried out by your lawyer.
Your Main Tax Considerations
As a non-UK resident buyer, you’ll need to buy and own your property in accordance with UK and relevant overseas tax considerations. You should speak to a specialist lawyer at home and in the UK about this - although we at Galliard can give you broad outline advice and we’ll be happy to help all we can. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is payable on land transactions, such as the purchase of your property; the amount payable depends on whether the property is residential, commercial, or mixed-use. If you’re buying residential property as an individual, the rate of SDLT is:
- Up to £125,000: 0%
- From £125,001 - £250,000: 1%
- From £250,001 - £500,000: 3%
- From £500,001 - £1,000,000: 4%
- From £1,000,001 - £2,000,000: 5%
- More than £2,000,000: 7%
Capital Gains Tax
If you’re buying a property as an investment, and your property gains in value, you may have to pay Capital Gains Tax on the amount by which it has increased in value when you sell it. If the gain is made in the name of a UK company (or branch of a non-UK company) it will be subject to Corporation Tax of 23% in 2013 and 22% in 2014. However, if the gain is made in your name only, as an individual non-UK resident, there is currently NO Capital Gains Tax to be paid on any gains in your property’s value when you come to sell it.
If you buy the property for development or trading you’ll be treated as carrying on a trade in the UK and liable to pay Income Tax (if you act as an individual) or Corporation Tax (if you act as representative of a company) on your property’s development or trading profits.
If you rent out your property, tax is payable on rental income - as a UK non-resident, you will still be liable to pay UK Income Tax, at around 45%.
Inheritance Tax (IHT)
In the UK, Inheritance Tax is sometimes paid on the estates of individuals who die and leave their estate to others, the amount payable being in relation to the value of that estate. However, non-UK-domiciled individuals who use trusts and company structures to hold their UK residential property can avoid Inheritance Tax.
To counter the IHT avoidance strategy as described above, the UK Government has imposed an annual ‘holding charge’ on residential properties over £2 million owned by non-UK-domiciled persons. The proposed annual charge ranges from £15,000 to £140,000 depending on the value of the property.
Tax Efficiency for Non-Residents
As indicated above, if you are a non-resident, you can reduce tax relating to your UK property by using strategic structuring methods, which can minimise tax on property-related income as well as eliminating tax on any gains in the value of the property. These issues can be complex, and involve rules of UK residence (how long you stay in the UK each year), rules relating to your domicile (your home country) and other factors. You are advised to seek the advice of a specialist legal expert in these matters; indeed, in all aspects of property purchase in the UK, you should seek expert opinion - and with regard to a wide range of matters relating to the purchase of your property in the UK, Galliard, can provide you with invaluable advice.
Buying Your Property and Letting It Out
You may be intending to purchase a UK property in which to live, for occupation by a family member - or as an investment, with the intention of renting it out, enjoying income from the rent, and benefiting additionally from a rise in your property’s capital value over time.
If you would like to find out more about purchasing a property for this purpose (known as a Buy-to-Let investment), read 'Get the Best From Buy-to-Let'. Your Galliard guide to successful property purchase as an investment.
For further assistance on purchasing an investment property, talk to Galliard Homes on +44 (0) 207 620 1500.