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Maguire Jackson Property Blog

Landlords must not become complacent

Landlords must not become complacent The commitment of several large PRS Funds into the Birmingham city centre residential market has made me want to raise the topic of apartment presentation for existing & those potential new Buy to Let landlords. The London & internationally based funds are buying whole blocks of new build apartments which will be delivered next year & for several subsequent years.

The extra supply I suspect will mean one thousand or more residential apartments will becoming available from these institutional landlords who are committed to maximising their returns for their investors. As part of this drive for results these PRS properties will be designed with fittings of a very high standard and amenities within or very close by aimed to retain those tenants once they are in occupation.

We as busy focussed City Centre agents found prior during the boom years of 2004-2007 when many new blocks were completing that individual tenants were very keen to jump into new apartments from their existing apartments as the new ones became available. This caused an increased churn in the market which subsided once the new build programme died up.

For existing landlords, this competition means they must stay on top of their investments ensuring the presentation, decoration & fittings reflect the very best and are regularly updated as part of an on-going plan, as indeed they keep their own homes. The new competitors are here to stay so I advise landlords not to become complacent if they want to retain their existing tenants & ensure they too have minimum voids between tenancies if they have vacancies.

A transparent new service

A transparent new service We have just launched a new service, ,to cater for an expanding Birmingham audience who want to take more control of their property sale. The focussed marketing & monitoring service which is regionally directed towards Birmingham properties hopes to reach an audience which is looking for a local online agency which isn’t based from a call centre in the South East or reliant upon inexperienced self employed valuers covering large areas.

Maguire Jackson Online offers expert valuations, marketing help with promoted Rightmove positions and locally recommended professionals, being solicitors & mortgage brokers. This cost-efficient model also allows vendors to seek further help through the process from easily accessed offices in the City Core. We already know we will hit a group of Birmingham vendors across all the B postcodes who are tiring from the relentless TV marketing of national online services based & supported from outside of the region.

This new service builds upon our experience we had with Maguire Jackson Direct launched four years ago and is now backed by a comprehensive new website offering helpful videos for each stage of the process. With the existing Maguire Jackson commission based no sale no fee service continuing unchanged Birmingham vendors now have a choice and route forward with us.

HS2 & the impact of the tram

Relocation With Royal Assent being imminent on the HS2 Bill going through Parliament I do not think many of us here in Birmingham realise yet what the full impact the project might be. The initial estimates price the project at £56 Billion. Whilst we in City hope to have a fast train to board in 2026 the reality is the project will be extending north with a project team being in place certainly until 2033 & beyond.

Whilst the project is being flagged as providing more capacity, which is urgently needed, the reality is that it might help rebalance the UK bringing many more jobs & opportunities into the West Midlands. The large project team currently being pulled together in offices on Snowhill is only one small but key part of a much larger pool of specialist engineers, surveyors, consultants & contractors. All the firms involved are planning to work together and most of them will be building up their presence here in the City.

For residential developers, landlords and those supplying services, from restaurants to laundries this is a huge force arriving imminently, which I sense has been overshadowed by the recent HSBC relocation noise, & is going to sustain a busy property market into the years ahead. Oh yes the tram.. This increasingly popular transport is going to extend to the HS2 station going forward. Having a tram stop within easy reach might become our equivalent of London’s Crossrail stations…if you are looking for extra long term capital growth!!

Is Birmingham City Centre going to suck the working life out of its suburbs?

Relocation The success of increasing numbers of medium & larger sized firms in Birmingham City Centre is encouraging more firms to follow. We have noticed the fast-growing trend in recent years and professional colleagues who specialise in offices in the City Core reaffirmed this last week, especially with the enquiries they are receiving for the new offices now being marketed which are coming forward in the next six-twelve months.

Companies such as Direct Line who operate call centres in their offices off Colmore Row have flagged that employment was one of their key reasons for locating in the City Centre in 2015. Whilst the area was known more at that point for its professional services their desire for a location for backroom telephony, sales staff plus senior staff was not immediately acknowledged by all firms. Their success with others have highlighted a bigger movement now coming into Town. Many firms following plus currently gauging interest are based in the decentralised offices & trading parks around the City, from Fort Dunlop to Walsall & Wolverhampton.

