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Maguire Jackson Property Blog

Tis the season to be jolly..(23/12/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats The stress of the holiday season for vendors, buyers , landlords & tenants is more pronounced than most people realise. Conveyancing lawyers always highlight the focus & the pressure on deals to be closed off prior to the Christmas break and in turn new buyers or incoming tenants often have plans arranged for activities over the holiday season in their new homes once they gain access. From Aunty Bunty coming for Boxing Day lunch to Cousin Tom from America staying over for the holidays. The stress backlogs up as the month of December progresses. For those in chains of related purchases the stress builds the loudest. This year one purchaser rearranged his move date three times & the Removal man then couldn’t accommodate the final date. He is looking much happier today but somewhat lighter as I know he then battled to find a new company with a team of available staff & a hole in their diary !

This year the MJ sales team have had their busiest December month for ten years as buyers , helped enormously I suspect by the mild weather. The high numbers viewings have continued to occur every day. As we look forward in January we see no reason for this demand to slow & encourage vendors who might have thought that they need to hold back until a more traditional time when the extra light in the days undoubtedly help to bring forward their plans. Investors are looking to buy & complete before the extra Stamp Duty is charged later in the Spring and owner occupiers sense the market is lifting & want to commit now if they find what they are seeking.

May we take this opportunity of wishing all our clients & potential new clients the very best of Seasons Greetings & we look forward to seeing you all very early in the New Year
If you would like to contact me over the holiday period regarding your own property or requirement please do not hesitate to email . Whilst our three offices will be shut our maintenance team will be working & every email will be read

Are you the One in Twenty Four?(23/11/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats Recently as part of my resident directorship of Liberty Place I & my fellow directors have been interviewing prospective new managing agents for the block ,which comprises some 250 apartments & eight commercial units. The current agent’s contract is ending and the consensus was to relook at the agent’s in-situ contract ,agreed before the current resident board was appointed ,and to look outside to see at what other agents are doing in similar blocks around the City & see what they might bring in should they be instructed.

Amongst the many interesting facts revealed by the various agents one sprung out. The agent in question is the director of a leading established Birmingham based firm of Surveyors. He revealed that they as a company factor in that one in twenty four apartment owners will be a nightmare which they will have to accommodate. For Liberty Place it means they are factoring in that over ten residents will consume far more management time than the other 240. That their staff have to build in that one in twenty four owners will have many more issues regarding their accommodation & the block they reside in than the rest of the block occupants. For larger blocks this extra hassle factor clearly has to be factored in. Some claims will be legitimate but many it seems will be frivolous. They as professionals took it in their stride because it was part & parcel of the job. For me though it was interesting that they even had a measure!

Does this 1/24th rule apply across the country to individual streets & neighbourhoods? Do you know the one in twenty fours in your area? Clearly having now spoken to several friends & colleagues we all think we know who they are talking about. Indeed are you one of the ones who raise their head more often & more vocally to authority than your friends & acquaintances? Do you seem to notice more things going wrong than your friends? Does your Council or block managing agent know you by name when you call…………..mmm if they do it might be that you are the one in twenty four!!!

Birmingham statistics show the City stepping up a gear(13/11/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats The recent property investment analysis by accountants PWC & The Urban Land Institute placed Birmingham 6th place in the Emerging Trends in European Real Estate. This was ahead of only two other UK Cities in the top twenty. Our own research reflects that investors are already acknowledging this opportunity ,as both domestic & international investors widen their horizon beyond the competitive market of the South East, an area increasingly with high prices & low yields. The combination of geographical traits, such as 90% of the UK being within four hour’s drive, 4.3m working people within one hours drive plus being the youngest City in Europe, with 40% of the population being under the age of 25 have made Business Birmingham, the investment promotion agency’s life easier. Even they this year have received an award as being given the status of the leading City promotion agency in Europe.

Of other studies in recent weeks, one flagged ‘The world’s most competitive Cities’ put Birmingham as the highest performing metropolitan area in Western Europe, ranking first in the areas of Aerospace, Machinery, Metals & Food + Beverage. The City also appeared it seems in the top three in more sectors than any other UK metropolitan area. Indeed research from earlier in the year by Start Up Britain branded Birmingham as the most entrepreneurial City outside of the Capital and this enthusiasm is undoubtedly attracting new businesses in plus encouraging existing businesses to stay & expand. The combination of larger infrastructure investments now underway from the Airport extension ,which might push numbers to over nine million passengers per year, to the £600m New Street Station investment alongside the Paradise Circus redevelopment & the City Tram network notwithstanding the looking forwards to the HS2 opening in 2026 have undoubted helped Birmingham become The Destination of The Future ,recently named by the FDI Association.

Whilst currently Birmingham is only 43rd in the list of The Worlds Competitive Cities I can see Birmingham moving rapidly up the list and indeed gaining the lion’s share of investment outside of London, notwithstanding all the talk of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ through 2016. There is just too much on our doorstep for investors to be encouraged elsewhere!

Are institutional buyers going to skew the market?(19/10/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats There is currently a rapid wake up to the potential of the UK property market , particularly outside of the South East .This is now particularly focussed on Birmingham ,by private equity funds & more institutional buyers looking long term at residential houses and apartments here in the City Centre. Having danced at the edges of the market for the twelve months or more we are now seeing firm commitments being made to developers for their whole proposed projects ,with the aim of some ,namely the PRS Funds, to keep all the finished stock for letting & others to hold some completed flats but to sell the remainder to the open market upon completion. These funds money is being welcomed by local developers who are finding this time around, as against before 2007 ,that mainstream banks are being very cautious about lending on the speculative building of apartments. They in turn are almost encouraging developers to have 100% sales in place before they commit to fund the build. This minute the developers are quietly enjoying the competition from the competing big buyers for their finished properties ,especially those with proposed stock in the most sought after central locations.

As agents we anticipated much more new stock coming into the open market this autumn & into early next spring than what will now undoubtedly occur. The sourcing of funding for clients has been one factor in these delays. Whether the current activity by these institutional buyers will upset the revival of the market here in Birmingham City Centre by taking much of the proposed new stock out of the market at the very point when market confidence is rapidly improving is to be seen. The price rises that will come from competing end user buyers for the now limited stock that will be released to the open market short term will be inevitable in my eyes.

The side story is that these larger players will help ordinary vendors sell their resale houses and apartments because buyers looking for new build apartments will be forced to reappraise the existing stock . Those vendors whose residences have been kept up to date ,particularly in the bathroom & kitchens areas, will, I anticipate, reap the benefit from quicker sales and stronger prices in the coming months.

Finally the UKs largest search engine Rightmove have just reported that Maguire Jackson has the continuing largest estate agency market share in the City Centre for residential sales & listings and that this success is growing. Over £200k our market share is even larger .Overall this is great news for those looking because of the wide & varied choice of stock we offer to all buyers but also good news to vendors because they know their property is being introduced to the largest audience by the most active agent.

Home is increasingly in the City(22/09/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe demand for larger well designed City Centre flats & houses has continued unabated through the summer. The demand has come from both owner occupiers plus an increasing number of investors looking to providing stock for the maturing audience of experienced lawyers, bankers & other professionals now being sought by top City firms who are out looking for accommodation. The tenants themselves increasingly reflect the region not just the City Centre ,with tenants choosing to live here and reverse commute to their jobs or studies in nearby Towns ,& indeed Cities. This demand undoubtedly reflects Birmingham’s increasing pull on individuals & couples looking for culture plus a comfortable urban lifestyle .

The sales success this year of schemes such as Concord House , The Rifle Maker & Elizabeth Place is encouraging developers to acknowledge that the City Centre is much more than just a home for Buy to Lets searching for the best income yield and to relook at their mix of apartment & house sizes. The combination of spacious apartments plus houses likely to be coming forward over the next twelve –twenty months will undoubtedly become homes for a generation who have enough of the suburbs or indeed do not want to move out. This I feel is very encouraging for the future of the City Centre as a vibrant mixed community which can only encourage a wider diversity of services ,which in turn helps everyone.

Other news.. Whilst we have spoken to a mix of London Funds talking of investing in residential here in the City Centre for several years ,the firm commitment of a PRS Fund, Blue Harbour who have announced that they are bringing forward 350 flats on the Great Charles Street car park site is the start I sense of a quiet revolution in the Lettings industry which private investors will need to acknowledge. This one fund I sense will be the start of several similar investment funds committing to Birmingham. These highly professional landlords are geared to providing long term steady returns to their investors & to retaining their tenants long term. This might mean they might provide services which individual landlords holding nearby Buy to Let flats might find hard to compete with. This is likely to include cool rooms designed into the Porters office so on line grocery deliveries can happen during the day when the tenants are at work, swimming pools, twenty four hour porters and discount cards for the residents for nearby services. For mainstream landlords we therefore encourage them to keep a check of their interiors & ensure the bathrooms plus kitchen do not become too dated. Whilst this minute likely tenants haven’t a lot of choice when looking this will undoubtedly will change as these new blocks come forward. For those looking to buy please ensure the location is somewhere that you too would be happy to live!

For landlords we are seeing an increased demand for our managed services & we in turn recommend this to new landlords located outside of the City or those leading lifestyles which cannot easily cope with the demands of tenants when items break or breakdown. Our 24 hour service to tenants is a reassurance often sought. Remember It is the minutia of details which cause the most stress if not properly addressed, be it drippy taps or washing machines that don’t work!

Finally as an agency according to the Rightmove statistics we are increasingly commanding a larger market share and are pleased to be recognised being nominated for 2015 The Negotiator Awards which will be announced late this autumn. We feature in both the West Midlands Category but also the Small Agency Category. Watch this space!

