YEMI EDUN is the Founder/CEO, Daniel Ford International—a London-based real estate firm offering diverse services to both local and international investors and home buyers. In this interview with CHUKA UROKO, property editor, Edun speaks on the UK property market in the year of the pandemic and highlights opportunities the market offers, especially at the luxury end. He also shares the roles Daniel Ford plays helping investors purchase, sell or manage their properties professionally. Excerpts:
Like many other countries of the world, UK was heavily impacted by coronavirus. How did that affect the property market, especially in London where you play?
The property market is currently on course for its busiest year since 2007, which comes on the back of data showing the sector as a whole has defied expectations to generate double-digit price growth over the past year. This is down to a confluence of factors— from a short supply of homes to the rush to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday and a significant number of new builds coming on the market, but it’s definitely not what was expected-pre-pandemic or pre-Brexit.
How is the post-pandemic market, and what opportunities are there for real estate investors, especially at the luxury end?
We’ve seen a significant shift in interest towards commuter-belt homes with more space. Buyers and sellers alike reassessed where and how they lived during the three national lockdowns. This has inadvertently raised the demand for properties with outdoor spaces and proximity to greenery.
This trend is mirrored from the regular to the luxury end of the market with homes that have significant acreage being particularly attractive to the super wealthy. There is demand in central London for bigger apartments with outside space and accommodation that provide live/work layout for obvious reasons. So opportunities abound for investors that would satisfy the cravings of the luxury real estate market.
You were quoted as saying recently that the UK market has defied expectations. What does that mean and what’s the implication for international investors?
It means UK property is still a very attractive investment vehicle and is hopefully sufficiently robust to weather whatever storms may come. It also means there is a lot of opportunity here available in the present and in a time when capital (money) seeks safety, the U.K is waiting with open arms. Investors should expect competition for the few available property gems though, as cash in the bank earns little or nothing as return. Real estate is local and we are on ground to provide the necessary guidance in a sometimes labyrinth process.
What similarities and differences are there in the UK and Nigerian markets that could guide investors in their investment decisions in both countries?
The Nigerian property market is quite different from the UK market, which has been able to develop a comprehensive land registry and well documented and regulated property conveyancing system. Purchases are funded mainly via mortgages, enabling investors to buy beyond their available funds, with rates hovering between 2 – 6 percent as against the double digit in Nigeria. This crucial catalyst of the housing chain is still at infancy in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a developer’s delight though as the planning constraints in the UK limits the scope and turnaround of projects, property in the right locations in both jurisdictions will always hold value and appreciate overtime.
For an investor or a home buyer seeking to buy through mortgage, what facilities are available to him in the UK?
A host of Nigerian and International banks provide mortgage facilities with an equity contribution of 30-40 percent required. Dealing with our firm ensures favourable placement with the right bank, saving time and almost guaranteeing a favourable mortgage application. We understand the banks’ criteria and have worked closely with them over the years through physical road shows in the past and most recently zoom organised sessions, jointly with UK banks to breakdown the process for prospective buyers.
Besides Covid-19, what other challenges and risks are there for investors to be mindful of?
Low supply of properties due to Nimbyism (Not in my Backyard, aversion of locals to new builds) and onerous regulation are potential risks or challenges for investors in this market.
In mature markets like the UK, taxation is always a big issue for investors. What role does play in the property market, and how does that affect foreign investors?
Tax-friendly regimes are always important to the international investor. Compared to similar jurisdictions, the UK tax regime is roughly par for the course. The edge the UK has is the clarity of what is taxable and at what rate for Capital gains tax, Inheritance tax etc. It’s important to note that taxes are mostly on profit or gains apart from stamp duty. Having good representation and professional advisors with regular reviews would ensure compliance.
Daniel Ford International has been in the UK property market for two decades according to you. How does the company help investors and home buyers?
Our primary source of value is the Where, What and How you buy. Three simple words, but extremely important. We ensure that what you buy is perfectly suited to your current position and status and where you intend to go. Lastly we make sure it’s done in a vehicle and manner that serves you well. However, we always see beyond the transaction and provide a host of secondary benefits to our clients, one of which is seeing that they have someone who understands their context completely and can interpret that for them and fight strongly In their corner.
There is also the added importance of having someone on ground. No one would have foreseen a year-long shut down and, in an environment where tenants would have had the right and every excuse to stay in a house for a year rent-free, we were able to use our experience of over 2 decades of managing several hundred of properties on behalf of our clients to negotiate discounts for tenants, showing empathy with their situation while still protecting the landlord’s interest. The importance of having a local hand like Daniel Ford who can navigate issues within the law on your behalf is invaluable.
We engage in the sourcing, acquisition and management of London properties. Our property management portfolio has grown over the years to be in excess of 700 properties. We are effectively a full cycle one-stop property shop. Our offerings have grown over the years to include accounting, property renovation and development, block management, a concierge service, which includes sourcing of second passports for our clients which are fast becoming a necessity for the modern mobile and nimble global investor.
Daniel Ford is effectively ‘your man in London’.