Birmingham City Centre’s combination of increasingly better public transport access & hugely improving urban landscaping is becoming a big draw. The firms are citing that they want to secure & more importantly retain good staff so they can grow. The companies do not want to pay the increasing costs of staff parking plus their staff themselves are asking for the vibrant urban mix of competing offices, retail & eateries being just outside of their new front doors.

Is 2017 going to be Birmingham’s year of the City Centre tower crane?

Relocation As we march through December one can already see that tower cranes are going to be a serious feature of the Birmingham skyline into the New Year. From the Gun Quarter through Snowhill, along Colmore Row & then onto Broad Street the tall buildings are returning & fast.

Construction is shortly bringing in one or more new fourteen storey student blocks in Lancaster Street. Close by the last Snowhill office tower is now underway building to sixteen storeys. Construction stopped in the recession and the once empty site is now full of construction workers. The former Nat West tower on Colmore Row is being rapidly being replaced with a larger steroid pumped replacement, taller & broader, offering 200,000ft of new prime offices. The new Hill Street hotel towers of the 26 floor Bloc hotel & its tall Japanese owned hotel neighbour will soon be on route. In Broad Street Regal are fast coming out of the ground building the first of two adjacent residential towers, with the second proposed to rise to nineteen floors. Nearby HSBC’s new twelve storey retail banking headquarters is fast taking shape, adjacent to the 28 floor Alpha Tower the listed older office tower built in 1973 and currently a key feature in the skyline.

Birmingham’s towers will never rival London’s or Dubai because the Civil Aviation Authority restrict the height across the City to 242m, notwithstanding that we don’t see aircraft flying in over the City Centre.. However there must be a reason! Towers give business confidence & certainly will add a punch to the allure of the City. I have no doubt there will be more tall buildings coming.

If you are a crane driver & like heights, there is going to be plenty of work next year!

An acknowledgement to the passing of journalist A A Gill

Relocation The sometimes Sunday Times occasional arts critic & London centric restaurant reviewer A A Gill who died over the weekend always made me smile as he unashamedly fired two barrels at everything he saw or ate. When he reviewed the Fat Duck, in Bray Berkshire he upset the local Maidenhead Advertiser ‘they took me to task for being an unprofessional metropolitan snob’ whilst commenting about the location. Could perhaps he have been writing about the Birmingham suburbs of Knowle or Four Oaks? ‘The place remains a retirement slum of probity, cut-throat municipal gardening, golf-club aspiration and twee bigotry.’ Ouch! He went on to report it was an unlikely place to find “the best restaurant in Britain”. Do our neighbourhoods have a more local match?

On his way to the Conservative conference in 2012 he reported ‘you get out of the station, take a breath, say a prayer and hope against hope. But outside it’s still Birmingham. Amid the piss-stained concrete and the surly, benefits- sedated dreariness, I ask the taxi driver for the Conservative party conference. He is a man with a long hennaed beard: “Conservative? You got an address for them?” “No, sadly, but I thought you might have noticed them.” “Say it again?” “Conservative party conference.” He looks blank. “You sure it’s here?” And he goes off to ask the next cab down the rank and returns beaming Yes, he’s heard of it, but it’s in the other Birmingham.” The other Birmingham? My God, there’s more than one? They built Birmingham the sequel? So good they did it twice? I really had no idea that Birmingham International was another place. I just imagined it was an ironic punchline’

His acid skill was sharply aimed at The Tea Room at the Cafe Royal, London in 2013 "The most depressing and uncongenial meal, in an anaemic, echoey building, made even more wrist-slashingly ghastly by the sad and silent ghosts of a century of culture and élan and bibulous brilliance." The London restaurant Dabbous did better in the previous year "It was as close to perfect as I’ve eaten for a long time, with more than a touch of the Nordic night about it, a crackling warmth out of the storm, an understated craft."

The warmth & wit will be missed by many

73 years ago … Pressure to change the JQ

Relocation ‘There is no doubt that the Jewellery Quarter is cramped, squalid and wasteful of time, money & effort. It has grown up unchecked and unguided; each man working out of his own salvation with small consideration for anything but his own prosperity. While always ready to help a neighbour, the Birmingham jewellery manufacturer has always possessed a strong and enterprising individuality that prompted him to look after is obvious why and how the Quarter grew as it has grown.