The Macmillan Coffee Morning is almost upon us (16/09/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats Macmillan Cancer has its Worlds greatest coffee morning on Friday 25th September.

We are very active supporters of Macmillan Cancer Support and invite all our clients and applicants to visit us for coffee & cake on the day OR make a donation by texting CUP 1CJ to 70550. Each text is worth £5 & the more texts you all can make will help Macmillan in their tremendous work. This year as ever we’ll be encouraging all the Jewellery Quarter businesses to open their doors & push for donations.

Everyone knows it’s a Friday not to be dieting!

Summer love in Birmingham(28/08/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats With the end of the summer holidays now in sight we are seeing a refocussing on the tasks ahead by some of our potential vendors ,getting ready to sell this autumn plus by those purchasers & tenants who have allowed their deals to drift through these summer weeks , often not helped by their own conveyancing solicitor and other associated professionals being away on their holidays. This year, more than many recent years, we have noticed more people being away ,a clear sign perhaps of an improving economic environment …or maybe just the result of a poor English Summer ! The number of tenants looking though is building towards the annual summer hiatus.. everyone needs to be in by the end of september, students & professionals alike.

The continuing shortage of both good property to sell & the large numbers of potential purchasers , investors plus owner occupiers, alongside an increased demand for well- located rental properties has continued the pressure onto asking prices through the recent months. Birmingham as a location for both business and education is without doubt now winning friends and the environmental improvements within the City Centre is helping in pulling back those who perhaps refocussed elsewhere in the City or indeed moved further out a decade or more ago. Success breeds success and I have no doubt this new wave of apartment and office blocks en route within the City core, which we are going to now see being built through this autumn and beyond ,into next year plus the year after is going to entice the demand further.

On another subject ..a buyer recently out with us after agreeing to buy an apartment admitted that he had bought another flat in the same block weeks earlier from an internet based agent, for some what less than he was now paying our vendor! He advised that there was no negotiation on his initial offer from the owner or seemingly an understanding of what else was recently selling within the building. Undoubtedly a coup for him but it also highlighted how in a fast improving market vendors can get caught if they just rely on historical online Land Registry statistics or agencies that aren’t closely tracking the immediate local market. As I am sure I have said before the Land Registry is three months behind & those recorded sales are often agreed three months or more behind that. In a market moving at 8-15% growth this can be a big shortfall. At the same time negotiation in a busy market isn’t about agreeing the initial offer. Agents like ourselves are in the middle for a reason and it is not about just being able to hold a set of keys to the front door when the vendor is at work. Most people shy away from confrontation but when selling your home or major asset you really mustn’t hide and the agent is often a great foil both in terms to ensuring all the detail of the deal is agreed at the outset but also in ensuring the timing quoted by the purchaser is also backed up by his financial & legal professionals . There are too many times we hear about blinds, washing machines & other freestanding appliances not being negotiated or funding not being able to be in place to meet the deadlines agreed by the purchaser. For buyers busy markets are stressful but they can help themselves by being able easily to prove ,especially when there strong competition, that they can proceed quickly & effortlessly.

Enjoy the Bank Holiday

More choice for Tenants & Purchasers ahead? (05/08/2015)

For many potential buyers and tenants relocating over this summer into Birmingham City Centre, sucked in by work ,education or the many other opportunities now happening here, the big question is whether there is enough property now available, because the choice seems somewhat limited .The pressure on prices continues at a steady pace ,particularly for those ‘individual’ loft & other special apartments ,available immediately which might have exceptional views or terraces ,alongside those new units which might be completing within sight, over the next six-nine months ,and other well maintained well located smaller flats ,suitable for Buy to Let investors.

In recent years we have seen individual vendors selling when they realised there was a market re-emerging & taking the opportunity, particularly if they’d bought when the market was at its height and were emerging from negative equity .This year we have seen the rental market strengthen consistently alongside a sales market and the pressure to sell doesn’t seem there. It’s currently good news for vendors & landlords but tough for those wanting to come in.

However as we look forward we anticipate 1500-2000 new apartments in the City Centre completing over the next eighteen – twenty four months. Not all this stock will come to sell as various institutions are looking to build portfolios & hold but some of this, with the associated marketing, will push new homes at every potential applicant. Those looking will have a choice of new apartments or something probably ten years old or more will be attractive where the locations are comparable. We believe this will lead to an impact on resales & letting prices with price growth slowing as buyers/tenants see choice but it may also herald an era of refurbishment within existing older blocks where kitchens & bathrooms particularly are starting to look increasingly dated ,plus some internal layouts are in need of redesign & refreshing. For potential landlords do not overlook the importance of these areas because tenants are going to have choice in the months & years ahead.

It is all continuing good news though for Birmingham!

The Engine for Growth is starting to warm up (10/07/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats The Chancellor is clearly persuading some people regarding the West Midlands & particularly his vision of Birmingham as a vital component in the UK as a powerhouse of future GDP growth. The 83300 new firms created in the Midlands through the last Parliament has encouraged further growth to be forecast here and the empowering the leading Cities idea is undoubtedly more than just a sound bite. Whilst lots of talk has been on the Northern Powerhouse of Manchester, Leeds & Liverpool the reality plus convenience of Birmingham has undoubtedly been increasingly seen by investors, both from the South East & abroad. Birmingham is now in the process of making a significant step forward and local graduates with other professionals alike are putting down roots here to live & work.

Yesterday a man walked into our Jewellery Quarter office looking for almost immediate accommodation to rent. When questioned he advised that he was a demolition contractor with a sixty three week contract to take away a significant amount of the City Core prior to new grade A offices being built. It is these small signs that make me think Birmingham in 2017 & onwards is going to start looking plus feeling like a very different City. Another person a Notting Hill based leading financial journalist looking to invest with significant partners highlighted that the opportunity here in Birmingham was greater than many of us locally anticipate. She said the 250,000ft office requirement now looking for a home here from the South East from another major PLC following on from Deutsche Bank & HSBC relocations was the probably tip of something larger.

But there is a lag. If you need fantastic offices today OR brand new City Centre housing to move into this autumn there is very little available. There is some on the way but frustratingly for buyers & tenants alike it today is tight with the good accommodation going very quickly . Prices are rising in both sectors ,and this summer will be a squeeze for many of those relocating into the City or Post grads staying on & looking for convenient accommodation. At the same time there are opportunities for those developing for a maturing City audience. Interesting larger flats & houses is one sector, convenient well planned & located apartments for let in blocks offering more than just a grumpy concierge as a service is another. Interesting times indeed

HS2 . A reason to be cheerful (22/06/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats On a recent Saturday a nice lady came into the Jewellery Quarter office enquiring about renting a flat locally. She advised that she was soon relocating to Birmingham from the South East as part of the fast expanding HS2 team who are taking offices in Number One Snowhill in the City core. I asked when can I get on this new very quick train into Central London?’ 2026’ she replied’ but you will soon start to see the new Birmingham Curzon Street station being built, with work starting in two years time ,2017 .Once running It will take just 49 minutes into Euston.’

Yesterday I was showing a growing firm of South East based architects offices now wanting a local base to help them build upon the increasing amount of work they are already winning in the region. They too mentioned HS2 as a major reason to be here. Other firms too relocating plus residential investors from outside of the City looking for flats to let too mention this train ,even though it is eleven years away!

It seems notwithstanding the huge Paradise Circus redevelopment now happening ,and causing current traffic chaos, the New Street station redevelopment firmly underway with the soon to open large John Lewis store , the announcement of the HSBC retail headquarters being built on Broad Street, the new tall 200,000 square feet office tower planned ,coming onto Colmore Row or the announcement by Ballymore of work restarting again on their City Centre grade A office project , HS2 is in everyone’s sights .

I listened to the promotion noise about development of the Kings Cross area of London for twenty years before the area finally took off so I am aware these big infrastructure projects take time .More time than many people think. Their effect can be dramatic & the catalyst for regeneration . I have no doubt this is undoubtedly going to be the case for the area around Curzon Street ,being the new station ,however today might be very lonely being very close. The established areas of the inner core are going to continue to mature further in the meantime with infill sites continuing to enhance these neighbourhoods with new commercial & residential properties. There are opportunities in this City and most are more than a stones throw of the new platforms.

The sun is out ,Birmingham is undoubtedly on the up and the future train is just part of the activity going forward

Maggi j down under! (07/05/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flats A view of Birmingham from Down Under. I recently took an Emirates flight to Adelaide for a short break, catch up with friends and chance to sample their many fantastic South Australian wines, many grown within a stone's throw of the City's boundary. .....

Whilst the City, being 1.3m people is undoubtedly a local powerhouse with a glorious climate it somehow lacks the underlying grit and energy of Birmingham, something we tend to overlook or take for granted. The amount of space they have is beyond comprehension but for property folk like me looking for stable growth, potential capital gain & secure underlying income our counterparts play a chess game with a limited audience of demand that can only go so many ways. This is so different to home with a fundamental limit in supply and local plus national audience of investors looking to park their money and developers wanting to contribute to the City's next phase of growth.....

The Birmingham City Council planning department unquestionably holds back market progress. It is now desperately under resourced and needs to be staffed up to reflect the status of the City and its desire to readily accept and encourage investment. In Adelaide the wide clean boulevards, tremendous suburban homes and limitless Aussi rules football talk in every home and bar put us to shame. They regularly win the most liveable Australian City award and can teach us about quality of life ....

