Wimbledon fortnight and half-term: highlights of the property sales calendar
Nick Pemberton West End Investment
“It’s half-term next week, so we expect viewings to tail off,” said the investment agent to the fund manager in the weekly marketing report.
This would have been a common phrase a few years ago. However, in the dynamic and sometimes unpredictable investment market, adapting to change and knowing the appropriate time to launch a building is key to a successful sale.
Identifying key dates in the calendar year such as bank holidays, religious festivals or school dates is commonplace, and marketing a property during these periods has always been cautionary. However, foreign investment in the London property market has seen a marked increase over the past few years, with overseas investors buying more than half of all properties for sale in London’s most exclusive areas. This influx of buyers from all corners of the globe has turned the traditional sales calendar on its head.
An example of this was Allsop’s sale of Thames Wharf, a £40m investment that is home to the River Café restaurant in Hammersmith. During the October half-term (a period traditionally considered extremely quiet), there were substantially more viewings at the building than would normally have been expected. A number of those interested parties were foreign parents visiting their children at boarding school in the UK. One party even brought the entire family on the viewing. This significant uptake in viewing activity ultimately resulted in a successful sale for the client.
It is therefore important to consider how the relevance of certain dates can fluctuate. The belief has long existed that school holidays are a tricky time to market a building, being seen as a quieter period that often experiences a slow-down in business. We have increasingly found this not to be the case.
However, an increase in foreign students studying in UK boarding schools and universities has brought more high-net-worth parents to the country during school holidays. For instance, according to the Independent Schools Council 2019 Census, the two biggest groups of foreign students studying in the UK were from mainland China and Hong Kong. 80% of these students, and 96% of those from Hong Kong specifically, had parents living outside the UK.
It is not unusual for high-net-worth parents to combine visits to the UK with viewing property they are keen to acquire. London is known as the gateway to Europe and a popular choice for foreign investors looking to broaden their property portfolio and secure additional income.
Take for instance, the early summer months in London, where many property agents take leave during the ‘quiet period’. These few months are also when our Capital City plays hosts to a range of wealthy individuals and potential investors, drawn to London by Bond Street shopping, Royal Ascot, Henley Royal Regatta or simply the chance to escape the desert heat. London is filled with high-net-worth international visitors from places such as Hong Kong, China and the Gulf, to enjoy the glittering delights of London’s summer season.
In mid-July 2019, we marketed several buildings in the week leading up to the super weekend of sport, including the Wimbledon final, the Cricket World Cup and the British Grand Prix. There was a significant increase in overseas investor viewings with people in London to attend the sport and collect their children from school.
The same can be said for religious and cultural holidays such as Chinese New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan. Understanding the target audiences, their behaviour and their calendar, all plays a crucial role in the marketing and sales process. Smart agents will strategically adapt their marketing approach to match the cultural and social calendar of their wealthy, global audience.
With international and domestic political events making the pound look cheap against foreign currencies, investors are still spotting buying opportunities. Despite the uncertain political landscape, London remains the number one global city for many and an attractive investment proposition. In a constantly evolving and more international market than ever before, it’s important for consultants and agents to remain agile and in tune with the changing interests, behaviours and schedules of buyers.
When selling investments with international investor appeal, half-term holidays are now our prime marketing time!