The net result of this growth and movement is the Jewellery Quarter, a warren of dismal streets, a confused huddle of inadequate factories, some little more than hovels-where what once were living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms were forced to make shift for offices, workshops and stores. Dark alleyways lie in wait for the unwary visitor, weak and creaking floors carry weight beyond their capacity and sanitary accommodation is overworked.’

From The Bourneville Trust report 1943

Today these streets are changing quickly. Many of the poorer houses were cleared with newer factories placed on existing sites through the late forties, fifties & sixties. Today’s new mix of residential is pulling back the audience that once lived and thrived before the back-garden factories took over the houses in front of them. The pressure of work pushed out the residents, with their desire for better living conditions and fresher air. Like several other inner city areas across the country the Jewellery Quarter is now moving forward apace with the new pressure of residential offering the mix of vibrant City village life adjacent to the City core.

The post Autumn statement lettings revolution

Relocation The announcement in the very recent Autumn Statement by the Chancellor Philip Hammond to abolish Tenants fees for lettings has caused several agents I know to incur heart murmurs as they assess the possible future impact on their profitability. Whilst absolutely no detail has been forthcoming the concern is regarding who is going to pay for the costs incurred as tenants take on tenancies, during the tenancies and indeed as they leave.

The incurred costs are the referencing which invariably are put out to a separate specialist firms, the inventory of contents & condition, again usually given to an independent firm who can help arbitrate if there are issues at the tenancy end and the extra administration costs incurred during a tenancy if the agents have to chase late rents, change names of individual occupants and administer tenants leaving early from their contracts.

Whilst this announcement is the start gun on a likely statute change in twelve-eighteen months there is going to be a heated discussion on route. The upside is likely to be a faster moving lettings market with tenants moving more often, as they see better value & landlords having to keep their properties in excellent condition just to retain their tenants and indeed paying more to secure them!

Watch this space

Adventure before dementia

Relocation The attractions of Birmingham City Centre are well known. The increasing number of Michelin starred eateries alongside the widest range of other very good restaurants and coffee shops. The very good theatres and similar concert venues, ranging from Symphony Hall to the Barclaycard Arena via many good popular smaller University halls and clubs that are all contributing to an increasing audience of discerning older purchasers looking to come back into the City Centre for both convenience plus clearly the opportunity to engage more with life.

Birmingham historically has strong suburbs, the likes of Solihull & Sutton Coldfield which historically have attracted & absorbed an older audience but I sense the City Centre is now attracting a core of new aspiring energetic & widely travelled individuals who want the buzz of the City and the freedoms it offers, particularly for travel, entertainment and business if only as a consultant or volunteer.

For developers this audience demands quality, security & good management. It is a growing group that mustn't be overlooked.


Relocation We are currently hearing from potential vendors enquiring if we have long lists of London based buyers now looking to relocate to Birmingham. The papers have been full with articles regarding new investment monies coming into Birmingham from London & overseas alongside a note that the City has recently being listed as the biggest destination currently for relocating Londoners. We though as agents are seeing some activity but are not awash with south eastern based buyers as some media suggests. The 2014-15 study highlighted that 6000 Londoners relocated here during this period.

HSBC ,being one of several larger companies ,has reported that there are currently 1000 roles alone for relocating Canary Wharf staff coming into their new 210,000ft retail head office being built on Broad Street here in the City Centre. Our research however suggests though that the actual number might be only 25-30% of this with the bulk of the roles being filled locally. The reasons are more obvious as the BBC found when they recently moved to Manchester. For particularly large numbers of staff aged over 35 with families they’ll accept redundancy & relook locally for positions because of their families & particularly their schooling ties are in the Greater London area. There are of course those individuals & particularly younger staff who will relocate because they are ambitious, without ties & more importantly can therefore be much more flexible.

We are however continuing to see Londoners & those from the South East looking to invest here alongside larger Institutions looking seriously at whole blocks of apartments to buy for rental. The yields are good, above the national average, with occupancy forecast as continuing to be high. The high costs of the South East are one drawback there and the deflationary talk for that region is encouraging both further focussed research plus individual & institutional investment into the greater Birmingham area.