In a nutshell it was a joy to see so much Jaguar and Land Rover plus other West Midland based product on their streets but it has refocused me on the amount of potential there is in Birmingham property and the scope for improving our own quality of life

Election Fever.. mmmm maybe not (21/04/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe usual suspension of market activities in the weeks running towards a General Election doesn’t seem to be occurring this year here in Birmingham City Centre. The City’s increasing profile & popularity plus the general consent that there are unlikely to be any major changes to property or property tax related legislation post-election from whomever gets into Downing Street has meant that we are continuing to see a busy market of activity, with our negotiators continuing to have full diaries of appointments.

The talk of Mansion Tax which is effecting parts of London & the South East has not touched our market. The further talk from Labour regarding possible Letting market changes , particularly the likelihood of Three Year tenancy agreements and limited rent increases during a tenancy is not effecting investors’ confidence in Birmingham as a medium and long term location . The City offer of a strong rental market offering good income plus the potential of capital price increases is widely acknowledged. The indirect talk about a wholesale Council Tax revaluation and further tax rises hasn’t raised a ripple.

The recent Stamp Duty changes seem to be positive for the market as a whole, particularly in & around the threshold of the former £250,000 band with a significant increase in sales now showing above this level in the City. Overall business confidence is making people think positively about investing again in larger properties for themselves plus their businesses and their individual pension. The one issue which could put the market into shadow is if there is a hung Parliament which rolls political indecision across the summer months & into the autumn.

Lets hope not!!

More instructions & sales are pushing us as market leaders (07/04/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThrough membership, we have online access to the Rightmove & Zoopla statistics about the City Centre property market. We now have a constant feed regarding the volume of transactions taking place ,a guide to the prices of houses and apartments selling plus more importantly which agent locally is actually doing the deals . The latter being the one detail which interests me because it cuts through the fog of agents marketing & PR hype as well as those agents who occasionally try hard to manipulate their own success through highlighting greater sales but then showing considerably higher fall through rates than the overall market average.

Whether you look weekly, monthly or annually the statistics now show Maguire Jackson listing more & selling more than any other agent in the City Centre postcodes of B1,B3,B5, B16 & B18. We seem to be stretching away from the corporate agents plus having more success in the immediate areas of our three distinct offices. We do have a plan for another office and currently are out there looking . If we find something suitable you’ll be the first to know!

The increasing success of Marketing Birmingham’s efforts coupled with I suspect with the high debilitating living costs of London and the South East undoubtedly helped by Deutsche Bank’s alongside the recently announced HSBC relocation into this City are attracting more & more people here. Another factor is the local increasing strength of the graduate market & their desire to stay here which is undoubtedly fuelling the property market further. Buy to Let landlords have already noticed the higher than UK average yields, the longer tenancies and the voids between tenancies shrinking considerably over the past fifteen months ,as overall demand for accommodation has increased. There are more properties being planned & built but how many of these come to the open market remains to be seen. The recent arrival of several residential investments funds looking for blocks of apartments to buy for long term rental ,within ten minutes of the heart of the City Core are major predators for any new stock.

As ever we are in constant need for properties for our increasing applicant base. If you have or know of anyone thinking of selling please do call me

Manage your own property at your risk (24/03/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe issue of pensions , future income & Buy to Let apartments has become increasingly hot in the property pages of the leading plus local newspapers . The conundrum for all landlords is that of the on-going management of the tenanted property. Do they do it or does their agent do it? It is sometimes a question of practicality depending where the owner lives or how involved they do or don’t want to be. The issues of late night calls regarding broken boilers or just drippy taps are unavoidably part of the BTL package along with the chasing of rents and regular inspections.

Sometimes the decision of whether or not to use an agent beyond the tenant introduction can come down to the level of fees the agents charge & the services they provide . In our case we charge 6% of the rental sum for collecting & forwarding rent plus providing 24 hours of comfort for the tenant , organising and managing contractors ,when needed, plus taking regular inspections. Two recent cases however have been brought to my attention which highlight how busy non property people really ought to use their agents services rather than doing it themselves. Busy lifestyles and hands on property ownership sometimes don’t mix and the recent case of a landlady who accidentally missed two quarterly rents not arriving into her bank account having just accepted the many promises & reassurances from her tenant that the rent was en-route was enough for her Birmingham penthouse. Another case that of a Jewellery Quarter landlord whose tenants (not introduced by us)decided to run a cannabis factory from their apartment, they knowing that if they paid rent on time he was unlikely to inspect. The mess left behind after a midnight flip needed a complete apartment redecoration.

For successful BTL the key I increasingly feel is probably to hand all the responsibility to the agent. We are just installing a new piece of lettings software which once embedded next month is going to streamline our service to such an extent that current landlords we anticipate are going to be shocked by the speed anyone of the lettings team will be able to supply data on every aspects of their tenancies in place & be able to immediately supply statements if sought.

Is Planning just too strict in some parts of the City? (06/03/2015)

Having just witnessed a land sale collapse to a Housing Association for a large piece of derelict fringe Jewellery Quarter, because of ‘Planning Policy’ I am starting to pull my remaining hair out! Every day I listen to the radio conversations about current Government Policy being in place to attract development onto ‘brownfield sites’ because of both shortages of land ,demand for housing ,particularly social ,and the blight derelict land has on the immediate environment ,yet here we are with a chunk of wasteland that has sat empty for twenty years impacting all its neighbours but is refused a huge amount of investment because a planner cites ‘Policy’ saying she wants employment rather than social residential yet no one has worked on the site for years!

Birmingham’s planning department delays through shortages of staff and complete inflexibility are currently not helping the City and in my opinion are seriously risking investment wanting to come in from outside of the area. We have to find a way that allows investors to commit more quickly to projects. The seemingly endless meetings with bureaucrats some clients have & being given hope en route, then finding the planning is refused because of the Department refers to policy is sadly being heard again & again.

We need to see cranes on sites rather than ‘sold subject to planning ‘ notices to invigorate this City. Investment always attracts more investment as areas regenerate and in todays market vendors plus buyers want transactions to happen quickly because both sides want the certainty of the sale. The vendor wanting the comfort so they can plan their next step & the buyer because they don’t want to compete further in case another buyer comes forward whilst they are awaiting detail from the planners!

Are the investor flats being built aimed at the buyers or the future occupiers? (19/01/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsA recent planning application in the Jewellery Quarter for a large number of one & two bedroom apartments has highlighted the debate regarding who the flats are to be aimed at when they come forward to sell. Are they for investors or owner occupiers. Is there in fact a difference? Does it make any difference to the investment potential?

The imminent change in the pension regulations later this Spring will bring more Buy to Let investors into Birmingham as they individually unlock their often poorly performing investments ,invariably in funds and managed by institutions & reinvest them themselves. Whilst classic cars and round the world trips are set to take off the more sound are seriously looking at future income and underlying capital growth. The key provincial UK City’s like Birmingham are set to become the recipients of an inflow of funds. The statistics highlighting on going high levels of demand, a shortage of supply plus a track record of increasing rental income make the proposition undeniably attractive.

Some property developers have witnessed this and are building or have plans afoot , as we saw some ten years ago, to design apartments which will appeal in price & likely rental return to the widest audience of investors rather than the widest audience of likely tenants or indeed owner occupiers. The apartments fit a model based around their likely income. Typical one bedroom flats here in the City Centre rent at £650-£700 pm and typical two bedrooms at £750-£900pm. To offer someone a 6-7% return the capital price needs to be £120-140k for one bed and two beds £150-185k. When you factor in average construction costs of £130-£150 per ft, land costs & a 20% or so return it is very easy to see why smaller than average 450ft one bedroom & 675-700ft two bedroom flats are being planned again.

For investors especially when first & second year rental returns are guaranteed it is a very attractive opportunity. However a note of caution. In my experience blocks with a large number of investors can suffer from wider voids between tenancies as investors have to compete against each other for tenants once the rental guarantee has lapsed. The cheapest & upper floors invariably go first. Secondly the blocks suffer from a higher wear & tear as tenants very regularly move in & out. Thirdly the often lack of a resident group regularly liaising with the managing agent means minor repairs often go unreported until the issue becomes larger and lastly capital growth suffers as this is invariably built from resident owner occupiers wanting to live somewhere & prepared to cast the rental return aside when buying. Blocks which offer a wider range of different sizes & styles invariably win out long term.

For tenants these buildings offer tighter living conditions but are often well specified . The rentals will reflect the market and they’ll inevitably be choice when you are looking. The buildings will often be conveniently located but do expect the lifts being taken occasionally by new neighbours moving in & out!

When buying do ask us or indeed the concierge how many flats are let out. It may affect the type of future return.

An audience chasing income (06/01/2015)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsAge UK have recently produced some most interesting statistics regarding the current & likely future demographics of the UK.

A snapshot shows the following; 22.7m people in the population are currently over 50 years old. This is approximately one third of the population. Interestingly more people are 60 or over than 18 or younger. At 60 or over there are 14.7m people & this is expected to rise to 20m by 2030. 11 million people are now over 65 .This 17.7% is expected to rise to 23.5% in 2034. There are currently 3 million people over 80 and the studies suggest the numbers reaching 85 & over will double in twenty years & triple in 30 years. The numbers now living over 100 years old has risen 73% in ten years.

Some of you may be alarmed by the aging population or excited about the business opportunities that come from an audience with more time on their hands and more money than ever before. Powerhouse Cities like Birmingham now have the opportunity to become the income providers to this increasing group of people as they look as individuals or in groups/funds for safe property investments to drive regular & consistent income.

