It is difficult to say with any real confidence how many UK ex-pats there are in the world because movement between countries today is very fluid. A number of reports in the last couple of years have suggested there are at least 4.5 million (some go as far as 5.5 million) UK ex-pats worldwide with around 1.3 million living in the European Union. Many ex-pats still prefer to retain some kind of ties with the UK which is often a family home or a buy to let property. As a consequence, we are receiving more and more requests from UK ex-pats seeking mortgage finance in the UK.
While many high street banks have withdrawn from various areas of the mortgage market, interestingly, UK ex-pat mortgages are not one of them. The fact that UK ex-pats can obtain mortgage finance from high street banks, building societies, private banks and niche lenders reflects the growing size of the market. There are few reports which have committed to market liquidity numbers but we can safely say it is increasing. Interestingly, recent events regarding Brexit may well have encouraged further investment in UK property.
In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum sterling went into freefall and at the bottom was down by in excess of 20% against the euro and the dollar. The delay in enacting Brexit has led to a small recovery in sterling but the relative spending power of ex-pats in the Eurozone and the US has increased somewhat. As a consequence, demand for UK property by UK ex-pats has risen.
Estimates suggest there are around 1.3 million UK ex-pats living in the European Union with concerns and confusion regarding their long-term citizenship. We can safely assume that this uncertainty, in conjunction with currency movements, has encouraged more UK ex-pats to reconnect with the UK property market.
There are many other reasons why UK ex-pats are interested in UK property but Brexit has caused confusion and offered opportunities in equal measures.
Scenario: Mortgage for British ex-pat earning in Dirham in the UAE
There are various reasons why ex-pats are looking to secure mortgage finance in the UK. The main ones include:
A property purchase in the UK may be ideal for holidays, family left behind or simply a long-term investment. Some UK ex-pats have chosen to school their children back in the UK and would require a family home to qualify for local schools. Alternatively, many UK ex-pats tend to be drawn back to the UK in their later life to enjoy retirement. Even a straightforward property purchase by a UK ex-pat will face significantly more hurdles than a traditional mortgage application.
A number of overseas investors seem to have a different view on the UK property market and are keen to increase their long-term exposure. As a consequence, many UK ex-pats have broken into the buy to let market to take advantage of the ever-increasing UK population and demand for private rental accommodation. There is also the opportunity to “return home” in the future and convert any buy to let investment into a family home.
Interestingly, while UK base rates stand at just 0.75%, European base rates are even lower at 0%. That said the UK mortgage finance market is extremely competitive and extremely liquid. Therefore there are some very attractive terms on offer for traditional buyers and UK ex-pats. Whether these funds would be used to expand a property portfolio, fund a lifestyle overseas or simply take advantage of low-interest rates to refinance high-interest debts is a discussion to have with your mortgage broker.
Unfortunately for many UK ex-pats, especially those who were a little more adventurous in their travels, your new homeland will be taken into account with any UK mortgage application. Whether there is a “restricted list” as such is debatable but the following criteria are often used when considering individual countries:
We also know that a number of African nations and some in Eastern Europe can face greater scrutiny by UK mortgage providers. This is in no way a discriminatory move but purely and simply down to available data, regulations and the accuracy/inaccuracy of information required. When you also throw in the various money-laundering regulations introduced by governments around the world, this can be a very tricky area for UK mortgage providers. As a consequence, many will err on the side of caution when considering ex-pat mortgage applications.
Scenario: £6.5million London townhouse purchase for Monaco-based ex-pat
As we touched on above, there are a number of reasons why a UK ex-pat may be looking to acquire UK property using a UK mortgage. When looking at specific types of mortgage we can generally split this between the purchase of a family home or a buy to let investment. Before we take a look at the different types of mortgage available, it would be beneficial to consider the stereotypical type of employment, deposit, income and credit history required to begin negotiations.
A traditional lender would prefer a client to have a regular income and be in full-time employment. However, there are situations where clients have savings/assets or they may be self-employed. While there will be different guidelines for different lenders, this does not preclude them from applying for UK ex-pat mortgage finance.
We know of ex-pat mortgage lenders that would accommodate deposits as low as 20% but the majority work on a loan to value ratio of 60%. Therefore a traditional UK ex-pat mortgage may require a significantly higher deposit than normal.