The relocation of professionals which is happening, as it always has, is largely fed by those with Midland roots who are returning back following schooling or University in the City or region. I suspect it is this growing audience which the research has picked up. Emove analysis recorded that average London first time buys are now £462,602, yet nationally the UK average house price is £220361, and we suspect it is this which is gulf which is fanning the flames & encouraging a move. Birmingham’s business renaissance is clearly helping as is the ongoing redevelopment of huge chunks of the City core making the City much more inviting both to live & work. Whilst Manchester & Liverpool in recent years stole much of regional regeneration headlines it is now Birmingham’s turn to step up & I suspect it will climb further than many sceptics think. The increasing strength of the local Universities ,now educating over 60,000 students each year, is undoubtedly helping provide ambitious qualified younger staff.

The movement of professionals back into Birmingham is coming from all over the UK so do not be surprised if your potential buyers or tenants do not in fact have accents from East Enders! We look forward to talking to you

Should I be buying in a larger or smaller development in the City Centre?

Should I be buying in a larger or smaller development in the City Centre? Every day we meet investors & owner occupiers looking to buy in Birmingham City Centre. One of the reoccurring questions is whether they should be purchasing in larger or smaller blocks. Are there real advantages to living in blocks comprising one hundred, two hundred or more apartments, indeed are there disadvantages?

Smaller blocks can be attractive particularly to owner occupiers because the properties might be more individual, being conversions of former industrial or works building. On the surface you should be able to meet all your neighbours & the properties might have a feeling of community which in some blocks is absent. The smaller blocks often will carry lower service charges as the annual fees usually don’t carry porters, evening security, blocks of lifts and the costs of big management agents. For particularly Buy to Let investors who pay the service charges for their tenants this cost saving is obviously attractive because of the positive effect to net yield. Likewise for owner occupants the lower running cost benefit is at first glance obvious alongside perhaps the opportunity to get personally involved in the block management.

The larger blocks clearly can offer services which through their size cannot be offered in their smaller cousins. The ability of their porters to handle online deliveries, organise laundry, taxis plus liaise with contractors if work is being carried out has both a price but often an economy of scale which can be very attractive. The ability of these larger buildings to retain the services of the larger reputable managing agents who in turn can easily deal in house with addressing daily block maintenance issues is also appealing for those busy owners who perhaps aren’t always resident. Larger blocks clearly through long term maintenance plans can also build sizable sinking funds if well managed to accommodate long term programmes of works .For smaller blocks this might mean occasional large bills if particular issues aren’t planned or need addressing quickly.

For some tenants & buyers, particularly single women and the busy on the go professionals the porterage, evening security staff and allocated parking is enticing such that no matter well presented an apartment might be in a smaller block they just will not choose it in preference to the larger building. For tenants the rents payable rarely reflect the full service benefits to occupation.

There is sadly no hard & fast rule for recommending either type of accommodation to buyers. There clearly are advantages & disadvantages to each type. The key is really whether you can find an apartment which has the accommodation you need in a location you’ll enjoy. Please do advise our team when you are searching if you have a preference because they’ll know with every new instruction that comes onto our books how many immediate neighbours the apartment will have!

Is your ceiling height the measure of new urban snobbery?

On towards the summer. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlighted that there is increasing evidence that the urban market will pay a hefty premium for a higher than average ceiling height in their apartments and it is this rather than apartment size which is helping drive prices forward. Certainly this trend has been noticed in the luxury end of the London market where there is a volume of space addition to the apartments standard price if the property can offer more height. In Birmingham niche developers are slowly waking up to this call of demand from discerning purchasers for opportunities to live in spacious surroundings and I feel going forward this can only escalate, to the benefit of all buyers looking for an increasing quality of urban life.

Probably for too long the developers of converted industrial buildings into chic loft apartments have picked up those buyers wanting this extra space. In Birmingham the blocks of Concord House, New Hampton Lofts & The Riflemaker echo this & have secured an audience of discerning occupants who now rarely move. Going forward we have new blocks such as St Pauls Chambers off St Pauls Square & the new penthouse on top of St Pauls House offering accommodation that acknowledges the demand. These same developers including Javelin Block locally are moving the market forward and offering luxury through extra height .