We are continuing to feed investors with good Buy to Let opportunities throughout the City Core & recommend prime locations which currently offer reasonable returns alongside up & coming locations which have the potential to offer enhanced capital plus income yields as the location changes in character. Birmingham though does not behave like London . The latter invariably offers a wall of investors once a location is perceived as changing & becoming cool. Here we do not have the interest in quite the same way however our urban areas do change but the process is always slower and advice I recommend more than ever to potential investors. Your timescale for holding is often the key.

Inner City Birmingham is though now a good choice.

Stamp Duty saving will assist all our buyers (16/12/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe changes in the Stamp Duty highlighted in the recent Chancellors Autumn Statement will definitely make life easier for almost all of our buyers in the coming year. The changes set out on December 3rd will allow a smoother pricing policy in the coming months plus bring savings to all those buyers below £937,000. It will also see properties priced marginally above the old thresholds rates achieving their prices as we there is no reason to negotiate back to the step level rate barriers, being at £250k,£500k, £1m & £2m.

The main impact of the new Stamp Duty (being zero on properties below £125k, 25 on the difference between £125k-£250k & 5% on the difference between ££250-£925k, 10% between £925k-£1.5m & 12% on everything over £1.5m) is that most buyers will pay less Duty. For a buyer at £265,000 this saving will be £4700, which is significant.

We think the City Centre market will therefore be busy over the coming months , starting earlier than usual helped by these changes. We expect to see demand from early January both from investors encouraged by the continuing good press about the City and its potential growth plus owner occupiers stepping into this market for the first time or indeed stepping up within the City to secure larger apartments. We therefore do encourage all potential vendors to talk to us early in the New Year as we feel the market will be buoyed in activity certainly until the General Election in May. Our three well located offices give us a huge insight into the grain of the different City Centre neighbourhoods plus offer buyers the largest range of apartments across the City core.

The resurgence of regional cities (03/12/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsAre we now finally seeing the beginnings of a proper renaissance of powerful regional Cities? The power house Cities which led the UK (and the world)through Victorian times could be on the way back helped almost by default by the overpricing & increasing expense of London . Regional Cities are being energised by ambitious thirty somethings who are increasingly turning their backs on London & perhaps looking forward to devolved regional power, mimicking some of what has been given recently to Scotland

The Office for National statistics has just reported a 10% increase in thirty year olds coming out of London but suggested this might be a fraction of the true number. With London recording a 19% house price increase this year the statistics might be easier to explain. The average London house now costs over £400k compared to £185k on average in the UK . Birmingham has become the favourite destination , followed by Manchester, Nottingham & Oxford. Many of the incomers are coming back to the City of their higher education & the City’s successful Universities are undoubtedly helping, alongside the demands of parenthood, the increasing choice of secure higher skilled jobs available & the local housing ladder offering a wide variety.

Another factor which used to be London’s trump card was the PLU ,people like us, social tie. However Birmingham now boasting four Michelin restaurants, many great bars & pubs alongside the Library plus a selection of large arenas constantly attracting the biggest names of pop and show business it is perhaps becoming easier to understand. Cities like neighbourhoods take off if the residents feel the area is on the rise. Good PR plus successful businesses undoubtedly help but Birmingham is starting again to feel again as a place to be, some way away from the once unloved concrete metropolis.

More choice & more City Centre lofts (19/11/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe immediate reservation off plan of one of the large penthouses in Concord House by a returning Birmingham expatriate has highlighted the increasing demand for really exciting spacious loft apartments in Birmingham City Centre by owner occupiers.

Concord House , located close to The Mailbox, only comprises nineteen apartments & The Rifle Maker Lofts located close to St Pauls Square comprises only six units. Both these newly launched niche schemes offer spacious living & benefit from parking, plus being only a short stroll into the City Core. The projects are offered by different developers who are prepared to personalise individual apartments to their buyers tastes. Their standard finishes inside are already setting new standards in the City.

These discreet projects are offered hard on the heels of the success of Viceroy House, another Jewellery Quarter based niche block, which offered large 3000ft lofts & sold off market last autumn, before the launch. However one of these has just come back for sale as a result of the vendors work commitments increasingly pulling him away from Birmingham. We are asking £725,000 and I do recommend viewing.

The success of these & similar apartments has cocked a snook at those surveyors and agents advising developers ,talking about smaller & smaller units for investors. The market needs choice & increasingly more City dwellers are looking for somewhere to call ‘home’ & they don’t want that in the suburbs or in regimented investor sized flats. Birmingham City Centre is increasingly vibrant , becoming a location of choice and it is encouraging developers to break the mould to cater for this wider audience.

The increasing power of downsizers (30/10/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsOne of the changing features of City life is the number of older residents who increasingly feel comfortable in the City Centre. We have noticed over the past few years an increasing trend of older singles & couples attracted to newer well located apartments and town houses closer to the facilities of the City . The combination of reasons from the ability to easily lock up & leave the property, knowing a porter can keep an eye out whilst they are away for part of the year travelling or indeed away to a second home in a sunnier climate .Another reason might be just moving away from a larger now largely empty suburban home with all its associated high annual maintenance costs and leaving the issues in future to managing agents. Another reason might be that friends & family members are now living in or near the City Centre or indeed that the City Centre is no longer feared as a centre of high crime and trouble.

This trend has been noticed by some developers who are now building larger apartments to cater for this audience, knowing that the buyers are buying for their long term residence and not merely looking to add the apartment at some point into a Buy to Let portfolio. The specification we notice hasn’t changed hugely but we do foresee changes and certainly when developers give the opportunity to buyers there are tweaks asked for, from increased storage to wider hallways. Certainly this audience now mustn’t be overlooked and in the very best locations we do expect to see more buyers fitting into this category. The attractiveness for developers is the price point and that invariably the buyers are not acquiring ‘subject to finance’. Sometimes there are related sales but in a market with a shortage of stock particularly of good family houses the sales are rarely holding up the purchases. On a current transaction the purchase has been made in advance of the sale so the rush & chaos of the completion isn’t going to happen and the buyer is planning to steadily move in over several months.

Within blocks these residents often do become involved in the resident groups and have both the time & the interest to ensure both that the blocks are maintained well but also that voices of the residents are properly heard by the managing agents

It’s a trend we expect to see continuing to grow.

Are newer properties better value for investors? (22/10/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsOne of the features of City life is the excitement & launch of new apartment blocks. Often located on once derelict or semi derelict land & invariably replacing an eyesore with something modern good looking bringing life back to the area. The advertising sizzles & encourages interest but all the nearby local residents are invariably looking out for the headline prices. New stock invariably carries a premium but is it worth it?

I ask this question as several Birmingham blocks have just passed their ten year birthday or are fast approaching their ten year NHBC guarantee end dates. After this point it is the block not the developers insurers responsible for all the maintenance above fair wear and tear. This means the management fees can rise in the years following unless suitable provision has been made over the preceding time to build a ‘sinking fund’ which will mean future capital expenditure can be made without drawing more from the residents. Modern blocks have flat roofs, lifts & other features which need replacing or serious repair within a medium term. Latent defects are hopefully flagged before & dealt with before the warranties end.

One of the attractions of leasehold apartments is that the managing & the maintenance of the exterior plus common parts happens through block managing agents and they are often supported by a hands on or indeed hands off residents board . This is somewhat removed when compared to the freehold house owner who regularly has to watch out for blocked gutters, windows leaking and organising the regular repainting of the exterior. Whilst the service charges sometimes seem excessive they at the same time bring an easy peace of mind.

For investors looking for regular returns there has to be a serious attraction towards the newer blocks because these running costs are invariably known for the first ten years.

We have just launched the Metalworks in the Jewellery Quarter, comprising 105 units in the first phase fronting Warstone Lane & another sixty to follow on Carver Street. This new scheme of predominantly two bedroom flats is being well finished and benefits from being close to all the improving amenities of the JQ. Certainly one to be recommended.

The desire for land (07/10/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe sure sign of an increasingly confident housing market is the appetite for development land & developable properties from individual & larger developers. Over the past six months many empty sites and properties in poor condition in the City core & immediate city fringe have been swept up as their vendors have been able to achieve the prices they have wanted, often reflecting the offers they might have been entertaining once before. Invariably the prices sought reflected those once offered at or near the height of the market seven years ago…before funders in particular lost their appetite.

What this means for Birmingham City Centre is there will be coming forward as we step into 2015 & the year beyond a new stock of City apartments and City houses suitable for owner occupiers & buy to let investors alike. One of the features of this summer has been the distinct lack of newly built properties to show applicants but this going to change. The Metalworks on Warstone Lane in the Jewellery Quarter is ahead of the pack , with completion anticipated in the Spring. This stylish new block of 105 apartments is located next to the completed Morris Homes built The Quarter scheme ,located within easy walking distance of all the amenities of The Jewellery Quarter.

It is interesting how areas change. When Morris Homes were selling their scheme , that far end of Warstone Lane seemed a step too far for some & they as developers suffered without a doubt from the caution potential buyers had. Now with the new Assay Offices taking shape nearby on former derelict land , the next phase of the privately owned The Mint residential apartment scheme quickly coming out of the ground close by too plus the uncertainty about the St Georges land on Carver Street/Pope Street & Camden Street having been lifted following its recent sale to Seven Capital the location is fast becoming core Jewellery Quarter . We wish the developers there every success and think the take up might surprise them. Of course we are the agents ..before you ask !

If you are a potential vendor I would encourage you to consider selling now whilst there is competition about and funding available. Cities like Birmingham are attracting interest from local developers plus those from further away, particularly those priced out of the South East or those finding the continual abortive costs from failure to secure sites elsewhere too demanding.

