Possible effects of Brexit on Property

How will Brexit Affect Expats UK Property Ownership or Purchase ?

Since the referendum that led to the decision by the UK to leave the European Union there have been a great number of conflicting viewpoints made by prominent people as to how things will emerge. At the time of the referendum there was a great deal of scaremongering that was perpetrated by the UK government and many of its high ranking officials. The picture that was painted was one of doom and gloom.

Having now reached January 2018, the UK economy has shown its ability to continue to flourish and all of the doom predictions have so far failed to emerge.

Whether Brexit eventually proves to be a success or not will not be truly known until some years after the UK has actually left the European Union and begun trading with the rest of the world. We at expatriates.co.uk have therefore decided to create this market guide which takes some general statements from some prominent people and from some property market leading companies and then presenting it along with some of our own comments. The intention is to give expats coming to our site and looking to invest in UK property some thought provoking points to consider. We will update this guide from time to time as the Brexit negotiations continue and potential outcomes start to emerge.

Perceptions of Brexit negotiations

At this time the general perception of the UK public on the way the negotiations are going is that the European Union is being inflexible in its approach. During the initial stage it restricted the scope of the discussions to compensation for the UK leaving. Because the referendum vote was fairly close, many UK politicians are still campaigning to stay in the European Union. It is perceived that the EU tried to capitalise on this by encouraging it with the result being that it is now thought that if the referendum was re run then the vote to leave would increase.

Britain is a net financial contributor to the EU and when it leaves it will cause a black hole to emerge in the EU budget. For this reason people in the UK think that now that trade talks are about to start, this will lead the EU to take a more accommodating stance and gradually agree a position that will be satisfactory and beneficial to both parties.

Another area that is rarely reported is defence. The EU has little in the way of armed forces and it has been talking about creating a European army. This would be a very expensive exercise and something that if implemented might be very difficult to arrange and control. It is hard to imagine an army with 27 different languages forming a cohesive fighting force and with recent actions by Russia, it is not inconceivable that conflict could emerge.

Property position today for UK expats

As at January 2018, the UK is preparing to start the second phase of its discussions with the European Union which will centre on trade. The likely outcome of these discussions is unknown but the general thinking is that some form of mutually beneficial agreement will be reached as it is strongly considered to be in the best interests of both parties. Whether this proves to be the case or not the UK is committed to leaving the European Union and its single market and working towards a future of much greater economic independence.

This guide aims to provide some insight into the short, medium and long-term outcomes property investors can expect now the UK will leave the European Union. Some of the information contained herein has been compiled from various reports and statements by UK property experts and UK government officials.

At expatriates.co.uk we believe that with respect to the many conflicting statements made about the effect Brexit will have on the UK economy, nothing changes any of the key fundamentals that underpin the strength of the UK property market. We believe these underlying strengths will remain in place and are more than likely to continue to do so after Brexit.

Recent trends in UK expats buying property in the UK

A recently published expat mortgage report by Skipton International gives an insight into how UK expats are viewing the UK buy to let (BTL) property market and makes very positive reading. Although it indicates high interest from the UAE it is probably fair to say that the trend indicated is likely to apply equally to UK expats living in other major locations.

  • Expat mortgage indicator – An increased number of British expats are looking back to UK to purchase buy-to-let homes. Skipton International have seen enquiries from the UAE for their expat UK buy-to-let mortgages more than double in the last year. Just over a quarter of all enquiries that Skipton received in 2017 came from expats in the UAE. More than any other single jurisdiction.

With one of the world’s largest transient populations residents of the UAE have turned to UK property for their long-term investment solutions. 80 percent of the population is made up of expats with around 100,000 Britons residing in the Emirates. Many of these expats consider there to be more security in purchasing investment property in the UK in an area they know well and where they can expect stable returns.

An overwhelming 70% of residents in the UAE still rent their homes compared to only 35 percent of the population in the UK. Despite the UAE relaxing rules for expats to buy property in certain areas foreign residents are still struggling to afford the cash required as down payment. This combined with the devaluation of the pound following the Brexit result have led British expats to turn in larger numbers to investment in UK property.