For those of you living in traditional Victorian dwellings I sense you can only smile. For those however living in mid-eighties & nineties apartments there is more choice on the way so do keep an eye on the new homes listings!!

Are we seeing any post Brexit caution?

On towards the summer. The recent rapid transfer of Government leadership to Theresa May & her new team has undoubtedly settled many property nerves ,calming down some of those considering holding off buying later this summer or this autumn .Whilst we witnessed five individual investment flat sales collapsing on the Monday immediately after the Brexit vote with buyers citing their caution we have been surprised by the larger investors & developers involved with bigger purchases proceeding unaffected and indeed land sales continuing to take place without a pause.

The number of serious owner occupiers looking in the City centre is continuing, many of whom are trading up or indeed are first time buyers coming from rented City apartments. In both cases they’ll continue to commit when they see stock that suits their needs. The finance for buyers continues to sit in place. The individual Buy to Let market whilst being wary short term is very aware of the fundamentals of Birmingham which is continuing to offer high levels of rental demand offering consistent yields for well-located apartments and an obvious route away from the current very poor bank returns. Birmingham has so much in its favour at the moment, from the Paradise Circus redevelopment which you can already see is going to bring Centenary Square into the very heart of the City, the HSBC residential headquarters relocation to Broad Street amongst other corporate relocations & the future HS2 fast train project continuing unaffected ,which is going to bring London visitors in less than fifty minutes .Certainly for businesses looking outside of the capital Birmingham offers a compelling package and a location not matched by its northern competitors.

We see prices continuing to improve for those loft type apartments which are very limited in availability & much sought after by owner occupiers looking for long term homes and solid demand for those well located investment type apartments located within a fifteen minute walk of the leading stations and City core. For those developers currently building the market continues to want stock within six months of completion and show homes offering finishes & detail are increasingly a must. The lettings market continues to be buoyant but short term we see limited price growth for landlords because of the new stock coming into the market, particularly from several Seven Capital projects completing offering choice to potential tenants. Presentation is key for every landlord & their attention to detail we note is securing shorter voids between tenancies & improved rents.

Birmingham is now going to have a busy summer for lettings & we are planning business as usual autumn for vendors & purchasers alike

Please now do though enjoy the holidays

On towards the summer....

On towards the summer. The two May bank holidays are sadly now behind us and we now look forward, if that is the correct term, to the Referendum later this month.There is uncertainty in many people's thoughts as arguments for and against seem to find favour with everyone I talk to.Whether there will be a key tipping point one way or other prior to the election for the majority we will have to see. The debate is stimulating albeit it has upset the property market in the South East and higher up the UK price chain with buyers holding off & waiting.

Here in Birmingham we haven't seen or felt any significant impact with owner occupants and investors continuing to see opportunity and value in the City.This has been helped by a market with limited choice and much interest.For those looking in the coming weeks the stock is now widening as development whether new building or good conversions start becoming available, some six or more months from completion. For those particularly looking in the Jewellery Quarter for something special we have a better choice albeit in very limited numbers. This is from four new mews town houses off St Paul's Square to ten new large two bedroom apartments in Caroline Street . This alongside two converted commercial buildings in Lionel Street and Regents Place both offering very good spacious loft apartments for delivery before Christmas.All these schemes are going to be resetting the bar for quality in Birmingham and will appeal to upsizers ,downsizes and those seeking very good alternative homes whilst they work in the City. Prices are from £275,000 but sit mainly between £450,000 and £650,000.

Another area to keep a close eye on is The Gun Quarter . Our recent success in securing almost total off plan sales for developer Javalin Block's Comet Works highlights both their increasing following plus the reawakening of buyers perception of this much overlooked comer of the City located beside Snowhill .Keep your eyes on this area as it is going to change quickly ,hard on the heel of the Jewellery Quarter nearby. Honduras Wharf the Elevate Design new block now coming out of the ground and completing next year is a tremendous opportunity for those looking for a Buy to Let or convenient a pied a terre in this fast changing City fringe location. Birmingham City centre continues to excite both developers and end users . If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call me or my colleagues.

Is Urban Art acknowledged enough?

