Pandemic Pushes Expats to Buy ‘back home’

Pandemic Pushes Expats to Buy ‘back home’


A rising number of expats are looking to move “back home” as the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic unfolds, according to a survey of prime-oriented Knight Frank brokers around the world.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of polled agents noted that 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.

But only 29% of expats are considering a permanent return to their native country. The majority (57%) are looking for a “50/50” home – that they can use in equal measure with a place overseas – while 14% are just in the market for a second home.

“Time in lockdown has underlined the importance of family for many and focussed their minds on the type of lifestyle they want to lead,” according to Victoria Garrett, KF’s head of residential in Asia-Pacific. “For expats with older parents back home or children heading to boarding school abroad – and the prospect of a potential eight or 12-hour flight to reach them – the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many are rethinking their long-term plans.”

Expats cited being close to family members as the main reason for their property search, followed by a new job offer. A better healthcare system back home ranked third, followed by their children’s educational needs in fourth place.

Interestingly, most expats don’t seem to be targeting high-yielding investment properties, with many opting not to rent their second home out. “Expats are taking the long view, balancing current career plans with family and lifestyle needs and at the same time keeping one eye on tax and currency shifts,” says Paddy Dring, Knight Frank’s global head of prime sales.

Suburban locations tend to be the top pick for returning expats (43% of those surveyed), while a rural retreat is less popular (14%). Most experts are city-based, notes the Knight Frank team, suggesting that “a move to the countryside for some may be considered a step too far,” so “most settling instead for the middle-ground, enabling them to still sample urban life, its restaurants, bars and cultural amenities from time-to-time.”
Under a third are actively looking for new-build properties (mostly Asian buyers), while a large majority are looking at resale homes. 62% are looking for a detached house with outdoor space.

Most expat budgets sit below US$3m, Knight Frank’s global brokers, say but higher budgets are more common in markets such as Australia, Switzerland and France. “Families want a home where their children can stay longer or can come back to if they need to bunker down together,” summarises the research team, “and in some cases they are willing to stretch that bit further to have the luxury of space and, in some markets, a waterfront location.”

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