It’s that time for Charity Coffee again (23/09/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThis Friday September 26th is the date of the Macmillan Coffee Morning , a fantastic focussed fund raising day , achieved through selling cakes & coffee plus lots of associated events. This is happening throughout the Country. Here in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter it is becoming an annual business & community event with the aim being to present the charity Macmillan with one large single cheque early next month from everyone locally. Currently twenty two local firms (including the local Schools)are signed up to hold events on the day and more are expected to come on board this coming week. Last year the Jewellery Quarter successfully raised £7800 and this year the goal has been set even higher at £10,000. Already there are signs in the windows of those companies hosting events and on the day do look out for the green balloons plus lots of people in fancy dress if you are coming into this part of the City. Everyone will be chasing donations!

One of the great achievements by one local firm last year was their ‘virtual coffee morning’ held on line with all their clients & suppliers at the same time as they were serving coffee in their offices. All the on line recipients then donated by Text or Just Giving, even though they couldn’t attend the Coffee Morning in person and the firm of just six staff raised over £1500.This year this idea is going to be copied by many other firms locally with the aim to truly push the total past the goal set. Again we will be really grateful for any donations to this great cause . Do text to 70070 ref JQDT53 with the amount or go online to .

Property market comment can wait !

Concord House-the new name for big City lofts (08/09/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsWe were pleased late last week when the Elevate Property Group’s, proposed new scheme on Holloway Head & Marshall Street was granted planning permission for redevelopment. This handsome nineteen thirties former furniture depository which we introduced to the developer is now going to be given new lease of life as fifteen authentic loft apartments with four sensational & already controversial penthouses.

The D5 Architects designed project located close to The Cube, beside The Mailbox is in a fast improving location which benefits from easy access into New Street & the City core, as well as all the bar & restaurant life nearby beside the canal.

Against the trend of ever smaller apartments these units are large, very large, from 1050ft -2750ft for the lofts and 2000ft-to over 4000ft for the penthouses. The developers and ourselves have witnessed this increasing demand for bigger units & the successful sale of Viceroy House, a superb niche loft scheme sold largely off market in the Jewellery Quarter late last year highlighted this shortage both of authentic lofts but also that of big open spaces . With all the Concorde House apartments having parking we expect Concord House to touch a nerve to go similarly quickly to like minded individuals wanting space in the heart of the City.

Delivery is next summer but we are hoping to give access on site in the coming weeks. Prices for the first two floors, which start from the second floor, at £275000 & go to £675000. Penthouse prices have yet to be released.

For further information please talk to my new homes team (0121 634 1520) or look at and

The autumn selling season is now underway (15/08/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsNow the buckets and spades have been put away for another year we can now focus on the next three and a half months of successful sales here in Birmingham City Centre. We know vendors & their solicitors can be reached, applicants can be focussed on their decision making and their surveyors plus mortgage brokers can be available for business. This year the summer sales pause happened later than in recent previous years, in a market noticeably busier with steady increasing confidence seen from developers, owner occupiers & investors alike. September is now on us and its back to work.

We continue to love the national newspapers talking about the housing market, particularly when they mention Birmingham, because they do help the feel good factor and create interest from outside the City. Much to our dismay they invariably carry on quoting national averages of price increases or sales rates based on the South East, which invariably distort our local market.’ I’ve read I can get 10% more’ is the sometimes the cry our valuers hear. Our team watch sales prices across the City and have their fingers invariably much closer to reality than some other agents believe. The Birmingham apartment market followers will quickly find under priced stock if they see it listed on the leading portals or more likely ignore the overpriced stock. The reality of this market is that it isn’t running away and funding is in fact much tighter than most vendors or their buyers realise. Notwithstanding the gay abandon that applicants clutch their Mortgage in Principle letters when they start viewing there are invariably more obstacles in their way than many of them think. A large Birmingham suburb agent recently reported to me that he was finding fall through rates of over 40% based on his Sales Agreed figures as a result of mortgage difficulties. The press have yet to report this statistic but the banks are I think more cautious than they let on. The positive is that this market is therefore sustainable and we can expect to see steady growth through the autumn months based on a continuing restricted supply and good levels of overall demand. Buyers looking at good apartments in the leading blocks will though continue to find they have competition.

With our three high profile offices we are very well placed for vendors and applicants alike. Our market share is increasing and this means more stock for buyers to view and more buyers for vendors wanting to sell. Our New Homes division has some particularly good stock coming forward this autumn, particularly loft type space so do register your interest with if you want to be kept informed.

Do you buy with your eyes or through recommendation ? (15/08/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsSo much of modern day estate agency is about ensuring the property coming for sale is presented in the very best light. Conversations with vendors regarding de-cluttering, cleaning and encouraging them to open windows to secure air flow plus to prevent stuffiness invariably take place. For individuals & families who have lived in their homes for a long time this sometimes can be difficult because they are so used to the smells & sometimes the chaos! This happens before the board goes up & hopefully before the first potential purchaser walks through the door.

The MJ team are quite experienced in taking photographs, making sure they don’t appear in mirrors or reflective surfaces and hiding unsightly items. We also have a professional team who monthly take shots of properties we feel can be lifted further. It is these photographs that invariably end up in magazines & newspaper articles because editors and their subs are always wanting very high resolution shots, partly because they print so much better.

Certain properties can be lifted to such an extent that they drive demand to a level where some viewers in fact feel deceived upon inspection because the rooms looked larger and sometimes brighter than they are when inspected. However they are some other properties which don’t rise at all when photographed. When you think that most likely buyers make their decision within four steps of walking through the front door that ambience of cosy/cool/comfortable feeling cannot be portrayed in a photograph and sometimes it needs an agent to say ’come & look at this’ or ’I know you dismissed this property because you didn’t like the photographs but I recommended you give me ten minutes’. As a buyer do not dismiss these recommendations because your agent ,especially if you have already seen several properties with them, will often have a sixth sense of what you are really seeking.

Ambience is sometimes difficult to convey. In the past I have dealt with a vendor desperate to give the warm smell of bread who over a week baked so much he could have opened a shop! Another who burned strong incense in every room you felt as if you were in Marrakesh & one whose own presence was so overbearing ,following the potential buyers around, that we were only able to secure a buyer once they were far away on holiday!

Photographs are only part of the picture when buying.

Stats, more stats & encouraging news for Birmingham! (06/08/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsRecently the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors revised upwards its prediction for yields for residential landlords. It predicts that typical gross yields across the UK will rise from 5.16% to 5.19% . This is before the costs that landlords pay, being the service charge, ground rent and maintenance. At the same time the Centre for Economics and Business Research has reported that mortgage payments could take a larger share of household income as price growth outstrips household incomes over the next five years.

Another body The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association has reported that they expect to see over half of Britain’s homes to be rented by 2032. Under 35s accounted for only 18% of home buyers last year with the same group renting in the market rising from 31% to 45%.

The population of Birmingham with its younger age structure compared to England as a whole has higher proportion of the population being under the age of 34. For Buy to Let investors looking at Birmingham with this young demographic of working people this is good news. The desire for City Living also amongst this audience is also high. Therefore those landlords with well located properties can continue to benefit from high levels of demand from tenants seeking accommodation within walking distance of their work places.

Ollie Sills of Maguire Jackson recommended mortgage brokers London & Country reported that ‘Demand from Buy to Let investors remains strong& mortgage rates are extremely competitive. With interest rates only likely to go up, the majority of landlords are now fixing their mortgage rate to protect against rising mortgage costs.

Birmingham currently has higher than average yields for landlords & for this reason combined with the anticipated growth of letting income and capital prices rises we expect to see a very busy market through this summer and into the autumn.

Advice as ever is recommended

The excitement of the City (24/07/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThere is an increasing stream of applicants now coming through our three office doors across the City Centre looking to let & to buy ,whether for a home or as an investment. This City is on the up and the recent decision by several leading companies to expand their presence here is undoubtedly fuelling a feel good factor. The combination of the City wide infrastructure improvements now being put place & increasing private investment is starting to push Birmingham forward with a momentum gaining month by month. Whether it’s the revamped New Street Station , the imminent Paradise Circus redevelopment or merely the success of the local Business Improvement District teams helping their City Centre areas we are seeing increasing interest from outsiders from home & abroad. I say the latter in the light of the recent Birmingham runway extension which can now take direct flights from the Far East & my looming appointment with a Chinese investment group looking for property based opportunities here.

This summer is unusual because letting applicants now searching have very little brand newly built stock to occupy . They therefore can only take existing stock currently empty or becoming empty ,as existing tenants move location within the City or into the buying market. For landlords it’s a special summer as the voids between tenancies can amount to only hours or at the maximum a very few days. For tenants it is frustrating as we in many cases need to give twenty-four hours notice to existing tenanted properties to view so just turning up and hoping to arrange an immediate tour is often not possible. The pressure to make a decision too is high because the market is so busy at this time of year. If prospective tenants pause they can easily miss out to others wanting to be in before early September. Residential rents are rising because of this imbalance in the market & we anticipate this may continue for at least twelve months until the new stock of apartments currently planned, or now being built ,become completed & habitable.

The New Homes department have some terrific schemes coming forward .This includes a superb niche Jewellery Quarter loft scheme located close to St Pauls Square to a glorious warehouse conversion located almost adjacent to The Mailbox & including several new build apartment projects which undoubtedly will appeal to owner occupiers & investors alike. If you cannot see what you want on our fast changing website do talk to Lisa & her team in New Homes as they can ensure you are fast tracked when the projects launch.

