The United Kingdom’s offer of a path to citizenship for the holders of British National (Overseas) passports in Hong Kong has reignited interest in London homes.
UK property is expected to be a major focus in the second half of this year for Asia Bankers Club, which focuses on marketing overseas property to professionals in the banking industry.
“Hongkongers have quickened their buying decisions after the news concerning BN (O) passport holders. More purchasers are considering UK properties for second homes, rather than for investment purposes,” said Carol Li, the club’s business director. “We have seen strong buying interest. Last weekend, at least 200 clients attended our exhibition.”
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BN (O) passports were issued to Hongkongers born before the 1997 handover. Under the old rules, they could visit the UK for up to six months, but were barred from working or applying for citizenship. But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on July 1 that about three million holders of these passports and their dependents will now be allowed to resettle in the UK.
Dominic Raab, the UK’s foreign secretary, told parliament that BN (O) passport holders will have the right to remain for five years, after which they can apply for settled status, which effectively gives them permanent residency. After 12 months of settled status, they can apply for citizenship. There will be no quotas on numbers.
Li said Hongkongers generally looked to buy flats in London worth about HK$5 million (US$645,174). In this budget, they could buy a 30 square metre, or 322 sq ft, studio or one-bedroom flat in the city centre, or a 45 square metre one or two-bedroom flat just outside the city centre, she added.
Some clients had suspended applications to other countries such as Canada, and were waiting for more details about the UK’s offer, said Raymond Chong, an immigration consultant and managing director at mortgage referral brokerage StarProp Agency.
Others, meanwhile, were refinancing their Hong Kong flats in preparation for the UK’s immigration plan. “Taking advantage of low interest rates, some homeowners have managed to get an extra one or two million Hong Kong dollars in loans against their flats to pursue overseas property investment,” Chong said, adding that there had been a 10 per cent increase in this practice.
Inquiries from Hong Kong buyers about London homes had increased by 15 per cent recently, said Mei Han Wong, executive director and head of international residential sales at Knight Frank Hong Kong.
“The surge in home buying interest in the UK is also due to the devaluation of pound Sterling, and the diversification of property investment,” she said. The pound has dropped 5 per cent against the Hong Kong dollar since March.
As of December last year, 300,000 Hongkongers held a BN (O) passport, while 2.9 million are believed to be eligible for it.
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