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UK expat in Hong Kong looking to purchase buy to let in UK

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Hi All,

I am from Herts UK originally . Have been based in Hong Kong for the last 25 years and am a HK permanent resident and will be continuing to live and work here in HK for the foreseeable future.

I am looking at building a portfolio of investment properties in the UK as a source of passive income and an eventual retirement plan. I am 61 years of age.

I am completely new to this. I have cash to invest and deciding what my first move should be. For example is it better to buy the first property outright with cash (no mortgage) and start receiving the rental income. Or maybe better to split the cash i have to invest and buy 2 properties with 60 per cent down and an interest only mortgage on the the remainder.

Is it better as an expat to buy as an individual or through my Hong Kong company. What are the tax rules for an expat buying in the UK.

So many questions !!!   I am making good use of the "downtime' we a;ll have on our hands right now with the current crisis to research things thoroughly so I am ready to move when the right opportunity comes up.  I would appreciate any tips or feedback from anyone with more knowledge or experience

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Hi @neil_irwin

With regards to your question about cash or mortgage for your 1st purchase, this would completely come down to your personal preference. Clearly, utilising a mortgage allows you to leverage your cash, allowing you to purchase two properties and therefore expand your portfolio quicker.

Also, with interest rates not far off an all time low at the moment, this is certainly a great time for borrowers to be taking mortgages (Bad time for savers!).

On the flip side, lenders can be stricter for 'First-time Buyer, First-time Landlords' and you will find that the pool of lenders available to you is restricted somewhat. This is where purchasing your first property with cash will open the market up slightly for future purchases (Although most lenders will still class you as a first-time buyer until you have owned the property for 6 months or have a 12 month rental track record). That being said, there is nothing stopping you buying the first property with a mortgage and then approaching the larger pool of lenders for the 2nd property, once you have completed on the 1st.

In terms of buying the properties in your personal name or your Hong Kong company, mortgage lenders do not typically lend to trading companies but they are comfortable with SPV's (Specialist Purpose Vehicles)/Limited Companies setup solely to hold/purchase properties. Again, not all lenders are comfortable lending to limited companies and most will require the application to be in your personal name.  (I'm afraid I am not a tax adviser and cannot provide any details of the tax rules)

I hope this is helpful and please do let me know if you have any questions. Happy to arrange a conversation to talk through your options.

Best regards

Nathan Cole


Nathan Cole CII (MP)

Mortgage Consultant at Private Finance

Office: +44 (0)1743 211 855

Email: nathan.cole@privatefinance.co.uk

Website: www.privatefinance.co.uk


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Hi Neil, 

Happy to chat - I am a property investor based in Singapore, and started my portfolio when I was living in Hong Kong. 

I would normally say we can meet up for coffee as I am in HK quite often - but actually I have stopped travelling to HK over the past few months, and I do not think I will be travelling there any time real soon, 

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Hi Kent,

Thanks for getting in touch. Under the current circumstances I am not surprised you have not been to HK for a while. We've taken a battering here with the combination of protests and now virus. Its areal shame. I've been here 27 years and prior to all this upheaval it was great place . I'm in the entertainment industry and as of today the govt has closed all bars /clubs. So no work for the time being.

I am using the time to research  property investment so I am in a position to snap up any good deals as and when we start to emerge from this cricis.

Where exactly have you bought investment properties? In UK ?

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I certainly miss the old Hong Kong. I left there in 2014 when the Umbrella movement started then. 

I completely agree to make the most of this time. This is actually a really good opportunity. 

Originally from the south coast of UK, this is where my portfolio is (as well as a place in Taipo Hong Kong - a place I am sure you are aware of). 

What and Where are you looking at ? 

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Thats interesting. So do you think there will be opportunity admidst all this adversity. How do you think opportunity might manifest. Do you for see property prices dropping??  I have been looking at the Hulme sector of Manchester..buy to lets in the area between the 3 universities. A family frined had afew there and has been very successful. Tai po yes i know it. Is it a village house ??   Which part of UK's south coast is your portfolio in ??

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On the UK South Coast I am mainly interested in Portsmouth, West Sussex, and also Ashford. Mainly because I know the area and have trusted people on the ground there. 

Having trusted contacts and a team is going to be very important for certain strategies whilst investing from overseas. 

I done the student thing before in Portsmouth. It worked well in that, it was a HMO and so made better many than a vanilla let, my student tenants paid a whole semester up front (even paid a whole year up front one year because of international exchange rates), and the students all left in the summer and an extra income of summer lets was achieved. 

Down sides for me was that it wasn't very hands off, especially needing to find new tenants every year. It got more and more competitive and regulated, and one year a student smashed up the place and left the country (and went back to HK. If you could locate him for me, I would be very grateful and will buy you a beer). 

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ha ha thats funny   whats the guys name. Maybe i know him Hong kongs a pretty small place.

Interesting feedback on the HMO though. Are they need not such a good idea now, with the tightening of regulations ? And what u say about having trusted team/contacts on the ground being important is true too. Thats one of the reasons i was looking at Manchester , cos have some family friends up there who have a few buy to lets and they have a trusted team in place already.


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Great! Do capitalise on your network, and their experience and their team. 

And forums like this is a great place to learn and network too! 

With the UK in shut down, not much is happening there, so their is a little time to work on your strategy and plan your next steps


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Hi Kent, Neil,

It was nice to stumble upon this thread, I’ve been in Singapore for 6-7 years. Now looking to make my first property investment (also a first time buyer) in the UK. Also know HK well.

How do you guys approach sourcing? Do you look primarily for new builds through marketing agents, or buy from the local market remotely?

I don’t have much of network to fall back on back on in the UK, I’m also from the South (Dorset) but currently looking at new build opportunities in the NW (Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool).


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