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London is looking wobbly – but when will UK house prices top out?
Today we continue to chronicle the impending implosion of new-build property in London.
We focus on the detonator, which I suspect is somewhere in Battersea Power Station.
And we consider the strength of the builders – and the implications that their bull markets have for UK property prices in general.
The epicentre of London’s ‘artificial’ housing market
I was driving past St George’s Tower in Vauxhall the other evening. Nothing’s changed. The lights are still not on. It’s the UK’s tallest residential tower, but barely a soul is living there.
I’m not exaggerating. On a ‘lights-switched-on-in-the-evening’ basis, occupancy has to be lower than 20%.
“Oh, that’s normal”, a property-analysing fund-manager told me last night. “At One Hyde Park, even at the busiest time of year, they reckon occupancy only reaches 30%. The rest of the time it’s much lower.”
It’s something I’ve covered before – and I think it’s eventually going to lead to some kind of vacant home tax – but it’s a symptom of this almost-artificial market that is London new-build property. Many of these homes are not bought for what you might think would be their primary purpose – to be lived in.
They are bought as investments, as “safety-deposit boxes in the sky”.
SW8 – Nine Elms, Vauxhall, Battersea Power Station and the surrounding area, however you want to think about it – has come to epitomise, for me at least, the problems that are looming for new build in London.
There is, as we know, a vast supply of very expensive new-build property coming to market in London. The FT put the number at 54,000 planned or under construction “in the priciest areas of the capital… close to or above the £1m mark”, while in the same areas last year, just 3,900 homes were sold for more than £1m.
This whole new-build market is very dependent on overseas investors.
But China, of course, now has its own set of problems, as do emerging markets and Asia in general. Malaysian investors bought almost a third of the 866 homes in the first phase of the Battersea Power Station project, reports Neil Callanan on Bloomberg.