How much do outsiders really pay in world cities?
A 4,000 sq ft townhouse in Brooklyn The notion that a high net worth individual can swagger into any city in the world and buy a property with few obstacles to overcome has taken a knock recently.
Singapore has hit foreigners with higher duty, while those buying top-end London homes will soon face a hefty annual charge. Similar measures are in place or under debate elsewhere as governments try to deflate market bubbles or ensure everyone – yes, even the wealthy – pays more tax to pay off budget deficits.
We have analysed eight world cities where HNWIs congregate. Using data from property consultancy Savills, based on the purchase of notional £2m pieds-à-terre, it is clear that buying processes vary widely but one common denominator exists: ownership is less straightforward and more costly now than in the recent past. Then we deserted rigorous research and instead blended subjective views on climate, lifestyle and reputation to award star ratings to our contenders.
Foreigners may buy only one home for personal use, so long as they have an employment contract or past tax record. One further property may be bought for investment.
A buyer pays a deposit of up to £52,000 for a home above £1.02m; after 15 days, 30 per cent of the agreed price is paid and a sale and purchase agreement signed. The buyer may then seek a mortgage from a Chinese bank but agents say most international deals are in cash. The purchase must be agreed by the Shanghai Real Estate Transaction Center. Buyers pay up to £60,000 stamp duty but have no ongoing ownership taxes. “The Chinese growth story has helped push up prime residential prices 10.8 per cent in 2012 and 42 per cent over five years. This is despite government policies to cool the market,” says Nicholas Holt of Knight Frank.
2. HONG KONG
Residential prices are sky high and so are transaction costs. Legal fees on a £2m apartment would be £3,255 and the purchaser’s share of estate agency fees £20,000. Another big cost is 15 per cent stamp duty on foreign purchases – £300,000 on a £2m property.
Different taxes apply if properties are bought and sold rapidly: this can push stamp duty to 20 per cent. An annual tax is levied, calculated as 8 per cent of notional rental value, whether or not the property is occupied; for a £2m home this is £2,500. The Index of Economic Freedom league table based on 10 free enterprise criteria puts Hong Kong at the top but the housing market has been hard to tame. “Low interest rates, limited supply and abundant liquidity create perfect conditions for a bubble. It’s hoped buyers’ stamp duty will curtail rapid rises. Sought-after areas include the Peak and Southside on Hong Kong Island, parts of Kowloon and the New Territories,” says Savills’ Simon Smith.
Outsiders buy without restriction only on Sentosa Island but require consent, considered case-by-case, anywhere on mainland Singapore. Since December foreigners permitted to buy must pay an extra 10 per cent duty in addition to the sliding-scale purchase levy.
This means buying a £2m property incurs £359,000 in duty plus £1,900 in legal fees. If it’s sold within a year there is an extra 16 per cent seller’s stamp duty. The annual occupancy charge – whether you occupy the place or not – is £5,140.
Singapore has avoided recession, despite weak manufacturing performance. “Prices are expected to remain firm despite cooling measures [thanks to] high liquidity and savings, a low-interest environment, strong balance sheet of developers and a very stable social and investment climate,” says Darren Wang of Cushman & Wakefield real estate consultancy.
Overseas buyers wanting an existing home must win hard-fought consent from the Foreign Investment Review Board. But they can buy brand new homes with relatively few restrictions, or buy vacant land or an established property to demolish and replace with a new one subject to planning consent.
Stamp duty on a £2m home would be £110,000 and another £7,000 covers administrative, legal and survey fees. There are no ongoing occupancy taxes. “Toorak, Hawthorn and Camberwell [affluent suburbs] are popular with foreigners. We’re seeing commercial sites demolished to make way for residential towers sold offshore, principally to Malaysian, Singaporean and Chinese,” says Clinton Baxter of Savills.
Source and read more : Financial Times
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