From the UAE to the UK: how to invest in a home from afar

James Greenwood, managing director of British property finder Stacks, answers some of the most common questions about buying a home in England from Dubai

The Cotswolds offers a great return on investment when buying property in the UK. Courtesy Stacks
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When Harry Tregoning, managing partner of Dubai-based Tregoning Property, decided to team up with UK property finders Stacks, it was because of his clients’ desire to know more about the British real estate market. “Our team often come across people who are looking to move to the UK. Some have clear views on where they want to be, others don’t know where to start.” For the latter group, James Greenwood, Stacks managing director, shares his thoughts on buying in Blighty right now.

Why use a property finder instead of an agent?

It can be very difficult to gain a thorough understanding of a market from a distance. Estate agents, often the first call for people buying from overseas, are working on behalf of the vendor and are aiming to get the best possible price for a property. They may be reluctant to give a true picture of the market, particularly if prices are falling. Other information sources can be confusing. The best course of action is to have someone working on your behalf who will give you a clear and concise impression of the market, and help you deal in it.

Stacks managing director James Greenwood
Stacks managing director James Greenwood

How should someone prepare for the process?

It’s better to discuss your requirements at an early stage, even before you are actually in a position to buy. It’s not unusual for us to start talking to clients as much as two years before they actually want to move. Be prepared to spend a lot of time communicating with your relocation agent, by phone and by email.

Tell them as much about what you want as possible. The more we understand your motivations and requirements, the more able we are to find the right property.

Be prepared to listen to ideas your relocation agent may have that you haven’t previously considered. They may be able to approach your problem from a different angle and come up with an unexpected solution.

Be totally honest about your financial position. All too often a sale is dependent on the availability of finance, so if a client needs to raise finance prior to a purchase we must be aware of this. They may grill you about the nuts and bolts; try not to be defensive – they need to know exactly where you stand.

Be prepared to make a short notice visit if the right property comes up – it may not still be available if you wait to combine a viewing with a planned trip.

What do people need to be most wary of?

Lack of knowledge is the greatest danger. Any gaps in a buyer’s understanding will cause difficulties – either in terms of finding the best property in the right area for your requirements, or in terms of establishing the correct price, or for failing to conclude a satisfactory deal. A huge breadth of knowledge is required about the buying system, micro and macro geography, and the issues surrounding bricks and mortar.

What areas are good to invest in?

London: With the last couple of year's political uncertainty, much of London has seen prices falling as much as around 25 per cent in Prime Central London and 10 per cent around the "peripheries". While uncertainty still remains, a lack of stock and pent-up demand is likely to keep these prices stable with a possible slight upturn once a decision is made either way in Westminster. Therefore, much of London is now a great place to invest, particularly if you are buying in dollars or almost anything except sterling!

East Midlands: West Bridgford/Edwalton, suburbs of Nottingham, is buzzing with plenty of independent shops and restaurants. It is very popular with families and attracts many medics and solicitors. House prices have climbed rapidly over the years and there is certainly a "grand design" movement going on.

Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire and nearby villages are increasingly popular areas as these attract more and more commuters. Not only do these spots have good road links but regular fast trains to London’s Kings Cross. Newark is a beautiful Georgian market town with and increasing amount of independent shops/eateries.

The Cotswolds: Cheltenham had the highest increase in value for the whole country and has a number of good opportunities. Market towns such as Tetbury and Cirencester and Bath across the Cotswolds have a reliable investment footprint and provide reliable income streams for tourism through holiday lets.

The houses around the lakes of South Cerney have become very popular and you only pay stamp duty on the land value.

The natural limestone arch of Durdle Door, at Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast, which offers a succession of sandy beaches. Getty Images
The natural limestone arch of Durdle Door, at Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast, which offers a succession of sandy beaches. Getty Images

West Country: Exeter is probably the best yielding area in this part of the West Country as the demand from three disparate groups of people – students, retirees and relocaters – mean there is rarely, if ever, lack of demand. The increased provision of purpose-built student accommodation by corporations in conjunction with the licensing of HMOs has taken the gloss off the traditional Victorian terraced buy-to-let. However, the demand for affordable family homes from young professionals has more than filled the gap. A beautiful cathedral with a top University and ancient port provide as much incentive to live here as anyone could need. This city will always be a good long-term bet.

Hampshire, West Sussex and Surrey: Good areas in Hants/Surrey/West Sussex are mostly based around train stations. Haslemere and Petersfield stations get a fast service from London in 50 and 65 minutes respectively and so are always popular and houses hold their value well. If you are looking for more house for your money then the smaller stations with a slower train, such as Liphook and Liss, are better value.