London property still a good pick for Asian investors amid Brexit, pound concerns: JLL

The U.K.'s complicated economic outlook has one of its biggest group of foreign investors reevaluating investments in London's residential property market. But new research suggests those worries may be overdone.

"With the U.K. set to be out of the EU by 2019, many Asian investors with property in London are wondering what's the best thing to do: get out, hold on or invest more," David Green-Morgan, global capital markets research director at property manager Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL), outlined in a new report.

A general view of Egerton Crescent in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images News

Aside from the U.K.'s political and economic future, foreign exchange devaluation is another risk that's made investors edgy. News that the U.K.'s official divorce from the EU will start in March 2017 saw the pound log losses of 6 percent for October, the currency's weakest month since June, the month of the Brexit referendum, according to Reuters.

While the situation may scream "avoid" to the risk-averse, JLL gave four reasons why Asian investors should stay confident on London property.

A supply shortfall

"Despite numerous local and central government initiatives, supply has failed to live up to demand for London housing," the report explained.

The majority of undersupply was in London's outer suburbs and while developers have allotted forthcoming stock over the medium term, that still won't be sufficient to close the gap, it continued. That meant prices were likely to remain robust, according to JLL.

"Due to the lack of a short-term solution, there is a natural floor under any major downturn in pricing," the report said, pointing to government figures that suggested an annual shortfall of 20,000-25,000 housing units per year until 2020.

Higher demand ahead

The structural undersupply issue was only set to worsen amid a forecast 10 percent increase in London's population over the next decade, JLL found.

The number of people living in the European financial hub was set to swell to 9.7 million, from 8.7 million in 2015, as new jobs were created across a wide range of industries and services, it added.

"The global status that London commands means it will continue to attract people consistently, thus placing pressure on housing levels, particularly at the sub-2 million pounds ($2.4 million) mark."

Has London's property been hit hard post-Brexit?

UK economy to outperform

Regardless of Brexit uncertainty, the U.K. economy was still forecast to perform better than the overall euro zone over the medium term, the report stated, adding that favorable labor laws had consistently helped the U.K. grow faster than the euro zone since the start of the global financial crisis.

"The lack of structural reform in the euro zone will continue to hamper economic growth and ultimately this will be a much bigger issue than any short-term political volatility. If the U.K. can show that it can survive just as well outside the Union then global capital will continue to flock to it."

A declining pound

A lower currency also increases the U.K.'s appeal for Asian investors, JLL flagged.

The pound was already at historic lows against Asian currencies and more declines were widely expected in the near-term, which could provide a fillip to British exports and make goods cheaper for foreign visitors, it explained.

In addition to anticipated quantitative easing and lower interest rates, the U.K.'s new political administration would likely provide a fresh bout of fiscal stimulus next year, effectively guaranteeing more weakness against Asian currencies, JLL said.

And even once the pound recovered, Asian buyers could still enjoy competitive advantages.

"Compared to Asia Pacific cities, London offers a more competitive argument in terms of how much leakage you could suffer from transactional and holding taxes. Transaction costs in London are much lower when compared to Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore," the report found.

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