top of page

How to: approach buying in a different currency.

A private client from Germany (living in London) introduced to me by his London based solicitor once again justified our belief in the strength of a personal referral and the value of having an actual person at the end of the phone (in this when buying or selling property with more than one currency involved.

Often it is incredibly hard to persuade individuals not to pin all their hopes on an improvement in a rate of exchange.

One spends a fair bit of time trying to articulate just how uncertain rates of exchange are and that inaction and a 'wait and see' mentality is tantamount to throwing your money in the air and hoping it lands back in your hand.

Our client is a young chap, which may be decisive (as he didn't think he knew it all already). He is buying a house in London for £4,202,730 - the currency he was buying was likely part of a deposit...which is not uncommon in recent years.

Day by day, minute by minute in fact, the euro cost of this property is changing. Whilst we impress and emphasise to him the fact that the euro cost could well go up, in deference to the value of a balanced perspective, the volatility we're seeing at the moment (c. 05/09/2016) on the exchange rate between sterling and euro means that the euro cost could just

as easily be going down for this client.

The main reason for a post focusing on this particular transaction is because, aware of the futility of trying to

predict the rates, the client confidently and politely asked that we might buy the GBP he needed now, rather than nearer his completion date. He had already taken the sensible step of instructing his German bank to electronically send us €5,050,00, a figure which, at the time, was less than what was needed to buy the £4.2mil he required for the purchase because the rate had effectively moved against him since he undertook his initial estimate - but he was looking at the bigger picture.

In our view it is far more important to make sure one secures the rate for the bulk of one's commitment; one can worry about the pounds and pence later.

The level of trust placed in us by this client is testament to what a strong personal recommendation from a 'professional services' business like a solicitor can do for the FX sales process, for the client's pocket and for the satisfaction we get from our work.

We do believe that this client, savvy and 'sophisticated' as he appeared to be, would not have felt confident about using just any old FX firm were it not for the introduced by his conveyancing solicitor; and, for the most part, this is because 'FX firms' like those common across the UK tend not to exist abroad. That is a hugely sweeping and perhaps unfair observation, but, we constantly get told by London based estate and search agents that they are not asked about FX...and our firm belief is that this is because their customers, discerning though they may be, are not aware that this specialist financial service is available to them. Hence, frankly, the topic does not come up.

A specialist acquisitions agent working for a family office keen to grow their prime central portfolio is unlikely to feel too comfortable suggesting an FX broker if the subject of foreign exchange and any international payment isn't brought up by the buyer.

Many/most investors have GBP bank accounts too, so may transact 'in house', however, the improvement offered on spread is truly compelling which is why Prime Cap is ever optimistic about successfully securing a new referral relationship should we encounter a sympathetic ear.

To add to the superior rate of exchange (by recollection we undercut ABN Amro quite comfortably by 1.7%) we were able to pay the funds bought by our client directly to their solicitor on receipt of the euro amount sold; this can be a particularly useful 'plus' for those overseas investors who do not actually hold a bank account in the UK.

We're not saying that our client is better off because he chose not to fool around and wait to see what happened to the GBP/EUR exchange rate. He is yet to actually complete on the property purchase and we have made no apologies for the fact that the rate could actually improve for him between now and then which would, had he held off on the conversion, have meant he paid less. But, the fact that he had enough EUR to buy the sterling he needed and, the fact that he simply did not want to have to fret about minute movements in the rate, means he is in the distinct minority.

To summarise the point of this post:

  • anyone who advises you with certainty as to the movement of an exchange rate is, frankly, being reckless with your money.

  • Estate agents and property search agents dealing with buyers purchasing in the UK but with funds outside of it are doing their customers a disservice by not mentioning/recommending they at least speak with an FX dealer. It could benefit all and, provided the dealer is carefully chosen, embarrasses no one if the services are in fact unnecessary.

  • Rather than focusing on the rate, focus on the sums involved and whether or not you can protect against them increasing.

Every recommendation we provide is scrupulously tailored to both the objectives and the priorities of our client. If you would like to discuss our work further, have a client thinking of buying in a foreign currency or simply wish to introduce yourself to us and our team then please do call us on +44 (0) 2031728193.

bottom of page