Last Saturday, I was invited to a exhibition held by Jardin Smith International, a local company that sells UK land to investors in Singapore and other countries. Jardin Smith International holds these kinds of events quite frequently, each time at a different venue. In my case, it was held at Ritz Carlton Hotel. I have not been to Ritz before, so it took me a while to find the place.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by a client relationship manager (or salesperson), whose job was to make me feel comfortable and explain to me the concept of how it all works. So I was treated to some free food and there was the usual idle talk before we got down into business.
Having already been to a presentation by another company that sells UK land, I was familiar with the concept. Here’s how it works:
- The company purchases a plot of greenbelt land. This is land that cannot be developed unless it is rezoned (a process known as getting planning permission) by the government.
- The land is sub-divided into many smaller plots and sold to investors.
- The company retains 25% of the land so that it is also “vested” along with the investors.
- The company goes out to apply for planning permission. This process will take many years. As such, this is more of a long term investment. We are told this would take five to ten years at the minimum.
- Once planning permission is obtained, the value of the land will rise 5-10 times (from your purchase price) and you can realise your gains when the entire site is sold. In Jardin Smith International’s case, 60% of the owners will have to agree before it can be sold.
The reasons why we should investing in UK land (as told by the company) are as follows:
- UK has a housing problem and land will only become lesser and lesser.
- The price of land has been increasing steadily (About 20-fold in the last 15 years).
- 2012 Summer Olympics will be held in London and this will have positive effect on the property market.
The plot on offer by Jardin was being sold for a cool $30,000. An initial deposit of 10% was required and could be paid by credit card. The balance could be paid by credit card and UOB cardholders could even pay by interest-free 12 months installment plans.
I politely told the client relationship manager that I didn’t have the money at the moment and wasn’t interested. She was quite persistent and even suggested I just pay the deposit first. I wasn’t going to do that since I won’t be able to finance the remaining 90%. She was pretty disappointed and made a last ditch effort to ask me for referrals. Of course I would not refer any of my friends to a company that I had not fully researched on.
Besides the land investment, there was also a side booth promoting a property City House, Croydon in London. According to the person I spoke to, he was helping some investment fund sell off their units.
1-bedroom units were available for about 215,000 GBP and 2-bedroom units for 250,000 GBP. 12% of the amount would be payable within 28 days, another 13% due at completion (end 2009) and the remaining 75% can be bank financed by Lloyds.
The rental yields are estimated at 5% and if the units are rental out, it would be able to cover the interest payments. It looked interesting to me but being not very inexperienced in this area (other than the fact that I can’t really afford it now), I decided to give it a miss.