Where there is one applicant they must have a regular income and where there are two applicants at least one must have a regular income. In order to apply for a UK ex-pat mortgage at least one of the applicants must be a resident of the UK. The level of mortgage finance available as a multiple of either individual or joint income will vary from case to case and lender to lender. However, on average it tends to be between four and five times annual income.
If a UK ex-pat has a credit history in the UK this is likely to help with many parties offering UK ex-pat mortgage finance. A strong credit history will also likely open up the opportunity of negotiating the more attractive rates currently on offer in the market. In countries where there is no credit history/reliable data, this does in theory increase the risk for mortgage lenders.
Where a client has significant assets available as security, or perhaps there have savings which they wish to retain, this could greatly impact the type of UK ex-pat mortgage available, especially from private banks and niche lenders. While high street lenders are effectively restricted in any variance by the affordability rules, this is not the case for private banks and niche lenders.
Over the last few years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of buy to let UK ex-pat mortgage applications. As we touched on above, a mixture of concern and confusion regarding Brexit and enhanced spending power of those holding euros and dollars, in particular, has increased the attractions of the UK rental market. As a consequence, many UK ex-pats are now looking back towards the UK to start or enhance their property portfolios.
While rates will differ between lenders, here are two examples of UK ex-pat buy to let mortgages available today:
Tracker interest rate: Bank of England base rate +2.49%
Variable interest rate: 3.24%
Rate period: Term of loan
Maximum loan size: £2 million
If we increase the LTV to 75% then the terms change as follows:
Tracker interest rate: Bank of England base rate +2.99%
Variable interest rate: 3.74%
Rate period: Term of loan
Maximum loan size: £1 million
As with UK based applicants, traditional high street banks are obliged to ignore rental income on a buy to let investment and consider the mortgage application based upon the client’s income and ability to pay. Again, the situation is very different from private banks and niche lenders who have no such restrictions.
Scenario: Buy to let remortgage for Brit living in Australia
Whether looking to acquire a family home in the UK for immediate use or further down the line, there are residential UK ex-pat mortgages available. You may find that lenders will place a number of restrictions, one of which may be that the property is either inhabited by a family member/close friend or rented out. This ensures that:
Like all UK mortgages, the terms and conditions will vary widely from high street banks through to private banks and niche lenders. To give you an idea, there are currently residential UK ex-pat mortgages available on the following terms:
LTV: Up to 75%
Tracker interest rate: Bank of England base rate +2.49%
Rate period: Term of loan
Minimum loan size: £300,000
There will also be opportunities to fix the interest rate for between two and five years or potentially for the full term with some high street banks, private banks and niche lenders. In the above example, for mortgage applications in excess of £300,000, there is the opportunity to fix the rate for five years at 3.99%. While these rates and terms will vary, they give you an idea of what is on offer on the high street. Private banks and niche lenders tend to consider applications on a case-by-case basis and are open to negotiations.
As the UK ex-pat mortgage market increases we have seen a significant rise in the number of higher value ex-pat mortgage applications. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, although not all, traditional high street vanilla mortgages do not necessarily address the often complicated financial structure of some high net worth individuals. As a consequence, the majority of high-value ex-pat mortgages tend to be provided by private banks and niche lenders.
Scenario: UK mortgage for a US resident and British ex-pat
As is so often the case with these situations, private banks will consider UK ex-pat mortgage applications on a case-by-case basis. There are no set interest rates and no terms set in stone, instead, the deals will be structured around the client’s requirements and their financial constraints. Due to the fact that private banks are not tied to traditional mortgage affordability calculations, as high street banks are, they are certainly more flexible with regards to LTV ratios, interest rates, fixed and variable terms and loan duration.
In some cases, we have seen 90% LTV ratios while there are some unique cases where we have managed to negotiate a 100% LTV ratio. The headline interest rate can be fixed or variable and will reflect income available, assets and the level of security offered. Indeed, many private banks will offer an attractive headline interest rate on a UK ex-pat mortgage in return for the transfer of funds/investments to their asset management division. When looking at AUM (assets under management) arrangements it is beneficial to the lender because it acts as an insurance policy. On the flip side, the borrower will still generate returns on assets under management which can go towards capital and interest/ interest-only mortgage payments.
