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Hong Kong citizens rush to buy London houses after UK government opens doors

A row of multi-coloured townhouses in London's Kensington and Chelsea district.
An estimated 51,228 residential properties have been sold across London, since the announcement of the BNO visa. Photo: Getty

The number of people from Hong Kong purchasing homes in the capital has shot up since the UK government announced a new visa welcoming residents from the former British colony, earlier in 2021. 

According to new figures from Benham & Reeves — one of London's biggest private letting agents — transactions by Hong Kong buyers rose 144% in London since July last year. 

This is when prime minister Boris Johnson announced the visa scheme for some three million Hong Kong holders. the letting agents said. 

An estimated 51,228 residential properties have been sold across London, since the announcement of the BNO visa. This is down 35% when compared to the 51,228 homes sold between July 2019 to April 2020.

Across prime central London alone, transactions are estimated to have dropped 45% during the period.

However, while the London market has stuttered, the research found Hong Kong nationals accounted for around 4% of London's property market activity, since July 2020 due to the BNO visa. 

This was 1% in the same time period the previous year. 

As a result, Benham and Reeves estimated Hong Kong buyers bought some 270 homes in the prime London market since the announcement. 

Watch: Am I wasting my money by renting?

In the period between July 2020 and April 2021, Hong Kong nationals bought 1,932 London homes, compared to 793 in the same period in 2019. 

The Hong Kong British National Overseas (BNO) visa allows eligible applicants to enter or remain in the UK for up to five years. Applicants and their family members will be able to live, work and study in Britain, under the scheme but will not have access to public funds.

Image: B&R
Table shows all market activity in London since the BNO visa was announced in July 2020 and how it compares to the same time period in 2019. Image: Benham & Reeves

Marc von Grundherr, director of the estate agent, said Britain had always been a popular destination for Hong Kong property buyers.

He added: "This has certainly been bolstered by the offer of the BNO visa and for the first time in some 30 years, our Hong Kong office saw more interest from those looking to buy versus those looking to invest during the first quarter of the year

"Some of this activity is being seen in the very high-end London market, but in fact, much of the demand coming from Hong Kong is focussed around more average market price thresholds."

Looking ahead, the company anticipates transactions by Hong Kong nationals to "grow in prominence" in the coming months bolstered by the easing of the COVID travel restrictions in the UK. 

Read more: UK mortgage borrowing hits highest level since records began in 1993

Britain first announced the extension of the visa passports in May last year in response to China pushing through controversial national security laws in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, was a British territory until 1997 when it was handed back to the Chinese government. 

Under the terms of the deal Hong Kong would exist on a "one country, two systems" basis for a minimum of 50 years — while China was communist and autocratic, Hong Kong would maintain a capitalist and democratic system. 

But, China has been backtracking on the agreement and the security law last year was seen as effectively ending the "one country, two systems."

The national security law criminalises criticism of the Chinese Communist party. The law allows police to arrest activists for subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces. The rule effectively bans protests. 

Beijing’s crackdown resulted in prominent pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong being arrested since it was imposed last summer and exiled others. 

Watch:How much money do I need to buy a house?

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