19 & pushing boundaries (07/07/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsI am sure ,probably like you ,I receive almost weekly asks to support charities made possible by individuals running marathons, half marathons, climbing mountains, jumping out of planes you name it.. but rarely does the experience of a supporter last longer than the day of the event.

Currently three Midland schooled boys ,currently in their gap year before university, are cycling unsupported across the USA in an effort to raise £30k for three great charities but are tweeting and blogging daily about their experiences. Having met them in San Francisco & helped fill them with carbs prior to setting off they are worthy of our support & following through this summer. They are hoping to complete the task by early September

Another daily smile for charity this summer are the exploits of Maggi J, the Birmingham Macmillan charity bear hoping to visit one hundred world cities . Armed with his own name cards MaggiJ ,like the cyclists ,is very good at breaking down boundaries abroad and making friends. If you want to get involved and are travelling in the coming weeks/months please do email

More Birmingham City Centre property talk in my next blog !

View from abroad (26/06/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsHaving just returned from a few days on the West Coast of the USA after attending a friends surprise birthday bash I thought I would commit to a few words having spoken to several property experts & property funders whilst there. The global property recession started in the USA and the worlds finance companies are intrinsically linked as many of you found out.

The steady rise in purchasers confidence we have seen here growing month on month over the past twelve-eighteen months they have seen too. They too have serious concerns about prices in their leading Cities such as San Francisco & New York as we have about London & Greater London regarding affordability and the multiples of salary now needed to both enter & to step up within those markets. Interestingly there long term fixed rate mortgages are very common & thirty year terms can currently be secured for circa 4.5%pa which I feel bodes very well going forward as they clearly are not seeing inflation or bank interest rates sharply hiking up . Proven affordability is going to become the key words in both world markets and buyers do need to have done their financial homework before they start viewing as vendors particularly in sales chains will not wait especially when other buyers are out viewing too.

The US & UK economies are improving and the US like us are seeing falling unemployment rates and increasing numbers of new businesses starting. This is already impacting here in Birmingham and we will shortly be seeing the largest numbers of residential builders tower cranes around town for almost a decade as developers acknowledge that there is a market here for their new build product and the urban renaissance of the City Centre here is far from being completed.

A looming surge in investment inwards (10/06/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsIn recent days I have talked to private investors from London & the South Coast, institutional investors from Scotland, Chinese buyers based in Switzerland and noticed how all of them can now see real value with potential here in Birmingham’s core with residential Buy to Let.

The combination of an improving local market with increasing numbers of local buyers looking to buy and put down roots in the City alongside many tenants looking for accommodation offers investors the combination of high occupancy rates, high yields but also the potential for real capital growth going forward. London as an alternative investment now seems to be losing its golden ticket status. Whilst the demand & occupancy levels there are high for rented stock, the yields offered on the Capital value are low & more importantly the future capital plus possible rental price growth now look muted for the short & medium term after several years of strong growth.

In Birmingham our thoughts are that the new apartment stock planned for the next two years will absorb much of the investment interest now being shown & this extra stock may curtail any large rental price growth. We expect the occupancy levels to remain solid as Birmingham continues to become more popular for outsiders looking to base their businesses here plus it continues to retain many of the graduates and younger professionals who now learn their trades at the leading accountancy & legal firms based in the City.

The key going forward is going to be location, as always. The ten minute walk rule to New Street station, Colmore Row or Brindley Place will give investors the low voids between tenancies they seek and the ongoing high occupancy.

Advice as ever is the key.

The desire for a home (30/05/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe BBC rang this morning asking for comment on Help to Buy and we were pleased to help . Sky News were filming here in George Street last week on the subject of rising interest rates & the impact on those with mortgages. Its great coverage for us but this media appetite for house talk currently seems insatiable. When I get home I have Sarah Beeney telling me to build an extension & the Location Home or Abroad people asking whether I should buy a cottage in Wales or South West France .I’d really like to watch a period drama but those slots have been taken over!

Most people just have a desire for a home. A place to call their own with the chaos of life parked outside ..or indeed inside if you have children and a dog! The current improving market & rising prices certainly make small talk at dinner easier (especially for agents..)but the reality is for most is that it is a paper profit which usually remains untouched. Are we really hungry for endless comment on the subject or is housing just at the front end of a consumer recovery in the economy which makes great ,but very easy coverage?

Here in Central Birmingham we see those wanting homes, those wanting pads in town & those worried about their future pensions , wisely realising that the rental market in this great City is not going away any time soon. Not all the renters want to buy. The flexibility of their tenancies makes life very easy. We’ve recently asked whether tenants want the comfort of two or longer year tenancies but the reality of renewing annual tenancies for many is the best of both worlds .

Are prices going to spiral out of control? I doubt. Is an interest rise going to cause mayhem? I doubt. Property is a long term purchase and whilst todays coverage might look like chaos the reality is that most people aren’t moving and most houses aren’t for sale!

Birmingham is starting to build again (30/04/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsAnyone following the press in recent months cannot help to have noticed the increasing number of accolades now being thrown at the City. From being Britain’s first biophilic City with its green credentials putting it alongside San Francisco & Oslo , to having more Michelin starred restaurants than any other British City outside the Capital , to being fourth placed in the best location in the UK to have a second home list in the Sunday Times survey ad listed and now highlighted as the most entrepreneurial location in the UK outside London… And of course there’s HS2 on the way. The transformation to an aspirational urban hub is well underway .

When Clients of ours recently acquired a large City Fringe located former furniture repository previously belonging to a major City Department store. The vision of the developer was not to recreate the’ lets cram as many flats in to this as we can’ but to’ lets acknowledge who now lives in the City & who wants to stay here’ . These large authentic lofts will come on stream this autumn. Its an approach we are going to see more & more of throughout the City. The fleeting visitor & graduate is now putting down roots here and with Central London accommodation prices continuing to rise beyond the reach of the average man this is going to stay. The upside is that we will see a wider range of accommodation being built in the next few years than ever before.

The next issue than needs to be really tackled by the City are the links between inner city neighbourhoods. Whilst the efficient roads allow traffic to stream around easily the downside ,never properly addressed by the City planners ,is the way the roads create barriers between areas. Now as the City core regenerates & more people discover the quality of living that can be had here we need to address the donut & relook at those areas many people drive through on their way to the suburbs. The regeneration of the Jewellery Quarter is a classic example of this. My major gripes this moment are the way the JQ links awkwardly to The City Core …surely Ludgate Hill must be able to naturally extend into Church Street over the underpass? The other is the pointless raised road that links Hockley Hill (Great Hampton Street) to Soho Hill. It does nothing other than let drivers speed from one set of lights to another but more importantly it doesn’t allow the goodwill & regeneration now happening in the JQ to flow outward into the once superb houses built immediately off Soho Hill. The whole Hockley Circle area below the road bridge is an area of neglect that could easily be transformed by dropping it . It is an example of City Planning of another time.

Are Hipsters the new force in the Birmingham City market? (31/03/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsAlex Proud, a Camden based Gallerist and Club owner recently wrote an amusing piece in the Daily Telegraph about the gentrification of Shoreditch on the fringe of East London. ‘What I hate more than Shoreditch itself is the idea of Shoreditch & the way so many of Londons neighbourhoods have been Shoreditched, are being Shoreditched or will be Shoreditched’. He then went on a diatribe about the Hipster look with their beards and skinny jeans and I thought hello this is Birmingham City Centre he’s writing about ! ‘The global tribe of urban 20-and 30-somethings who in their quest to be different have wound up virtually identical. From microbrewery ales and ironically drunk mass market lagers to upcycled furniture & jumble sale ‘70’s suburban art they are all cool by numbers’ . Have you too looked into Yorks bakery on Newhall Street recently , Brewdogs in John Bright Street or bought anything in Urban Village in the Custard Factory I asked myself?

In the same way as Yuppies were an identifiable set in the eighties have Hipsters with their values in regeneration become the new force in the City’s resi market. By picking run down inner city neighbourhoods pioneer hipsters move in then start on the social media. Mainstream media notices & the area becomes urban cool. The tattooists arrive alongside the Barbers and local prices rise . This sounds increasingly like the Jewellery Quarter & parts of Digbeth. The author then highlighted that when the New York Times ‘discovers’ the area the cycle is complete. Mmmmm The New York Times wrote about the JQ a year or so ago !!

This return to urbanism ,perhaps led by the cycling bearded class, could be the route forward for revitalising many of Birmingham’s inner city neighbourhoods. The increasing price differential between the City core & its adjacent areas makes me think that we might see an urban uprising in the coming years on the routes out to & within the once grand Victorian suburbs of Handsworth & borders of Lozells as an example. These once great neighbourhoods have become multi tenanted, with too many homes offering multi occupation, too many lordlords screaming for rent but with great potential for the pioneers to move onto, and a terrific base for a sustainable community.The City centre itself is changing further & we see great potential in the once forlorn areas off Holloway Head & indeed where The Gun Quarter abuts the JQ. The bay window suburban dream increasingly isn’t attractive to an audience now living in the City. The streets are too quiet & too far away, too middle class & too self-centred. The feel of the City has been lost.We have some way to go but I sense the Birmingham renaissance is on the way.

Now follow the independent coffee shops & catch up with the gossip whilst you get your whiskers trimmed in the new barbers !!

Image Credits: Acknowledgement to Tim Sullivan

Pensions change will power Buy to Lets (26/03/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe Chancellors recent budget changes will we feel boost the Birmingham City Centre property market further next year. The empowering of customers to take complete control of their pension pots from next April without the automatic feed into annuities will have consequences as savvy investors throughout the UK look for security, underlying capital growth plus importantly good yields.

