Getting to know the United Kingdom
Britain is one of the world’s most multicultural countries. London alone is estimated to be home to more than 270 different nationalities.
All four countries that make up the UK – England, Scotland, Wales and, to a lesser extent, Northern Ireland – have significant expat populations, especially in the larger cities. There are many reasons why the UK has long been viewed an attractive destination for both expats and overseas property investors.
The UK’s education system is of a high standard and some of the world’s best universities are located in the country. The excellent (yet much maligned) and mostly free healthcare system provided by the National Health Service (NHS) is the envy of many other countries, while the UK boasts some of the world’s best infrastructure throughout all areas of the country.
British people are, on the whole, extremely welcoming towards foreign residents; and while you shouldn’t expect any of the locals to converse with you in anything other than English, most expats are free to enjoy and celebrate their own cultures. On the subject of language, one point to note is that regional accents do vary wildly throughout the UK and some expats may have trouble understanding some of the stronger dialects; indeed, even some British people do!
What about Brexit?
2016 was the year everything changed. The result of the EU Referendum sent shockwaves through the UK, Europe and beyond. Within 24 hours of the Brexit result being confirmed, the Pound had fallen to record lows against most major currencies, nearly $2 trillion had been wiped off the global market, and fears of the UK entering a widespread recession were commonplace. It would be fair to say that the uncertainty caused by the shock result yielded something of a panic.
At the time of writing, two years on from the Brexit vote, the dust is still yet to settle. What will actually happen when the UK leaves the EU is still mostly unknown. However, through all the doom and gloom, the UK economy has not collapsed – and in some areas has seen some really strong results.
There is arguably one group of people for whom the current economic climate has proven to be hugely beneficial – overseas property buyers. British expats looking for a way back into the British property market have also benefitted from a pummeled Pound. Falling house prices and favourable currency exchange rates have combined to give overseas-based investors some of the best property investment conditions in many years.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be purely an investment property. It could be a holiday home; somewhere to enjoy your retirement; or perhaps a permanent home. Whatever the reason for your interest in purchasing a UK property right now, by following the five key steps in this guide, you should have the right tools to get the job done.
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Fun facts about the United Kingdom
- The highest point in the UK is Ben Nevis at 1,343 metres. The lowest point is – 4 metres at The Fens.
- No point in UK is more than 120 kilometres (75 miles) away from the sea.
- The UK is the only country not required to name itself on its postage stamps because it was the first country to issue national stamps.
- The highest temperature ever recorded in the UK was 38.5°C (101.3°F) in Faversham, Kent, in August 2003.
- The coldest temperature recorded was -27.2°C (-17°F). This low has been recorded three times, twice in Braemar, Aberdeen (February 1895 and January 1992, and once in Altnaharra, Sutherland 1995).
- London and Moscow are the only two cities above the 50th parallel with a population of more than five million.
- Every day, the British drink 165 million cups of tea, which is over 20 times more than the average American.
- About 30 percent of today’s Londoners were born outside the United Kingdom.
- People from Poland make up the largest foreign-born group in the UK. According to the 2014 Census, an estimated 831,000 Poles lived in the country. The four next largest groups came from India (795,000), Pakistan (503,000), Ireland (382,000) and Germany (286,000).
- There are over 300 languages spoken in the UK – more than in any other country in the world.
Deciding on your preferred location and property type
The UK has long been a popular location in which to buy a property, often for investment purposes. UK centres of business and finance such as London are a continued draw for those who are emigrating for work and the housing and rental markets are both strong, post-financial crisis. Intense demand for housing in London has pushed house prices up 86 percent since 2009, when the property market dropped due to the global credit crunch. Until recently, this has led to the average overseas-based purchaser being priced out of the UK property market – particularly those looking for a home in London and the South-East region. However, the aftermath of the Brexit vote has led to small price falls – although nothing as alarming as those witnessed during the late noughties financial crisis – and this, along with a weak Pound, opened up the market for thousands more buyers.
Recent studies also show that cities outside the South East of England are confident in the ability to buy property and have not been overly affected by the UK’s vote to leave the EU in the referendum.
UK property investment hotspots
The cities of London, Cambridge and Oxford and Bristol in the South West have all seen impressive house price growth in recent years. However, property firm Savills revealed that prices in the prime market for central London were set to end 2016 down 9 percent, while in other upmarket parts of the capital they were forecast to be down by 5 percent – largely due to the June referendum.