Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Developers in central London are offering institutional investors discounts of as much as 20 percent on bulk purchases of luxury apartments as demand from international buyers slumps amid higher taxes and low commodity prices.

Concessions of about that magnitude are being offered to investors willing to take 100 homes or more, according to Killian Hurley, chief executive officer of London developer Mount Anvil Group Ltd. Broker CBRE Group Inc. is negotiating discounts of as much as 15 percent for bulk purchases on the fringes of the capital’s best districts, said Chris Lacey, the company’s head of U.K. residential investment.

A record number of high-end homes are planned in London districts such as Nine Elms and Earls Court even as demand wanes. Sales of properties under construction in the U.K. capital slumped 19 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to researcher Molior London Ltd, while the percentage of overseas buyers fell to 20 percent from about 33 percent a year earlier, broker Hamptons International data show.

“We will see distress in prime central London and in Nine Elms, where there has been a lot of international investment,” Andrew Stanford, U.K. residential fund manager at LaSalle Investment Management, said in an interview. “There have been a number of house builders who have approached us directly with schemes as a direct result of off-plan sales falling, particularly in central London.”

Rental Market

Bulk buyers may be hard to find because the apartments being built aren’t designed for the rental market, lacking features such as equal-size bedrooms, said Stanford, whose company has invested more than 325 million pounds ($457 million) in U.K. multifamily housing on behalf of clients.

Many developers traveled to Asia to sell homes in advance of construction and secure cheaper development loans because the down payments made projects less risky. The imposition of higher purchase taxes has now reduced the appeal of the costliest properties, leaving developers wondering how they will secure funding, said Dominic Grace, head of London residential development at broker Savills Plc. 

“It is a question everyone is asking, and the truth is no one really knows,” Grace said.

Institutional Capital

Mount Anvil has sold about 80 percent of the 441 properties at its Keybridge project in Vauxhall, including a block of 100 to landlord Fabrica, at values of about 1,050 pounds a square foot, Hurley said. He declined to say if the portfolio was sold at a discount.

“There is very strong demand from institutional capital - particularly from American money - and that’s going to underpin the market at a time when the Asian market is a bit softer,” Hurley said.

Barratt Developments Plc has hired broker Cushman & Wakefield Inc. to sell a portfolio of more than 300 apartments in the Fulham, Nine Elms, Aldgate and Hendon districts which will be valued at about 320 million pounds when completed, according to Estates Gazette. Barratt will only sell “if we could achieve the right values,” a spokesman for the homebuilder said by e-mail. The company regularly offers bulk sales as a means of reducing marketing costs, he said.

An increase in the supply of properties in central London’s best districts fueled a 1 percent drop in rents in the 12 months through March, according to broker Knight Frank LLP. That’s similar to Manhattan where a condo-development boom caused luxury apartment rents to fall 4.2 percent in February to $8,000 a month compared with a year earlier.

Pension funds and asset managers plan to invest as much as 30 billion pounds to invest in U.K. multifamily housing, according to a 2015 Savills survey, and Grace forecasts significantly more portfolio sales in the future will help developers finance larger projects on the fringes of prime London.

“If they don’t, we have got a problem,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jack Sidders in London at jsidders@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Neil Callanan at ncallanan@bloomberg.net, Michael Shanahan

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