One-on-one interview: Shan Liew, 88 Estate Agency

Posted 8 September 2016 by Keith Osborne

Our exclusive interview this week takes a look at the South-East Asia investor market through the experience of an entrepreneurial estate agent...

This week’s instalment of our ongoing series of interviews with senior figures from th UK property industry looks at overseas investment in our residential market, and speaks to property entrepreneur Shan Liew, founder of London-based, Chinese-Malaysian 88 Estate Agency.

Hi Shan, please tell us a little about yourself and your company.

After obtaining my qualification in the UK as a Chartered Certified Accountant I worked for a number of firms that helped me gain knowledge about development, economy and investment opportunities in London. Following this, I then switched to property investment, working on a series of projects in London and Kuala Lumpur.

In October 2013, I founded London-based 88 Estate Agency Limited. The firm of five specialises in promoting and selling London properties to the local and overseas investors, as well as focusing on the London rental market. The agency works closely with a few reputable British and Malaysian property developers to undertake their project management and marketing to local and overseas clients.

Is Chinese interest in UK property aimed mostly at the London residential sector, or is there interest in other areas? Are there particular areas of London that get the most attention?

Chinese interest is absolutely exclusive to London, especially the prime locations such as Chelsea, Kensington and Mayfair.

Is most investor interest in new build, or do re-sale and historic properties also generate interest?

New build is more attractive to the majority of overseas investors as they require less maintenance. A minority however do also prefer Victorian conversions, as they have more character.

We hear about overseas investors buying groups of units in a development - is this typical, or are most investors more modest in their budget and expectations?

Most of our investors from China are testing the water, initially buying only a few units to see how that goes for them. Gradually we hope their investments then become lucrative enough for them to invest even more. Of course, however, you do have the high net worth individuals too, who can afford to buy blocks of units.

How important is it that developers visit the Far East to market their properties directly to that market?

It is crucially important to visit the Far East. I visit at least four times a year, to ensure brand awareness and to showcase our properties.

Do investors keep a close connection to the properties they buy, or are they generally happy to have the managed separately?

Most investors are not emotionally attached to their properties, so they would be happy to hand over management to a firm in which they trust.

How has the result of the recent EU referendum affected Chinese interest in the UK property market?

Post-Brexit, interest from the Far East in London property has absolutely increased, especially considering the falling pound. Chinese investors now can get more for their money. Ten years ago the exchange rate was 15.16 Chinese Yuan to £1 and now in 2016 it is 8.62 Chinese Yuan to £1, which is almost half what it was.

How do you see the UK residential property market changing over the next year?

There may be a slow run in London property sales in the short term. Considering however our currency has weakened, oversees investment will absolutely increase.

If you could change one thing about the current rules and regulations of our market, what would it be?

If we could change one thing in the current regulations of the UK I would suggest reducing VAT to 15%, at least until the negotiation talks have ended, which is forecast for 2019. A lower rate of VAT would absolutely boost consumer confidence in the country, which in turn would result in more money in the pockets of the people. If they can then save up for a number of years, some would have substantial capital there to be disposed of, which would more than likely than not end up being invested in property. 

Shan Liew is also the founder of Hearts in Harmony, a charity foundation uniting anyone who wants to combine their passion for charity and love of music, art and culture, and at the same time, to help fight heart disease in both children and adults. 

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