City & Country: London’s Ashchurch Villas beckons Asian investors

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THE UK has been through a rather eventful few months. If the Scotland referendum did not fray nerves, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) recently predicting that property prices would dip 0.8% in 2015 would probably have had many reaching for the aspirin.

“Tougher mortgage eligibility criteria, high deposit requirements and concerns about future rate rises are starting to take the steam out of the UK housing market,” said CEBR head of macroeconomics Scott Corfe.

CEBR also reported that “enquiries from new buyers are already declining and properties are staying in the market for a longer period before they sell, leading to price declines in some parts of the UK”. Buyers are also cringing at the high prices in certain areas such as London as affordability becomes an issue, according to The Guardian’s website.

Despite this, Corfe is not anticipating a crash. “Price falls next year will be modest and we shouldn’t be too worried about this. The market is adjusting after getting ahead of itself at the start of 2014,” he said.

According to an Oct 6 article by thisismoney.co.uk, by the end of this year, property prices would have risen 7.8% — the biggest jump since 2007.

Investment opportunity

The possibility of a drop in prices next year is good news for Malaysian investors looking to buy property in London. Luxury property firm Saffron International and local property company Zerin Properties are bringing to Malaysia the latest development in London — Ashchurch Villas. Situated in Ravenscourt, Zone 2, the development is just 4.5km from the famed Kensington High Street as well as Chiswick and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. It is seven minutes from the Stamford Brook underground, which is a district line.

“The Chiswick and Ravenscourt residential markets remain strong, although we are seeing a less dramatic increase in price growth this quarter,” says Cluttons head of residential investment agency Mark Clegg. “Things are levelling off and it is becoming increasingly important for properties to be priced at the correct level. Vendors must be realistic on their pricing; if they are not, the properties will not sell.

“Prime Chiswick is achieving close to £1,000 psf for the high-end stock, with average figures around the £850 psf mark. Ravenscourt Park, which is considered to be more Hammersmith than Chiswick, is at a similar level, although we anticipate price growth to be stronger in this area. These areas are in our opinion some of the best locations for investors who are looking for both capital and rental value growth, particularly as these are well-established locations within London.”

The £40 million Ashchurch Villas offers a feature that is much coveted in London: parking space. The gated development consists of 15 freehold units — 12 Goldhawk Villas and three Ash Villas — and is being undertaken by London developer Investin Plc, which is also responsible for Hammersmith Central, Parliament Reach, Royal Dockside and South Bank Tower.

“We acquired the scheme and wanted to offer Asian investors an alternative opportunity to acquire freehold houses in a central London location. Investin Plc has been selling in Asia for over 10 years and sees strong demand for prime central London properties from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysian investors,” says the developer’s sales director Deborah Clamp.

The Goldhawk Villas come with a parking bay each, a first floor annexe and private landscaped garden and terrace while the Ash Villas are 3 and 4-bedroom homes that were individually designed by the architects and include private gardens and parking space.

The development also features photovoltaic solar panels to provide renewable energy and multi-zone underfloor heating throughout the homes.

Of the 15 units, 12 will have space for potential maid’s quarters, providing added convenience to Asian buyers who may have hired help.

The prices of the villas start at £950 psf or about £2.85 million each. The built-ups are from 2,500 to 3,000 sq ft.

Zerin Properties CEO Previndran Singhe says, “We are excited to offer Malaysian investors first option in the development and the added benefit of private parking with a garage, which allows private entry and security.

“Getting landed property there [London] is like trying to get landed property in Mont’Kiara — it’s not easy.”

According to Saffron International CEO Monty Nawaz, they have been working for over six months to bring the development to Kuala Lumpur. “I believe the houses offered suit our Malaysian clients in terms of location, security, space and, of course, parking.

“Parking is important to all our Asian clients as many of them like to own cars.”

Moreover, Ashchurch Villas is in Zone 2, which makes having a car a necessity. “The development lies between Kensington and Chiswick for easy access to Central London or the M4 for Heathrow airport and outer London. The houses are 10 minutes from Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepperds Bush and close to Bayswater,” explains Monty.

He and Previndran are targeting parents looking to purchase a home for their children who may go to school or university in the UK in the future.

“This is basically a long-term investment. A lot of the people who purchase homes there are looking to send their children there in the future or even move there themselves. In the meantime, they usually rent out the place,” says Monty.

According to CEBR, the mortgage market review that was unveiled in April will curb demand for property in the short term. Apart from that, it states that upcoming interest rate hikes by the Bank of England are also expected to cool down house prices that escalated over summer.

The latest monthly index released by the Nationwide Building Society shows average prices fell 0.2% in August and September. With all this happening, are Monty and Previndran perturbed? Apparently not.

“Sales in our previous projects are doing well and we’ve received a number of enquiries from interested investors regarding Ashchurch Villas,” says Previndran. “The people who invest with us are seasoned investors who have purchased a property or two in London before. They are quite familiar with the market.”

Monty adds that he expects interested investors to do their research first before jumping in.

Saffron and Zerin will be showcasing the units for 10 days from Oct 18 in Kuala Lumpur before launching them in Singapore and Hong Kong.

ashchurch
Artist’s impressions of the interior of the villas

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 13-19, 2014.