Charlie Walsh, Director, Lodha UK
Lodha UK is the UK development subsidiary of Lodha Group, India’s largest real estate developer. The company is based at 3 St James’s Square in Central London and comprises an in-house team of 30 development professionals with capabilities in planning, design, development, construction, procurement, and sales and marketing.
Established in 1980, Lodha Group is India’s largest real estate developer by sales, with several landmark developments including World One, Mumbai, the world’s tallest residential tower. The company is currently developing around 43 million square feet of prime residential real estate globally and has 28 ongoing projects across London, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. In 2016 Lodha Group delivered 6.5 million square feet of real estate across projects.
London property has been the envy of the luxury real estate market for years, so it is no surprise that it is dominating front pages all around the world. Why have we been creating headlines?
2016 has proved to be a real test for the market, yet opportunities have been created for investors. Stamp duty reforms have arguably had the biggest influence on the market and provided the catalyst for a flurry of transactions before the surcharge on buy-to-let and second homes came into force in April. The number of homes sold, particularly in Central London, dipped following the introduction of these reforms, but there are signs that demand is strengthening as higher purchase costs are reflected in asking prices.
During the second half of the year, the EU Referendum and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union created a level of uncertainty that affected London’s house prices. Nonetheless, through adversity comes opportunity, and this has certainly been the case for astute investors who have studied the market. Domestic and international buyers continue to identify good value, and as such homes that are priced correctly have been snapped up. Some agents have found that Brexit prompted a correction to house prices that were slightly overambitious.
Overall, the market is still product-led, and the appetite for good quality homes in great locations is still high. This is evident at our new London development, Lincoln Square, where we have seen strong sales with more than 50 percent of the apartments in the first phase sold. Projects with rare attributes such as Lincoln Square’s unique collaboration of designers, as well as numerous facilities and space in the heart of London, make up a hugely unique selling point.
Lincoln Square, Lodha UK
Located in London’s historic and legal quarter between Covent Garden to the west and the financial district of the Square Mile to the east, Lincoln Square is Lodha UK’s first development in the capital. The immediate area is home to some of London’s most prestigious institutions, including Lincoln’s Inn, the Royal Courts of Justice, the London School of Economics and King’s College London, as well as the cluster of world-class theatres and restaurants of the West End.
Lincoln Square will offer residences from studios to four-bedroom apartments as well as two penthouses, with interiors designed by Bowler James Brindley to reflect an elegant, warm and contemporary motif. World-renowned architect and designer Patricia Urquiola, known for designing the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona and furniture for Louis Vuitton, is curating the residents’ amenities. This will include a private club and library, a cinema room, private dining room for up to 36 people, as well as snooker and games rooms. There will also be state-of-the-art wellness facilities, including a stunning 25-metre swimming pool and a spa plus a high-tech gymnasium. This is her first residential venture and reflects her signature style, utilising a mix of materials including coloured glasses, timber woods, marbles and bronze metals.
The development will boast a private courtyard that has been designed by award-winning landscape architecture practice Gustafson Porter, known for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park. The courtyard will be the heart of the new development and will provide an area of calm and tranquillity exclusively for residents.
A dramatic fall in the value of sterling since Brexit has created a buying opportunity for overseas investors. This is not limited to property, and it has been widely reported that there are shrewd consumers buying luxury goods, including handbags, jewellery and clothes from the big fashion houses, as their purchasing value has increased.
The UK remains a safe market for investment recognised by international buyers who are drawn to the country’s rich history, stable political and judicial system, world-class educational institutions and economic standing. Despite Brexit, the UK remains the safe haven it has always been, but more importantly, it is now cheaper.
London is a global city, and this reflects in the buyers at Lincoln Square. The development has been popular amongst domestic and foreign buyers, with sales and enquiries from a variety of nationalities including British, Chinese, Singaporean, Thai, Russian, American and Indian. Foreign buyers are also attracted to the development’s central location. Situated opposite the Royal Courts of Justice and a stone’s throw from Lincoln’s Inn Fields, residents at Lincoln Square are within walking distance to Theatreland and Covent Garden. The Square Mile is also on Lincoln Square’s doorstep, making it ideal for those who travel to London for business in the City.
We’ve found that many buyers are also motivated by education. This is supported by Knight Frank’s 2016 Wealth Report, which said that £1.1 billion was invested in prime Central London last year by buyers influenced by education. Thus, it is no surprise that we have had sales and enquiries from buyers wanting their children to study at either the London School of Economics (LSE) or King’s College London (KCL), which are both a short walk away.
Recently we have seen an increase in international buyers with a connection to finance and the City who are now capitalising on the currency advantages, and who are looking for an exceptional London residence that is close to work and the Square Mile, but also has the lifestyle attributes of five-star residents’ amenities, allowing for rest and relaxation, whilst also having Covent Garden on its doorstep.
After five years of increases, the next two years are expected to be quieter in terms of house-price growth for London. The Brexit divorce talks will keep UK house prices front of mind, but we should not forget that the housing market is being underpinned by the ongoing fundamentals of a lack of supply of quality product in first-class locations, together with record-low mortgage rates. These issues could be tackled in the government’s white paper on housing, due before yearend.