Is Urban Art acknowledged enough? We recently were proud to sponsor a new Urban Landscape award at the RBSA Annual prize show which is currently being shown at their gallery in St Pauls Square. This now annual prize ,which I hope becomes an increasing proportion of their spring show, offers a great opportunity to view the very best new works of RBSA & other participating artists, being paintings of all sizes & mixed media.

Good urban themed art is I feel often overlooked as the establishment seemingly chase endless outdoor landscapes & fine portraiture yet good art can be found under our noses for the bulk of the population ,particularly those who increasingly being drawn into & enjoying urban lives. I feel the artists in turn need to be encouraged further to continually relook at the urban landscape with their results being given pride of place in galleries & in homes.

Is Urban Art acknowledged enough? The Mark Finch suburban Ealing based painting ,being a modern twist of the classic Greek myth Perseus meets Medusa stands out & has since attracted terrific comment. Mark himself reported that he had not shown any paintings for many years and considered the MJ award as a his first real push at generating interest. ‘It was a real thrill to start on such a high note & It has provided me much needed encouragement to continue to paint themes and ideas that interest me rather than pursue more commercial routes.’ Our thoughts completely.

The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists is an often overlooked nugget here in the City Centre. It is run by an enthusiastic knowledgeable team who continually surprise the regular viewer with jewellery ,pottery & fine paintings. Certainly well worth visiting every time you have a free moment.

Internet imperfection

Ageing apartments verses new build? A recent City Centre valuation of an attractive apartment in a sought after block by our senior valuer has highlighted the severe weakness of internet agents verses local agents like ourselves for Birmingham vendors when they are considering who to instruct.

On the day in question the vendor enquired excitedly after my colleague inspected the flat why he valued the apartment at £80,000 above another ‘valuation’ which had occurred earlier in the day .This previous valuation was with a high profile internet based agent. My colleague reported several recent notable sales within the block which we had sold in the past three months highlighting the popularity of the building, although not yet recorded with the Land Registry, plus advising the extra size the apartment had unlike most of its neighbours in the building. It transpired that the ‘local’ internet valuer was in fact based in Leicester with a huge area to cover so couldn’t possibly have known how within this particular block just five flats were very different and consequently very much more sought after. It could have been a very expensive lesson with the slight fee saving being insignificant!

Rightmove have just reported the first quarters statistics of 2016.This has reconfirmed our position as the leading sales & listing agent within the five key postcodes of the City Centre. These Spring figures highlight that Maguire Jackson now sell 50% more than our nearest rival and a very high proportion of sales verses the number of instructions we hold. This is unlike one or more firms based on Colmore Row. These statistics further endorse our continuing focus on Birmingham City Centre as a number of separate local markets and our desire to achieve the very best for our vendors and landlords.

We are aware as we saw ten years ago that more agents are planning to open in the City Centre and we will inevitably see as we saw in the past the very same firms closing after several months of trading. Staff experience, perseverance , very good local knowledge and service are far larger than the brand above the door and the Birmingham City Centre market is not as homogenous as it first looks!

Ageing apartments verses new build?

Ageing apartments verses new build? With the imminent arrival of several new apartment schemes to Birmingham City Centre we are recommending current owners and possible future vendors of existing flats to now stop & relook at their living spaces through the eyes of likely incoming buyers or possible tenants. With many existing apartments now approaching their fifteenth or older birthdays owners forget that the kitchens ,bathrooms & sometimes overall layout can look easily dated verses the new stock now coming forward to entice likely buyers ,alongside the fanfare of marketing hype which invariably accompanies the arrival.

Existing home owners often believe that their dwelling because of location alone will secure interest ,and in recent years when there has been very little alternative this has often been the case. Buyers invariably have factored in the refurbishment of these key areas as part of their purchase. However the new stock coming forward will create casualties as some buyers choose new in preference.

Ten years ago we saw this particularly in the lettings market when we noticed tenants started moving very regularly & the typical lease lengths shortened . When questioned the tenants admitted that they were attracted towards brand new buildings at similar rents. They too were enticed by being the first tenants there & having the benefit of the new furnishings plus equipment. These are understandable reasons . For a period we saw tenants hopping from one new build to the next. For landlords going forward I recommend that they look to retain their existing tenants. One way is by not continuing the pressure of continual rent rises ,a feature which in recent years has seen rents rise 20% or more, and take advantage of any voids between tenancies by ensuring the apartments present as well as they probably did when they were first marketed. This might mean replacing furnishings or an element of interior redesign .In markets like this landlords cannot afford to be complacent even though rental demand continues to be very high because there is competition coming and in City Centres like ours this can mean lumps of 20-200 flats at once entering the rental market. The arrival of several PRS funds now buying whole apartment blocks off plan will invariably add to this in the years to come.