Jim Coupe, Managing Director, Skipton International, said: We greatly value our expat customers and providing them with competitive and flexible expat mortgage solutions is an area we will be continuing to focus on in 2018. Interest rates are still at very competitive levels and we have some great mortgage packages to suit most individuals.

The Guernsey regulated bank launched the Expat mortgages three years ago in response to the difficulties many British expats faced securing loans on investment property in England and Wales. Since then, Skipton have provided over 1,000 mortgages on UK buy-to-let properties to British expats worth over £200 million.

This very encouraging report tends to conflict with many of the statements previously made by the doom and gloom merchants and tends to indicate that the UK remains an attractive place for UK expats to invest in property.

UK property in the short term

Since the referendum result to leave the European Union the pound has remained weak although it has recently started to rise. This has caused the UK inflation rate to rise a little but has been a great boost to the UK exporting industry as its goods have been cheaper resulting in increased sales and improved employment figures.

For UK Expats thinking about buying property in the UK this weakness in the pound could be to their advantage as they have an opportunity to acquire an asset that would have cost substantially more before the referendum. Just after the referendum UK property became around 12% more affordable in international terms and although this has reduced a bit still represents value.

  • Nicholas Brooke, Chairman of Professional Property Services for the Royal Institution of Chartered surveyors said – Several of my opportunistic investors have said we really ought to think about this seriously and to think whether we should take advantage of this new window in the market. Anyone who’s not dealing in sterling would see an opportunity.
  • Albert Lau, Chief Executive of Savills China said – The pound remains one of the world’s most important currencies independent from the euro. I would not expect such dominance and strength to be undermined by Britain’s exit from the EU.

UK property in the medium term

We have recently experienced the FTSE reaching historic highs and a strong recovery in the value of the pound and capital returns in international terms beginning to grow. As confidence in the UK economy increases so will the demand for UK property which in turn will increase overall confidence in the UK property market.

However should uncertainty prevail it could result in lending restrictions from banks and building societies looking to offset their risk. In this situation expats could find it difficult to obtain an expat mortgage. Were further restrictions to be introduced it would place greater emphasis on the private rented sector as those people who would have bought property may find themselves forced to rent due to the lack of mortgage lending and will most likely gravitate to the prime end of the rental market. This would be beneficial to UK expats entering the buy to let (BTL) market.

Crucially if lending slows so will investment into the private renting sector from institutions and if supply levels do not keep up with this spike in demand for rental accommodation expat property investors will see strong growth in their yields

UK property in the Long term

One of the key advantages of leaving the European Union will be the more favourable new trade deals that the UK will be free to negotiate with countries outside the European Union. While Britain is a member of the European Union it is unable to agree deals with the fast emerging markets around the world without first obtaining approval from the European Union. Already many major countries with strong economies including the USA have already stated that they are keen to secure deals with Britain after Brexit. With these agreements in place the GDP growth forecast should look more positive than ever and should have a beneficial effect on UK property prices.

Considerations for the Expat Property investor


  • Rental yields – While yields should be viewed as a short to medium term focus, it is capital appreciation that will likely be the major long term opportunity for UK expat investors. After the crash in 2008 UK property became a safe haven for buy to let investors for its rental income and then for its longer term property value appreciation where it demonstrated its robustness in the years following that recession.
  • New Trade Deals – Now that the UK will be able to make new trade deals with fast growing nations such as China and India it should see itself having the prospect of achieving substantial future growth. This is something which countries like Iceland and Switzerland have shown themselves to be able to do.
  • Expat property investment – Long term economic forecasts for a post Brexit UK would appear to suggest that UK Expats making an investment now in UK property could deliver significant capital gains in the years to come.

In the long term future economic development in Britain will largely depend on its economic strength. Market movements and supply and demand will play their part as they would always do whether Britain exits or not. At expatriates.co.uk we see no reason at this time to be pessimistic.