Schools bring Edinburgh housing boom from China

Henry Tse has lived in Edinburgh for 40 years. Picture: Toby Williams
Henry Tse has lived in Edinburgh for 40 years. Picture: Toby Williams
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Wealthy Chinese families are snapping up homes in the Capital – attracted by the city’s reputation for academic 
prestige.

Figures released by international property firm Juwai revealed Edinburgh is the most popular destination for Chinese property investors in Scotland and the fifth most popular in the UK.

The number of searches by Chinese nationals keen to make the move to the city increased by 210 per cent from May to June 2013 – a rise which has been linked to the country’s burgeoning middle classes.

Estate agent Savills said eight Chinese buyers had secured properties in 2012 – including three worth upwards of £1 million – compared with a single sale in 2011.

The firm’s Ben Fox said: “Buyers are looking for prime, period city-centre flats on some of Edinburgh’s finest streets.

“Expats, from locations like Hong Kong and Shanghai, are also looking to return to Edinburgh, which as a capital city compares very well in terms of value compared to other university towns like Oxford and Cambridge.”

Juwai, a Chinese estate agency, said the key motivations for buying property overseas were children’s education, wealth security and preparation for retirement.

He said: “The Capital is similar to New York in that it has not experienced a significant drop in property prices. Investors still see it as a safe bet.”

It comes as the number of Chinese students taking up places at Edinburgh University rose from 992 in 2010-11 to 1600 in 2012-13.

Connections between the Capital and China could be set for a further boost after Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said direct flights between Scotland and China were a matter of “when, not if”.

The Scottish Government is keen to win a Chinese air link, having developed close ties with the country through the arrival of giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang.

The past year has seen city firms bring in lucrative export deals through the increasing popularity of Scottish products in China.

In June, Edinburgh kilt company Slanj secured an order which could see it ship more than 5000 colourful garments to Chinese golf fans a year.

And in December last year, Diageo announced the opening of a second Johnnie Walker House in Beijing.

Graham Birse of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce said the past few years had seen a marked rise in interaction between Scotland and China.

He said: “The emerging Chinese middle class want their children educated at good, Western universities and Edinburgh is particularly well served.”

Mr Birse added the arrival of the giant pandas through a £600,000-a-year deal between the Scottish and Chinese authorities had also gone some way to cementing links.

He said: “Symbols matter to the Chinese and the formal agreement between Scotland and China with the pandas encourages tourism and trade.”

‘CHINESE PEOPLE ARE ATTRACTED TO SCOTTISH CULTURE’

Henry Tse, chairman of the Edinburgh Chinese Community School, said one of the biggest draws for Chinese migrants was the wealth of high quality private schools in the city.

Originally from Hong Kong, he has lived in Edinburgh for 40 years.

He said: “Although Edinburgh is a capital city, it has its own beauty. It’s not bustling like London and this is perceived as a good thing.

“The city is very welcoming and a lot of Chinese people are attracted to the Scottish culture.

“I came here in the 1960s as a student.

“Many Chinese students who decided to stay after their studies have ended up working as lecturers and teachers.”