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Property principles

Commercial property in Sipps is common but the residential line can become blurred when investors turn to overseas holiday homes. Report by Lee Jones

Commercial property investments for Sipps are commonplace today and last month even British tennis star and health club mogul David Lloyd launched his own Sippable investment property fund.

But while investment in commercial property is perf-ectly legal and many investors continue to make healthy yields from investment properties, a lot of questions continue to hang over choosing property as a part of your pension fund.

In particular, the line between what is commercial property and an investment in overseas holiday homes can raise questions about what is and what is not allowed in a Sipp or a SSAS.

Many hoped that the recent court case against Sipp provider Freedom Sipp would clarify HMRC’s stance on overseas property once and for all but when Freedom Sipp was forced to wind up over an unpaid tax bill, the legality or otherwise of sale and leaseback property was left unresolved.

Rowanmoor technical director Robert Graves says the issue is straightforward. To avoid hefty tax charges, any property in a Sipp investment must not be considered a dwelling.

Graves says: “The rule hinges on whether the property is taxable and that depends on whether the property can be construed as a residen-tial dwelling. Obviously, a holiday home can be construed as such but we are seeing an inc-rease in investments in hotels and hotel complexes.

But investors have to be sure the property is run on a hotel basis and would have to ensure he or she does not gain preferential treatment from the investment.”

A quick Google search of property and Sipps reveals a plethora of attractive investments next to sun-drenched beaches and far-flung islands. Many of these are advertised on the basis of 100 per cent finance deals or as the opportunity to invest all your pension assets in the one property.

But how many of these are safe investments? Are overseas investments a prudent inclusion in a Sipp?

Lloyd says the key is to pick the properties carefully. “I agree that there have been some problems with properties in Sipps and there are a couple of big outfits out there who are selling product that isn’t Sippable but I have always put my money in property.”

However, Cavendish Young managing director Mark Estcourt says: “Property is not necessarily right for every Sipp investor. I think if anyone was going to invest in property, they would need to know what they were doing and they would need to have a greater understanding of the property market.”

Informed Choice managing director Martin Bamford also says that while there is potential for clued-up investors to profit from property investment, including it as part of a Sipp investment could be risky. He says: “These schemes seem to be trying to get round the Sipp rules, like hotel rooms or overseas property investments, and I think the client is putting themselves at a high level of risk from future complaints and also scrutiny from the FSA and HMRC if they choose to invest in these.

’Property is not necessarily right for every Sipp investor. If anyone was going to invest in property, they would need to know what they were doing and they would need to have a greater understanding of the market’

“Before Sipps were regulated, property investment firms saw them as a way of getting access to quite a lot of pension money. Since they have been regulated, those unregulated property people still want access to that money thanks in part to a limited mortgage market, so it is a risky grey area that they will keep pushing away at.”

While it might be that the right choice of fund or the right choice of property is key to investment success, as is often the case with property investment, the heart leads the head.

AJ Bell marketing director Billy Mackay says: “Property is not only emotive but international property is even more emotive because you attach sunshine, relaxation and all the good things about a holiday.

“But if there is any risk of it being a taxable property, we just don’t go near it. Some providers will look at it. UK commercial property is fine but anything that can run a risk should be avoided.”

Mackay admits that much of the “PR buzz” that surrounded Sipps before A-Day was due to residential property initially being suggested to be a permissible asset but says the last-minute Government U-turn was a blessing in disguise for UK Sipp investors.

He says: “Keeping residential property out of Sipps has undoubtedly meant that people are making more balanced and sensible investment decisions. They will have a more diversified portfolio simply by not allowing investing in residential property.”


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There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. 3 Golf Courses, 600 1/2 acre Golf Lots, 601 Condo Hotel Units, 3 Marinas, 3 Retail Centers, 3 Factories, and More…..

    Dear Lee Jones,

    We are looking for a London based SIPPs investment company that can help us to fund a series of businesses and golf courses in Central Florida.

    We are seeking an initial $5 million. This will allow us to finish planning for our core businesses. The $5 million will be (completely) secured by a 32-acre commercially zoned land on US Highways 17-92, which has over 1,800+ feet highway frontage and1,500+ feet fronting on a 720 acre recreational lake.

    The land will be completely permitted within one year, and the $5 million investment will be fully returned to the investors within 2 years.

    The investors will own 20% of all developments. The projects show a $80 million net profit within seven years – plus a residual net profit of $5 million per year from the eighth year on……

    The projects have already a lot of interest from European businesses. We are offering each business a 50/50% joint venture ownership in restaurant, grocery, micro brewery, marina, golf management, car rental, resort management, spa management, landscaping, and other businesses.

    Once our planning is complete, we will solicit London SIPPs to invest $30 million for 70% ownership interest in the company. All of our 3 and 4-bedroom Condo Hotel will have an annual 6% return – guaranteed over five years. We are adding just 10% profit over our costs – to keep our costs down. We have three locations – all (two with golf) with grocery stores, pubs, restaurants, marinas, spas, etc., on site. And each of the 601 condo/hotel units may be converted to residential use after just five years of investment use. Also, we will offer one-half acre (600) golf estate lots on the courses. The lot owners will own 100% of the golf courses, clubs and marinas.

    Three well known European golf pros and designers have agreed to be a part of our development. One is the recent winner of the British Open and another is a two time winner on the PGA last year. Two championship and one 18-hole executive courses will be built. We will be naming one of our golf courses, and the Rose Auto company after one of our pros.

    Lastly, we have interest from a company that perfected several models of “Circular Rotary Turbine Engines” in concert with NASA and the Johnson Space Center. They have expressed an interest to cooperate with us in a “Natural Gas Turbine Engine” factory in Central Florida. This will require an initial funding of $350 million – with more than a billion US$ offering to follow. Circom engines promise to be lighter and more efficient than those now being used.

    London’s Arena Wealth has agreed to be our accountants.

    If this isn’t something your company is interested in, please let me know if there may be any other company in London that might have interest. Otherwise, I will be happy to speak with you.


    Jim Schroeder
    (co-owner of the lake front land)
    2655 Ames Haven Road
    Kissimmee, Florida 34744

    Cell: 407 738-6055

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