I can see the sales & rental markets becoming more competitive so please don’t get left behind!

Has Property become too easy to tax ?

Will a weakening London market impact us in Birmingham? The recent budget tax changes to both second home owners plus commercial property add into the list of increasing costs associated with property purchasing. Successive recent Chancellors have found property an easy tax to both witness & to collect. The Land Registry records the transaction and the Tax man seems to sit beside, with his hands open awaiting the immediate payment from the lawyers who invariably handle the transactions.

My increasing concern is that we will find ,as they do in many parts of Europe ,that the supply of property to the market becomes tighter and tighter as likely vendors hold onto their assets longer and rent rather than selling partly because of the high transaction costs involved. Vendors selling will be wanting firstly to ensure their initial acquisition costs are covered by price growth and whilst in today’s active market showing growth ,particularly out of the South East, these costs are acknowledged and absorbed, I fear in a more cautious market it could impact more severely. It is the vendor when selling particularly into a competitive market of similar stock who will be asked to bear the brunt of these transaction tax rises as buyers try to negotiate the taxes into the deal price. As we run into this Spring vendors of ‘investor’ type flats might see Buy to Let buyers looking for 3% discounts.

I think it is about time we started saying ‘Mr Chancellor ..Please no more Taxes onto property’!

Will a weakening London market impact us in Birmingham?

Will a weakening London market impact us in Birmingham? The increasing property chatter about a stalling London property market particularly in investor fed Nine Elms & Battersea area is going to have repercussions outside of the City as we step through this year. We are hearing whispers from brokers, developers & estate agents that the new luxury apartments planned & now being built particularly in the area south of the Thames towards Battersea Power Station are starting to struggle finding buyers. With much of the stock there sold off plan one or more years ago to largely overseas buyers , particularly the Far East, there is real concern now being expressed as some of these buyers who were looking to sell on as they approach completion wont be able to or indeed will fail to complete their purchases.

With nearly 20,000 homes being built or planned in that one area the current combination of the weaker domestic London market alongside the slowdown in the economy of China , the pressure of the Rouble for Russian buyers & the depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit against the pound in what is a secondary London residential location will have an impact. The current statistics record that prices in London SW8 fell 8% last year & that nearly a third of the stock there has been on the market already for one year .Possible discounts of 20-30% on new homes might now be possible there for keen buyers.

An experienced London developer told us that the largely unplanned regeneration in that one area involving so many different schemes has brought just too much stock to the market at the same time and at prices which ultimately weren’t sustainable. For me it restates again that the key for successful property investing is Location Location and Location. Markets rise & fall, and during rising markets as we are now witnessing in Birmingham new properties can get built on areas which in previous times might not have been sustainable when the land sat empty or derelict. Sometimes these fringe locations can very quickly become absorbed into the area they sit on the border of or perhaps like parts of SW8 they sit in a mass of new housing that just takes time to become absorbed.

Birmingham doesn’t have the wall of money that regenerates areas at the speed which you sometimes see in some parts of London. Locations suddenly becoming trendy and seemingly overnight popping up new bars, art galleries with the area catching the vibrancy of urban excitement. Because of this it is important for potential owner occupiers & investors alike that they look properly at every new development they are considering because they too could get caught and isolated if the market here in Birmingham slowed down.

Going forward as a direct result of this London imbalance we might find development finance backing for these outer locations becoming more difficult if London based funders sense caution in all UK City Centres More immediately I now see over promises in the likely levels of rental return being advertised by certain developers who have schemes coming forward in these hinterland locations of Birmingham City Centre. If the steady pace of regeneration slows I sense potential tenants at these higher rentals now suggested to landlords in these particular blocks will easily be tempted into more centrally located properties at those same prices. These outer locations might then see a consequent price adjustment plus possible larger void periods between tenancies.

