Research article

The Weight of Money

With large-scale institutions and private investors all looking to invest in real estate, is there too much money pointing at the city?

The weight of money pressing on real estate in world cities is a widely reported phenomenon. London was the second most invested world city after New York by large-scale investors in the year to June 2015 according to Real Capital Analytics.

Figure 21

FIGURE 21Most active markets

Source: RCA

But it is not just institutions and corporations who are focused on real estate as an investment class. The type and range of players in the market has increased substantially since 2008 with Sovereign Wealth and private individuals entering the fray to a much greater extent.

A recent survey of global wealth advisers by Savills/Wealth Briefing showed that private wealth is very active in real estate with 45% investing more than a fifth of wealth in direct property holdings and 37% investing an additional sum amounting to more than 10% of their wealth in indirect property holdings (property companies and REITs for example). Only 9% of these survey respondents said their clients were planning to decrease their exposure to direct property and 13% to decrease their indirect holdings.

Much of the recent buying activity in real estate has been directed at prime property in world cities, and buying behaviour has been focused on London and top US cities. Our survey of private wealth property holdings in 2014 shows few signs of activity abating. According to the Savills/Wealth Briefing survey, 67% of high net worth private clients want to buy more real estate in North America and 63% in the United Kingdom. This compares with only 37% who are looking to buy in China and Hong Kong, for example.

London is a favoured destination for UHNWIs property ownership and institutional investment

One characteristic of private wealth is that it is focused on different sectors of property to institutional money. Residential property, development land and agricultural land are the three top buys on private clients’ shopping lists (72% of all respondents say their clients are looking at this sector). But offices also feature prominently, with 50% looking to buy in this sector.

The implications of this for London are that money will likely continue to press on the city’s real estate markets. For those seeking the best income returns from day one, the extent to which this weight of money suppresses yields and increases prices means for them, too much money is pointing at the city.

Consequently, we anticipate that the smart, income-seeking money will increasingly move away from the prime centre to the higher-yielding periphery and even outside of London. Some of it already is, with high-quality city markets like Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh already seeing significant investment activity.

Those seeking capital growth will do well to look at the underlying fundamentals of rental growth and the prospects of its continuance, as there is very little scope for further investment yield reductions to boost prices.

Meanwhile, trophy properties, such as mansions, farms and sporting estates, are also beginning to see increased activity and we expect this to grow. Access to London, even from these more far flung retreats, will still be important, so the western corridor with access to Heathrow and the world beyond will likely continue to be a favoured location.

Figure 22

FIGURE 22Most favoured residential property ownership locations by UHNWI

Source: Savills World Research / Wealth X

Other articles within this publication

9 other article(s) in this publication