Birmingham as the UK’s Second City has affordable apartments currently offering returns of 5-8 % . It also has a large & constant pool of professional tenants looking to rent plus a large under graduate / post graduate student audience which gives further comfort to investors looking for long term security & minimum voids between the tenancies.

Already we have been seeing increased interest this year, from London based institutional & private investors, in acquiring portfolios plus blocks of well-located apartments. This demand is sitting alongside an overall lift in the City’s apartment market from first & second time buyers as market confidence returns. This pension change will no doubt bring more buyers into a busy market which is great news for vendors as City prices can only go one way.

The Live-Work confusion in the City Centre (12/03/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe idea of living & working in the same building is an attractive proposition. The benefits of a balanced life with no commuting, no public transport & being stress free ,especially when combined with a buzzy & vibrant community on the doorstep ,are very appealing. The reality however today for many professionals is that they work at home & at work regardless. The lap top or i-pad continually asks questions, reports need to be written & deadlines must be kept . This invariably pays no heed to the opening hours posted on the company office door!

The planning policy in some parts of the Jewellery Quarter ,in particular, allows live/work but not full residential use in certain locations. This policy is continuing to create confusion with applicants looking for their dream home in this increasingly popular part of the City. Applicants & agents acknowledge that Live/work without a stated ratio means that occupiers can live there without the fear of a business rates bill arriving each quarter .The City seem to accept this. Yet many of the mortgage funders continue to shy away from the market . This causes potential purchasers often having to pay for more expensive & elusive finance. This is odd when because of technology the live/work experience is certainly happening in neighbouring but fully residential properties .

Live/work does overcome some the issues of formally working from home such as taking on staff, receiving visitors & receiving business mail, which are often against leaseholder agreements in most residential blocks. For some Jewellery Quarter buildings live/work without ratio can occasionally mean their properties becoming fully work. There are several superb loft type spaces in Hylton street being used one hundred per cent for commercial use with lessees ,& their staff ,enjoying the creative nature of the accommodation. These occupiers all pay full business rates and could easily be in a fully commercial use buildings nearby if they could have found similar units of the right size and character available for sale on long leases at the time.

Live/work properties often have a ratio or an area clearly marked for work, be it a ground floor office or single room elsewhere. These properties in the eyes of the planners & the City are liable for Business Rates on that particular area. The residential accommodation alongside has its own Council Tax. Whilst the original planning theory might justify such a policy the reality is that modern business practice makes this policy a dinosaur. People in the city just do not have workshops within their properties as some believe, even in the JQ. Birmingham is a city awash with cheap workshop space so there is no economic need ever for these premises to be tied to the residential accommodation. At the same time modern offices are largely open plan not compartmentalised as many of these properties are, especially within the listed buildings. For those wanting to just live in these premises ,with ratios, the use makes them expensive to run & then difficult to sell or let.

With the exception of live/work being residential maisonettes/lofts above a retail shops or offices the current policy has now got to stop. Development & investment in this very attractive part of the City is undoubtedly being held back .

Busier market causing log jam with the lawyers (27/02/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsWith the average sales volumes now returning to levels not seen for ten years the pressure is being focussed on the law firms to process the sales speedily. The current indications are that the market recovery has surprised many firms, especially those whose specialist conveyancing departments are a shadow of their former selves.

For agents , vendors & purchasers this new reality means that some homework before ones legal advisors are instructed is advised & recommendations to firms who can accommodate the work is sometimes to be taken. Can the firm do the work in the time period sought needs to be the leading question. Our statistics are telling us that current sales are taking longer. The reasons are two fold .. slow legal work plus mortgage finance being slower too to concrete confirmation.

I have no doubt that if this current ‘average’ volume is sustained through to the summer we will see boosted conveyancing teams & lawyers with less bags under their eyes. Until then the agents need to earn their fees jostling & cajoling the various parties along the way to keep the chains intact & making sure their own clients expectations are met.

Ensuring ones own sales aren’t quietly overlooked by noises off in the legal departments from other anxious vendors is the agents task of this spring!

Localism - the new heartbeat of the city community (31/01/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe growth of cities has mirrored the success of entrepreneurial capitalism: efficient work places, skilled workers, national and multi-national firms plus good homes.

Whilst some have delighted in the triumph of global capitalism as being the surest creator of wealth and opportunity, for others it has led to bland, almost interchangeable high streets, dominated by the same shopping chains and centralised control.

Yet there is a quiet revolution underway which is encouraging a wider range of people to move into a city’s core – re-making local urban communities.

The Jewellery Quarter, already a unique neighbourhood, is at the forefront of localism and all the better for it.

In May 2011, Birmingham City Council encouraged the community to become custodians of the area and the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust (JQDT) – a Community Interest Company (CIC) – was established.

This has been followed by the Trust working to devise a neighbourhood plan under the Localism Act which gives the community more rights and powers to set the rules for the planning and development of the Jewellery Quarter.

It means that current rules can be reviewed, new rules can be created and the future of an area is shaped by those who live and work there.

This Jewellery Quarter planning control is setting a tone which I expect to see mirrored across the city by the way it works with the Jewellery Quarter Neighbourhood Forum which actively represents the interests of its 6,000 residents and the Jewellery Quarter social media resident group.

Localism means people investing in their area and having a say in how their community is run. In turn, this leads to investment, stability and the development of sustainable communities for the future.

It is personal and flexes to what local stakeholders want to see changed and maintained in the area where they live.

For example, at a local level the growth of farmers markets within cities is an obvious and very visible focus. For some, the goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local farmers are intertwined with opposition to the globalisation of agricultural products.

The Jewellery Quarter has its own personality, determined by those who choose to live and work in the area.

JQDT is making significant progress and the views of over 6,000 residents and businesses are being heard. Now it is for others across Birmingham to revitalise their communities. There is an appetite for doing so. It just needs the organisation and commitment to do so.

2014 The year of the Birmingham residential recovery (03/01/2014)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsAs we step into the New Year, now with three well located & very active offices here in Birmingham City Centre, we can already sense that the month by month success of the second half of 2013 will roll forward faster in the coming year .The steadily increasing confidence by both buyers & vendors we suggest is going to mean that 2014 could be our busiest year in seven years .

In a faster moving market vendors more than ever need to be talking to the most active agents in their area & not compromise with smaller agencies or with the once specialist letting agencies now opening sales departments. The reason is simply that of current prices. The Land Registry results of confirmed local sales appear three month in arrears so those agents advising, with limited experience or from quieter firms, just will not know what other local activity is happening at the moment a vendor is considering listing OR indeed whether or not to accept an offer once it comes forward. When you add in that most sales have been taking three months or more to complete some of this sales data available on the internet is therefore six months or more out of date.

For purchasers the key this year is going to be to the evidence they have to prove that they have funds in place or offered in principle to buy, which they can demonstrate to a vendor who might have one or more other buyers to consider. Fortunately long chains of buyers rarely exist in the City Centre but for those vendors stepping out remember it is your buyer who might in turn be giving you credibility as you demonstrate in turn to your vendors agent that you can readily buy again . We work closely with London & Country the free advice mortgage brokers and recommend them.

MSN are already flagging The Jewellery Quarter as a 2014 hotspot. We in turn echo this & also flag up the area running from the Park Central development towards & around The Mailbox .Whilst this area will see the real benefits in 2015 as The Mailbox retail shops reopen & the New Street Station refurbishment completing nearby it might be a canny ,affordable & convenient area to buy in the meanwhile.

Regional imbalance (09/12/2013)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsI sit on a the National Advisory Counsel for the Guild of Professional Estate Agents for regular meetings held in their smart offices on Park Lane. This week I listened to several leading agents located within the M25 talking about a residential sales market which was very much warmer than the market we see locally every day. They were talking about a sales market so confident & busy that all bar very few properties were quickly selling well with prices rising almost monthly. Their big issue was the lack of properties being available and being unable to satisfy the demand. At the same time an agent based in Wakefield highlighted that his competitor in the Town had seven hundred properties available which like his were now selling after several slow years but without any massive drama or price hikes.

Here in Birmingham City Centre the market is moving & is very different to where it was eighteen months ago. There is demand and increasing market confidence from existing tenants, current lessees in smaller flats wanting to move into something larger plus demand from institutional and individual investors. The latter particularly are coming from the South East who are now seeing value in Birmingham & the opportunity to enter a market without the froth of London. There is some pressure on prices particularly those rare freeholds ,larger apartments & interesting lofts but not excessively.

We anticipate price pressure through 2014 on residential rental prices plus on new build apartments & houses. The reason is simply that of the stock coming forward. Those owners who became landlords because the market was so slow can now sell so a sector of the rental market will shrink as the buyers will quite likely be owner occupiers. The complete lack of new build in any volume coming out of the ground & the increasing popularity of Birmingham as a place to live & work ,helped by the likes of the Deutsche Bank relocation which can only increase the overall pressure. The builders will catch up but probably not for another year or two.

Interesting times !

Reviews, testimonials & choice (12/11/2013)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe scrutiny of the internet world inhabited by hotels , airlines & restaurants is rapidly coming into the lives of estate agents ,surveyors & other property professionals. Whilst Trip Advisor & similar review sites have been part of the going out scene for some time, the demand for client reviews is now moving to another level.

Google Plus are now seeking reviews to help them measure companies as they fight to seize page one of their site. Reviews are rated higher than the testimonials left elsewhere in company facebook & company websites. The aim is to grade property professionals verses their competitors through the eyes of their clients.

