A new force in buy-to-let

Asians are keen to put their money into property and quick to cotton on to the latest trends, says Chris Partridge
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The Independent Online

British Asians with family origins in the Indian subcontinent are emerging as a major force in buy-to-let investment, according to developers. Distrustful of the stock market but wanting better returns than annuities, Asians are moving into property for the long haul, despite fears of a bust.

British Asians with family origins in the Indian subcontinent are emerging as a major force in buy-to-let investment, according to developers. Distrustful of the stock market but wanting better returns than annuities, Asians are moving into property for the long haul, despite fears of a bust.

David Galman, sales director of Galliard Homes, has seen such an increase in interest from British Asians he is taking a stand at the forthcoming Asian Lifestyle show at Olympia.

"For the past 12 or 18 months the majority of our sales in London have been to Asian professionals or business people," he says. "We have been advertising in the Asian press and I have appointed a couple of people specifically to look after important Asian investors."

Part of the upsurge in interest is a cautious attitude, Galman says: "They are not interested in pensions or the stock market, they want somewhere safe to put their money."

This conservative attitude does not mean British Asians miss a trick, however. They are, for example, extremely open to the new aparthotel concept that has been gaining acceptance here slowly over the last few years. The idea is that an investor buys a suite in a building that is run more like a hotel than a block of flats, with a hall porter, maid service and even room service.

Galliard has just launched an aparthotel in Waterloo and Galman is finding British Asians are catching on much quicker than other groups.

"We are selling the aparthotel in Waterloo off-plan and getting 500 calls a day. Young British Asians get the idea instantly - less entrepreneurial Brits take a little longer," he says.

British Asians take particular care researching investment opportunities, but giving high levels of service right from the start can reap rich rewards in establishing access to a network of family ties.

"What we have found is that families are very extended and if you establish trust with one member of the family they will bring lots of other family members in," Galman says. "I have a couple of clients, brothers, who said they cannot buy anything more for a couple of years, but they have other family members who would be interested - now they have become my two best suppliers."

David Pretty, chief executive at Barratt, has also seen more interest from British Asians: "While we don't formally measure these things, it is true to say that the British Asian community has always been important in the investment sector and have certainly been enthusiastic participants in recent buy-to-let activity."

Property investor Lal Vohra and his son Sandeep are loyal Barratt customers, having bought two apartments at Hermitage Waterside in Wapping and recently acquired another at the Regency Apartments in Westminster. They bought off-plan, before the blocks were even built, considering that the location alone would ensure an increase in capital value.

"Both my other Barratt properties had been let easily after I bought them four-and-a-half years ago and they have also increased in value, so they were a good investment" says Lal Vohra.

Human nature can sometimes get in the way of the best-laid investment plans, however. When Fazal and Sumaila Bux bought a £546,995 three-bedroom apartment at Barratt's Tradewinds development in London's Docklands, their aim was to let it out, but when the family saw the finished apartment, they liked it so much that they decided to live there themselves.

"We originally got a 'buy-to-let' mortgage on the apartment, but my wife liked it so much that we ended up living here," says Fazal Bux. "We now let out our old bungalow.

"In particular, we liked the layout of the apartment - but the views from here are stunning, too," Bux says.

The apartment is family-sized, with three bedrooms, three bathrooms - two en suite plus a family bathroom. There is a large living/dining area and separate fully-fitted designer kitchen, a popular feature with British Asian families for whom family entertaining at home is a big priority.

The Asian Lifestyle Show is at Olympia, July 9 to 11; www.asianlifestyleshow.com

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