Global trends are prompting wealthy buyers across the world to make moves abroad. According to Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm, when it comes to relocation trends, “all the key metrics of the past are in flux. Corporate tax arbitrage is coming under fire, and a proposed global flat tax will change the pecking order of advantageous jurisdictions for international companies. Then there is remote working, with at least 40% of the global workforce now ‘location independent.’ ”
Europe—specifically areas like Portugal, Italy, and France—has seen rising interest from American buyers. London’s prime market has seen a spike in property inquiries from ultra-high-net-worth U.S. buyers, too. Demand is reportedly being driven by concerns about President Biden’s recent proposal for tax hikes on the wealthy and big corporations.
Meanwhile, U.S. tech corporations are set to add to London’s American expat community: Google has agreed to lease an additional 70,000 square feet of office space next to its US$1.2 billion headquarters at King’s Cross, while Meta is looking to expand into a larger London office as well.
In Paris, Americans are planning purchases again. Paulo Fernandes, managing owner, Paris Ouest Sotheby’s International Realty, says that since September, the number of visits to the website from abroad has increased by 40%. “Foreign buyers remain interested in Paris because a classic Paris stone property is a safe investment, and prices here are perpetually rising,” Fernandes says. “We have also noticed the return of French expats from London due to Brexit,” he adds.
In 2021, Cyprus, a popular relocation spot, experienced a continuing stream of demand, says Anastasia Yianni, CEO, Cyprus Sotheby’s International Realty. Cyprus’s key markets for international buyers are Europe, Ukraine, Russia, and the Middle East, with most buyers coming from Scandinavia, Germany, and the U.K., she says. Its appeal remains in the sunny climate, good-quality education, and a low tax regime, in addition to the opportunity to obtain a lifelong permanent residency for an investment worth €300,000 (plus VAT) or more, an option that has been available since 2012.
South Africa is seeing heightened interest from its main markets—including North America, Canada, China, and the U.K., in addition to Mauritius and Australia, which are mainly from retiring expats, says Grahame Diedericks, agent, Lew Geffen, Sotheby’s International Realty in South Africa.
Popular spots include Cape Town for its lifestyle offerings; the business hub of Johannesburg; and the Waterfalls Estates development in Midrand, which lies between Pretoria and Johannesburg. “People are amazed at how developed South Africa is and by the lifestyle it offers,” Diedericks says. The corporate-rental market is getting busier, he says, and companies are increasingly investing in properties for high-level staff members instead of renting them.
Over in Asia, Japan is emerging as an investor hotspot. There are no legal restrictions on non-Japanese nationals buying land or property, and they are subject to the same taxes as domestic buyers. There are also many property markets, from Tokyo to other attractive areas like Hokkaido, Kyoto, and Okinawa, that are mature and stable. Factors like low crime rates and the availability of land as freehold make Japan appealing to international investors, according to Mugi Fukushima, branch manager, List Sotheby’s International Realty, Japan. In addition, the country has a focus on branded residences.
Fukushima says more Japanese people are also buying overseas properties, and that Hawaii remains the top destination by far. “A number of people buy properties in Singapore and Dubai for relocating purposes, and the Philippines and Thailand for investment,” he says.
And the Hong Kong property market could be poised for a lift from the pending influx of investment from mainland China when borders open again, which is expected in February.
The Chinese government is putting intense focus on the long-term economic development and integration of the Greater Bay Area, which ties together the areas of Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau.
But Singapore also attracts international wealth, not only from Southeast Asia and South Asia, but from the U.K., Australia, and other developed economies, due to its mature financial-services infrastructure and livability. It’s become more attractive due to the efficiency with which its government has so far dealt with the pandemic, says Dominic Volek, group head of private clients, Henley & Partners.