High street banks, and to a lesser degree private banks, will require an array of paperwork before considering any application for UK ex-pat mortgages. However, the red tape associated with niche lenders is often reduced. It often comes down to a simple case of mortgage finance and security available although they will still require the traditional identification paperwork, etc. Niche lenders tend to look at individual applications in isolation, calculating margin, security and risk factors. Private banks, on the other hand, will often offer reduced rates to encourage long term relationships during which they can market additional financial services.
In reality, between high street banks, private banks and niche lenders, we have yet to come across an application we have not been able to address. Obviously, terms/conditions and interest rates will vary to reflect the individual applications but we have contacts right across the money markets. Our independent mortgage broker status allows us to talk with any lenders, compare and contrast rates then negotiate the best terms for our customers.
In a perfect world high street banks, private banks and niche lenders would prefer applicants were in full-time employment with regular income. Indeed many would go far as to suggest that employment via a multinational company would often lead to more preferential treatment. However, this is not always the case.
We have arranged mortgages for customers with no regular income, maybe taking a break from employment, but able to offer significant security. They may have funds on deposit, which could be utilised by an AU (assets under management) arrangement, and/or additional property which could be used as security. In the past, we have managed to arrange 100% LTV mortgages for clients with no income and no employment but these types of application tend to be few and far between.
So, the simple answer is that yes, mortgage lenders would prefer you to be in employment and receiving regular income. However, utilising our private bank and niche lender contacts we have been able to arrange many mortgages for those with no regular income.
Just as self-employment has increased dramatically in the UK, so this trend has been reflected across Europe and the wider world. We, therefore, receive a number of applications from high net worth UK ex-pats who are self-employed. In this scenario there are a number of factors to consider:
In some cases, it may be possible to present proof of long-term contracts which would give an additional degree of security to the mortgage lender.
Company owners have a similar challenge to the self-employed. Indeed, if a director owns more than 25% of a company’s shares then they may well be deemed as self-employed by a mortgage lender. The greater the degree of security offered by company owners the more chance of obtaining UK ex-pat mortgage finance. Some issues to take into consideration include:-
We have dealt with enough UK ex-pat mortgage lenders to know who to go to, what they want and how they want it presented. We are experts in matching lenders with client situations which dovetail perfectly and allow us to negotiate the best rates.
Over the years we have built up a strong network of lenders such as high street banks, private banks and niche lenders. The majority of private banks and niche lenders will only consider applications through parties with which they have a relationship. This is where our experience, reputation and outreach in the lending market can be priceless. We know how to present your situation in the best light, the best structures and the best rates, terms and conditions within our reach. This allows us to inject a degree of competition between our lending partners to the benefit of our clients.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your UK ex-pat mortgage requirements in more detail. Please feel free to give us a no-obligation call and we can talk you through the process, what may or may not be best for you and current rates in the marketplace.
Many of our clients are ex-pats who have moved away from the UK, but who wish to retain a foothold in the UK property market. This may be in the form of a buy-to-let investment property, somewhere for a family to live, or just a place they can come to whenever they’re visiting home. Whatever the reasons, we understand the nuances of ex-pat mortgages.
For non-UK residents, which ex-pats are, securing a mortgage can come with some obstacles, so it’s important for borrowers to understand what will be required of them throughout the process.
As an ex-pat, your country of residence, income structure and worldwide assets will all be considered to determine the most appropriate lender for you. As will what the property is being used for whilst you’re overseas.
Many lenders prefer the property to be used as a buy-to-let, as this provides them with some UK-based income to show affordability. However, there are a good number of lenders who will overlook this, and be willing to accept foreign currency income and overall wealth as proof.
We’ve helped clients based all over the world arrange ex-pat mortgages in the UK. Naturally, some cases are more challenging than others and may require a detailed application and due diligence, but we can guide you in this.
Working with an unrestricted panel of lenders enables us to provide the best mortgage solutions no matter the circumstances.
We also understand that foreign exchange (FX) plays an important role in your property purchase, and can refer you to our trusted FX partners for market-leading rates. Access to these rates will mean you get the absolute most out of your investment.
So whether you’re currently an ex-pat, or you are about to move abroad and want to discuss what to do with your property, get in touch with our team who will guide you.
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