For investors this means that they need to now open their eyes and look to buy l close to where their tenants want to be not only today but going forward in the immediate years to come. Birmingham City Centre is moving forward but we recommend you don’t go too far.

Rising interest in self developing opportunities(09/02/2016)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats The increasing attraction of the City Centre by potential buyers seeking something ‘different’ to a standard apartment is steadily increasing. Not all have visions of Kevin McCloud visiting and advising with a Grand Design taking shape but all are seeking something special which can incorporate their own personal design touch. For most it is a step into a new world , that of architects ,planning advisors & builders with their contractors. For many the dream ends when the reality of the likely total costs and amount of time needed are factored in but for others there is a benefit for those who can wait until the builders finish .There is undoubtedly something of a romance that excites potential buyers towards the unmodernised workshops across the City. Clearly the Jewellery Quarter is a target for interest along with parts of Digbeth and the fringes of Edgbaston & Harborne.

The developer Javelin Block, amongst several others ,has spotted this seam of desire and recently delivered two niche loft apartment projects in the Jewellery Quarter ,Viceroy House & The Riflemaker. Both schemes allowed the early purchasers to become involved & incorporate layout changes such that each apartment completed looking slightly differently but all reached the high overall standard sought by the developer. For the project creators this early involvement often bonds the individual purchasers to their particular apartments and means potentially longer term stability within the building with residents clearly having roots into the building itself after completion.

Fifteen years ago a Birmingham developer Mark Humpries started the loft living explosion in Birmingham offering ‘shell ‘ apartments in blocks such as Wexler Lofts, Amazon Lofts Sherborne lofts & Ludgate Lofts . Here the buyers were given blank canvasses within shell industrial type spaces. Today most of these apartments still present well and sell extremely well. The spaces inside often offer unique accommodation sometimes totally focussed toward the original incumbents. The immediate locations around these blocks have stepped up over time & the once vacant spaces nearby have largely been filled in with newer developments. We recommend any one looking for their own project to relook at these particular blocks because some of the units were finished with very limited budgets and now scream for modernising and updating.

If you are searching for something of a project please do ensure my team are fully aware when you call as your requirement will touch three departments..sales..commercial & new homes!

Is the City Centre becoming more suited to owner occupiers?(13/01/2016)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats As we step into the New Year I have been quietly pleased by the number & the quality of buyers actively searching for homes for themselves here in the City Centre. Some are inspired by TV programmes like Grand Designs and are actively looking for freehold former workshops to convert & others are looking for well planned , well located apartments so they can easily join into City life. The demand clearly reflects both increasing buyer confidence but also that more finance is now available for home buyers, both in choice but also percentage to valuation. For vendors it means that presentation is still as ever really important because many of those looking are looking at the properties for themselves to live rather than rent out and those first three steps as they walk inside the front door will often determine their decision. Decluttering is often the key !

The big news this Spring will the unveiling of the Jewellery Quarter Neighbourhood Plan which is soon be coming out for public consultation. This new plan hopefully will give much more clarity for planning decisions in the area going forward for the next ten years. It will remove the ambiguity of the current planning zones which have been in place for twelve years, largely to protect manufacturing jewellery businesses ,and unlock the bulk of dereliction around the area. For many ,particularly outsiders, the impact of these protected zones are unknown until they actually apply for changes in use consent. The result in recent year is that many well intentioned developer & likely owner occupiers have in fact walked away. The new plan will if adopted both act as a focus on the regeneration of several key streets but it will also kick start the refurbishment of those current redundant business upper parts plus those handsome listed buildings trapped in largely the current planning fog of the ‘ Industrial Middle’ and the outer areas of ‘The Golden Triangle’!

Finally with the window for Buy to Lets rapidly closing can I recommend that potential investors think location, location ,location rather than just price as they seek something for the long term with minimum voids. Whilst this year will again be tight for tenants with a limited supply of apartments available here in the City Core and an increasing workforce, which is good for landlords ,I sense we within twenty four months will start to see competition from PRS Funds , similar investment institutions & the supply of Seven Capital investment stock bringing whole blocks of new flats to the market to rent. My experience tell me that there arrival invariably distorts & slows the overall market when they come on stream and become absorbed within the market however well presented & better located properties continue to readily let through the same period. Do ask our lettings team for their opinion before you sign !