7 top tips for buying your new home in the UK

The worsening political situation in Hong Kong is driving more people to take up Boris Johnson’s British National (Overseas) visa scheme. And, so far, thousands of people have made the move to the UK.

According to a report in May, the Home Office received 34,300 applications for BN(O) visas in February and March. And status holders with specific biometric passports are able to apply for their visa from their smartphone using an app to scan their passport rather than having to visit a visa centre.

This is the first time non-EEA passport holders have been able to apply remotely using technology in this way, which is perhaps another sign of how popular the scheme is proving to be.

So, if you’re considering moving to the UK, here are seven tips for buying your new home.

1. Decide whether you want to rent or buy to start with

If the UK is new to you, you may like the idea of finding a temporary place to rent so you can figure things out and decide where you want to live before you buy your new home.

However, even with plenty of cash, relocation will present practical difficulties if you want to rent first.

The rules and regulations for tenants in the UK have become more stringent in recent years and you may find it difficult to sign a tenancy agreement without a bank account in the UK. This quickly becomes a chicken and egg problem because it’s equally tricky to open a bank account without a permanent UK address. So, it is highly recommended that you ask your Hong Kong bank to set up a UK based account before you depart.

Even with a UK bank account in place, the challenges don’t stop.

If you don’t yet have a UK job, or have only recently started one, or haven’t yet built up a credit history, many landlords will ask for 6-12 months’ rent upfront, on top of the security deposit.

There is also the issue that many people are looking for a place to rent as a part of the post pandemic boom, so prices are increasing.

In March this year, the Financial Times reported that some Hongkongers are resorting to AirBnbs, because red tape makes things so hard to get a foot in.

So, while you may like the idea of renting before you buy, you may find it so hard to execute that you’re forced to cut your losses and go straight for a house purchase.

2. Location, location, location: where do you want to live and where can you afford to buy?

If you’re ready to commit to buying your home, where do you want to live?

According to a survey from Houzen, while 28% of Hongkongers want to settle in “a huge city”, like London, Manchester or Birmingham, 32% would prefer a smaller suburban town with a short commute to the city. Fewer than 20% want to live in or close to a smaller city with more locals.

Also, many Hongkongers want to live near Hong Hong expat communities, some of which have set down deep roots in the UK and are usually situated in the larger cities.

As you research your options, consider the quality of life a place can provide. Contemplate the options for where your children will go to school, ease of commute for work, and the community or quality of life on offer for all the family.

The location you choose will dictate the budget you’ll need to buy your new home. Property in London and the south is more expensive than property in the north of England. Since the pandemic, rural and seaside locations have also seen prices increase.

This article will give you more of an idea about what your money will buy and how much space that will get depending on the location you choose.

3. Consider the options for schooling for your children

Do you want to give your children a private education or do you want to find the best local schools and let that dictate where you live?

The British education system is rated amongst the best in the world. And you don’t necessarily have to go private for decent schooling. Many British parents use league tables to help them decide which school is best for their children. This might be a good place to start if you don’t already have a plan in mind.

4. Choose your property

Although city apartments may have some similarities, UK property differs greatly from HK property. So, it’s worth considering whether you want to replicate the living space you currently call home, or opt for something with a quintessential British feel.

If you’re going all out to embrace your inner Brit, you could consider a quaint country cottage, complete with thatched roof, or a more sturdy double-fronted town house.

Alternatively, there are lots of modern estates with new build homes and executive gated communities such as:

  • Frognal Way near Hampstead Village in London
  • The exclusive and sought-after private estate of St George’s Hill in Weybridge, Surrey
  • Burwood Park close to Walton-on-Thames and a 30-minute commute to central London.

5. Financing your purchase

As a foreign national buying property in the UK, the first questions any mortgage lender will ask you will be about your residency status.

While many lenders will prefer lending to those who have been living in the UK for a year or more, there are some who will consider your mortgage application as soon as you arrive in the UK.

With your BN(O) visa in hand, to qualify for a residential mortgage you’ll also need:

  • To be in full-time employment – some lenders may need proof of UK income, but there are lenders who will consider foreign or overseas income
  • A healthy deposit – you’ll need at least 15% of the property value to put down as a deposit. Anything above this will help get you a better rate.

“Buying a property in the UK comes with its own complications,” says specialist mortgage broker, Rob Gill. “The process works differently to many other countries, and the roles played by the lender, surveyor, and solicitor may differ from what you are used to in Hong Kong.”

We recommend you talk to Rob, who can guide you through the buying process and help you arrange the finance you need to complete the purchase. Rob and his team at Altura, one of BMP’s sister companies, have the expertise to remove the stress from your move to the UK.

This guide will give you more of an idea on how foreign nationals in the UK can get a UK mortgage.

6. Think about the advantages of buying multiple properties

If you are selling property in Hong Kong, there’s a high chance you could afford to purchase multiple properties in the UK for the price you will get for your home in Hong Kong.

With some forethought, you could purchase a home to live in and a property, or properties, to rent out for income. Or, if you need to be in the city, you could buy a second home by the sea, in the countryside, or elsewhere in Europe, such as the South of France, Spain, Portugal, or Italy for long, hot summer getaways.

7. Pick the right professionals to help you make a smooth move

Even British people buying property in the UK need a team of experts to help them through the process, but when you’re unfamiliar with how things work, having the right people to support you through the property purchase process will make all the difference.

We’ve recommended a mortgage broker who can help organise the finance for your purchase, but you might also want to consider using a professional property finder to help locate your perfect home.

And you’ll also need to engage a solicitor and possibly a surveyor, or letting agent, if you want to find a rental property first, or, if you want to buy a property to rent out.

Get in touch

At BMP Wealth we specialise in building, managing, and preserving the wealth of Hong Kong’s international community. If you’re thinking about relocating to the UK, we can help you realise and achieve your goals.

Whether you want to discuss how to adjust your financial plan to make the move happen, or get a personal introduction to the right professionals, email info@bmpwealth.com or call +852 3975 2878.

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