Home » Expat Focus Financial Update July 2023

Expat Focus Financial Update July 2023

Cost of Living Crisis Causes “23%” of Expats to Consider Selling Up

According to recent research by Experts for Expats, around 23% of British expats are considering selling their UK properties. Undertaken in late 2022, the survey consulted 200 British expats abroad. 72% of these respondents receive an income from a UK property, and 67% are intending for the equity to support them in their retirement abroad.

The survey also showed that 90% of respondents are not using currency exchange services to move money abroad, even though they face shifting exchange rates.

HSBC Denies Access to Accounts Held by Hong Kong Expats

The HSBC bank has been facing questions over its treatment of some Hong Kong expats, who have been denied access to their retirement funds. We reported last month on fears that refugees who are critical of the Chinese regime have been targeted and that details of their financial affairs have been passed onto the authorities in Beijing.

The chair of the US Congress Select Committee on China, Mike Gallagher, and Alicia Kearns, chair of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, have sent a letter to HSBC CEO Noel Quinn expressing concern that Hong Kong citizens newly arrived in the UK have been unable to use British citizenship documents to access money held in the Mandatory Provident Fund, because China no longer recognises British National Overseas passports. HSBC says they are following regulatory guidelines; the representatives from the USA and UK have said that they “both feel very strongly about protecting the legitimate rights of Hong Kong residents.”

Australia Attracts Expats Back with Property Auction

363 homes went to auction in the first weekend of July in Sydney, including a home that had been lived in by one family for 54 years. Among the buyers were Australian expats returning home from the USA, who snapped up a property under the hammer for over AUS$5 million. However, real estate agents said that the auction was relatively quiet, which is not atypical for the midwinter period. They said they were expecting the market to pick up in the spring, partly fuelled by people downsizing due to rising interest rates. They report a strong buyer demand, so if you’re planning on returning back to Australia from overseas, it’s worth keeping an eye on the property market.

Spain’s Rental Price Freeze Comes to an End

The freeze on prices imposed by the Spanish government as an inflation-curbing measure (a knock-on effect from the war in Ukraine) ended at the end of June 2023. The measure allowed tenants to renew their contracts without experiencing price hikes (as has been happening to alarming effect in places like Singapore, for example). If tenants are vulnerable, there may be the possibility of a one-year extension. Evictions have been extended until December, and rent increases linked to the CPI will stay at their current 2%.

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Not all measures are ending: those that were supposed to end in June, such as the VAT reduction on food, public transport discounts, and freezing of butane prices, have now been extended for another six months.

Dubai Property Boom

Recent evidence suggests that local expats are likely to drive the next property boom in Dubai, with expat investment contributing to 40% of all property sales in the state. Property experts say that this figure is expected to reach 50% by 2025, as Dubai becomes an increasingly attractive location for families looking for a more permanent home rather than transient short-term employees. In addition – and we can see why from experiences in Singapore, again – residents are concerned about rental price hikes, preferring instead to invest in property, while this is still viable, rather than face continued rises in rents (prices for a two-bedroom apartment have gone up by 20% over the last year).

Global digital consultancy RedSeer says that around two thirds of Dubai’s resident expats are looking to buy rather than rent. They also say that the high end market is still dominated by Russian expats, particularly when it comes to villas. And with a fast-growing economy and a high standard of living, they believe that the property investment trend can only continue:

“The UAE stands out as one of the most economically viable geographies for real estate investment, boasting the lowest price-to-income ratio compared to other regions of interest.” 

Vietnam Comes Under the Spotlight for Retirees

The International Living Retirement Index and US News & World Report has designated Vietnam as one of the top destinations for expat retirees, pointing out that expats can have a similar quality of life to Florida or Nevada, but at a fraction of the cost. It’s possible for a retired couple to live well in even major cities, such as Hanoi, for under USD$1500 per month. Rental costs, amenities and transport are reasonably priced, and the pleasant climate is also a draw, as is the ease of hiring staff, such as a cook or a cleaner.

There is, inevitably, a drawback: Vietnam has only a single entry visa, rather than the golden or retirement visas present in other Asian nations. Experts say that improving the ease of entry and residency would enable the country to attract more expat retirees. Affordability checks would obviously need to be put in place, and experts also suggest that Vietnam revises its policies on excluding certain nationalities (for example, granting them a 45-day stay instead of excluding them entirely). Vietnam has one of the strictest sets of visa regulations in Asia, but there is a growing sentiment that this does not ultimately benefit the country’s economy. Attracting wealthy retirees would be a healthy first step, say international policy makers. 

Beijing Authorities Asked to Consider Tax Breaks for Expats

The European Chamber of Commerce in China has asked Beijing to consider a range of tax breaks for expat workers, saying that overseas employers are likely to have to pay an additional US$110,800 in taxes for an expat employee with two children if the breaks are removed. Tax breaks have been due to be phased out since 2018, but EUCham warns that it will result in reluctance on the part of overseas companies to open up in China. One in 10 members of the Chamber have either relocated their head offices elsewhere in Asia or are considering doing so, rather than face this additional financial burden.

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