Experiences of pandemic and lockdown are influencing homebuyer sentiment as the property market returns, prompting expatriates to set their sights on securing a base back home closer to family. A survey by property consultant Knight Frank’s prime team has identified a global trend for expats to look to buy in their homeland. “Sixty-four per cent of Knight Frank offices polled are reporting the lockdown had influenced expats’ decision to buy a property in their home country, which has led to a significant uptick in residential enquiries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ray Palmer-Smith, Director of New Homes for Ireland at Knight Frank. The survey found most are seeking a 50/50 home, which provides a base for now and could at some point in the future become a permanent home.
Palmer-Smith anticipates a strong volume of viewings once travel restrictions are eased. “Enquiries for Dublin have been particularly strong through our offices in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Singapore, with a combination of expats returning home or planning for a future return, buy-to-let investors and families emigrating or where children may be studying in Ireland.”
Both Ireland and the UK are now seeing sales centres and showhomes open their doors again, with new safety protocols in place to safeguard staff and buyers. “So far this has been one of the busiest weeks of the year for new homes reservations and we expect that to continue in the following weeks, as more people become comfortable with viewing again,” says Palmer-Smith. During lockdown itself Knight Frank’s Dublin team successfully agreed a number of new homes sales to expats, conducting virtual viewings via Zoom using digital brochures, videos and 3D tools.
These buyers are returning to the market with fresh priorities. “The number one driving factor for expats choosing to purchase a property back home is to be close to family members and/or family support network, with work and healthcare coming in second and third,” says Palmer-Smith. “Following lockdown, globally we are seeing a common trend towards health and wellness as major factors for everyone, particularly expats in their selection of a home.” He highlights property search priorities such as a location close to open spaces, beaches, shopping and general amenities, as well as the traditional driving factors of schools and travel time to major work centres. Lockdown has had its impact on that list, he explains, “With many having experienced lockdown whilst living in major metropolises with young families, the importance of quality surroundings within walking distance has never been more necessary.”
New homes have always had appeal for expat buyers. “And never more so than now,” continues Palmer-Smith. “Having often previously lived in modern buildings in other cities, the expectation of standard of accommodation, energy rating and reduction of need for maintenance are often driving factors. When property purchases are being conducted from their current country of residence, the ease and convenience of buying a new home is generally considered much more straightforward, often eliminating any bidding process, no onward chain and sometimes facilitating a delayed completion, depending on the build schedule of the development.”
At Naas, in County Kildare in Ireland, Ballymore’s Bellingsfield and Longstone developments have been attracting significant levels of interest from expat buyers. Both developments have showhomes open for viewing by appointment and safeguarding measures in place, including sanitising of showhomes after viewings, social distancing and provision of hand sanitiser. Similar safeguarding measures are in place at Ballymore’s UK showhomes, and for all locations showhome tours can be complemented by digital tools, allowing viewers to compare housetypes and plot locations and explore other features and information.
The Bellingsfield and Longstone developments have many of the attributes that are on expats’ wishlists. Their three and four bedroom houses have light, spacious terraced, semi-detached and detached designs. Importantly, these collections of family houses also have quality surroundings, each development having its own landscaped green space and being close to some of Kildare’s highly regarded schools and sports clubs, including Craddockstown Golf Club.