Whether this grading by consenting individuals who have time to write reviews is good for vendors, landlords and applicants alike, I am unsure. Can the reviews be manipulated, as they famously are with restaurants? Will bigger firms be able to compete head on with the smaller firms who might offer more time to applicants but less property to offer ? Presumably we all have to learn from the travel trade but I do know that, from here on, everyone buying a service will be increasingly asked to write down their thoughts on the experience they received. I can only guess that service standards overall across the industry will inevitably improve, which has to be a positive. In turn those firms setting the standards & benchmarks too must reap the benefit.

Interesting times. Good for business… or just for Google)?

Is Help to Buy going to inject fuel into the market ? (23/10/2013)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsThe recent announcement of the Government-backed mortgage guarantee which allows lenders to offer 95% finance to potential buyers has caused more than ripples across the chattering media .The press want to talk about bubbles but agents want to talk about affordability. Providing income multiples for mortgages remain affordable there will not be a 4-4.5 x income rather than 8 or more seen in times past ! Those of us in the business know there have been increasing numbers of mortgage products offering up to this level. This new proposal though gives further comfort especially to the larger lenders who dominate the UK market - many of whom have significant Government shareholdings.

Our take on this proposal is that it will undoubtedly oil the wheels of the house-buying and selling process which had already started and will further build buyers’ confidence. This will undoubtedly help first timers but also those wanting to move into larger premises but are currently held back not by their income but by the size of their existing deposit. In Birmingham City Centre we are already seeing more first time buyers as well as increasing numbers of vendors now looking to seize the opportunity - some stepping up into larger city apartments and others stepping out into Birmingham’s suburbs.

On a twenty year average, the number of residential transactions since the beginning of the recession up until the beginning of this year has been running only at 60-70% . We are expecting this new assistance will bring the market over the next year back in line with the long-term trend.

Purchasers want to know they can readily sell or let.The latter is certainly almost always possible as Birmingham’s popularity has jumped forward in recent years.The new move by Deutsche Bank into Brindley Place will prompt a big wave of new tenants into the City.

The Help to Buy assistance will now bring back sales into a reasonable time frame for vendors ensuring City living forms part of their lives and not just there long-term pension portfolios.

When City communities come together (08/10/2013)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsSometimes people feel the City centres lack the envelope of 'community' with its associated values so often cited with pictures alongside of rural villages & country pubs full of hearty folk. It is therefore perhaps surprising to some that when there is a local calls to arms the buy in within the City centre area can be greater than that seen in the rural idyll.

We highlighted at a recent Jewellery Quarter Association breakfast that the charity Macmillan Cancer were hosting their annual coffee morning fund raiser on friday 27th September The notion was that wouldnt it be fun if not only we as a local firm hosted an event but as many firms as possible hosted events on the day & then one payment was made to Macmillan from the Jewellery Quarter community as a whole.

The take up was terrific & this event is now firmly implanted in the calender of events for ther area. From the florist offering a bunch of flowers alongside the gift of ballet tickets . Big firms , small firms local colleges & the School were selling coffee & cakes to their staff & to their clients and guests. One firm even held a coffee morning 'in the cloud'.

In the next week we & the local community expect to present Macmillan with a cheque in excess of £7500

Encouraging times I feel for Birmingham City Centre going forward.

MJ City core office opening this autumn (19/09/2013)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsBirmingham City Centre is increasingly popular for tenants & purchasers alike but more fragmented for living than most people think. We have always acknowledged this & have had high profile 'community' offices located in the Convention Quarter & Jewellery Quarter for many years. We have also listened to clients & landlords who ask if we could have an office which sits closer to The Mailbox & City Core , both areas readily covered to date by the existing offices however..

This autumn we will open a new very visable Maguire Jackson agency office on Waterfront Walk B1. This is a not only just below Canal Wharf but a stones throw from The Mailbox , The Cube & Washington Wharf plus within a very easy walk of both Friday Bridge & Berkley Court.The blocks off Commercial Street including The Postbox & the increasingly popular location just off Holloway Head are also close at hand. All these apartment buildings will benefit from our service & marketing profile which will assist landlords & vendors alike

If you have a property in these locations & want your property in our new windows this autumn please do not hesitate to call this office on 0121 634 1520 or email

London Funds see life in Birmingham City Centre (03/09/2013)

London, MJ Direct, Birmingham’s City Centre flatsYou know when the ripple of London’s booming property sector reaches out when several serious London based Residential Funds start arriving & expressing interest in acquiring good sized numbers of City Centre flats for long term investment. To the surprise of the South East based analysts there aren’t large blocks of vacant stock available nor queues of vendors aching to sell for below market values. They don’t need to. Birmingham City Centre is increasingly a positive story. Notwithstanding the overbuilding of apartments in some other cities in the peak building years of the mid noughties Birmingham’s City Centre flats have always been popular for renters, professionals & post graduates alike, from the depths of the recession to today. Rents are rising, the yields are attractive & the void periods between rentals can be days not weeks.

There is no doubt there is now scope for more apartments here in the City along with townhouses and the real question is whether the bank funders are now prepared to properly assist those developers looking to build. I expect the attraction of secured off plan sales will undoubtedly oil the wheels of development . Importantly it is probably the only way these investors are going to be able to acquire the properties they want.

Do expect to see tower cranes later this autumn !

September 27th a date for your diaries (01/08/2013)

Birmingham city center, MJ Direct, Birmingham Suburban VendorsMaguire Jackson has decided to focus all our annual charitable efforts on one chosen charity. We have partnered with Macmillan Cancer for fundraising plus charitable giving. We want to do all that we can to help support their team of nurses which do such a valuable job. Many of us here know of friends and colleagues who have or have had cancer so it’s a deeply personal choice for us and one that we believe also appeals to our customers.

Our first focus is to take part in the Macmillan World’s Greatest Coffee Morning fundraising event on Friday September 27th.

Rather than just host coffee mornings in each of our offices on that day, we are working with the Jewellery Quarter Association and Jewellery Quarter Development Trust to encourage each firm and residence in the niche Jewellery Quarter to host coffee and cake events on that day. This will then form part of the Jewellery Quarter single cheque to Macmillan Cancer. Everyone taking part will be acknowledged on the cheque and no one contribution will be judged any better or any worse than another. In this way, we hope to expand the impact we will have by bringing together as much of neighbourhood. As we have so many customers – vendors, landlords, buyers and tenants – we are best-placed to engage many in our appeal.

There are many planned events and ideas – lots of ways you could get involved if Macmillan means something to you too. If you are interested in helping please can I ask you register your interest to this office or laura@barquespr, We are looking for mugs (get it!) within each firm and home who we then assist with both cake recipes, coffee fundraising ideas for the day plus Macmillan cups and goodies to help each event go with a bang.

If you are outside of the Jewellery Quarter and want to be involved please do register too.

Watch this space..Eight weeks to go!

Does paying up front marketing fees work ? (19/07/2013)

Birmingham city center, MJ Direct, Birmingham Suburban VendorsThe MJ Direct agency service has been running successfully for three months, enabling vendors to keep a closer eye on expenditure through the fixed-fee structure whilst taking greater control over certain aspects of the house sale.

Primarily aimed at Birmingham’s suburban vendors who have properties in sought-after locations, the service is tailored to those who know roughly what their house or apartment is worth plus the neighbouring homes are selling relatively quickly when they hit the market.

The question is: Should you pay a local agent big fees to sell?

MJ Direct primarily markets your property over a six-month period - should you need if for that long - and whilst we make no promises on a sale in this time, we provide a high profile internet-based advertising campaign plus a sale board.

Viewings will be your responsibility but then this is probably what you prefer. Offers and follow-ups will come through our office managers along with the invariable tracking once terms are agreed.

Local papers won’t let us talk about costs but the service starts at £799 (plus VAT) payable from the outset in one or two payments – great value for money.

Suburban vendors have a real choice but the question remains – do you want to pay commission on a sale which will move quickly or pay a one-off cost knowing you get the support of a professional agent should you encounter any problems?

MJ Direct is a cost-effective way of selling your home.

Not every vendor wants a photo with our SOLD by board. Thank you Mark in Erdington

Is Stamp Duty preventing us from moving? (25/06/2013)

Birmingham Canal, Symphony Canal, Symphony CourtAs an agent for over thirty years I have witnessed Stamp Duty, which you pay on property acquisition rise, rise & rise again. From 1% on all sales over £15000 in 1972 to the current regime of 1-7%, with the highest rate now applicable on all transactions over £2m.

With UK national average house prices now over £250k all average transactions occur SDLT of 3% .You therefore on average pay over £7500 tax just to move.

When average incomes & house prices were rapidly rising this easy to collect tax was as annoying as a summer midge. However when average household incomes are falling, house prices too being suppressed from the 2007 peak & mortgages requiring greater deposits this tax to move takes on a greater significance. When you also add in all the associated costs of moving, agents fees, lawyers fees, removal costs there is a compelling case that some vendors are now being held back & cannot actually afford to move.

I am increasingly of the opinion, like many others in this profession, that the tax bands need to catch up with the times & move up OR that the current rates are brought back to the easy to understand levels we saw in previous times, which made the market much more fluid. In the past every time you relocated you bought & sold, you therefore moved up & down the property ladder with ease & the burden of finding considerable amounts of cash to move was just not the major issue it has now become.

I hope HMRC can see the straight jacket this tax is becoming!

Service Charges - More than a necessary evil (20/06/2013)

Birmingham block of flats, Centanary Sqaure, Centenary Plaza balcony This year as with previous years we have sold several Birmingham City Centre apartments this spring to older singletons & couples coming into the City core from the suburbs & beyond.The reasons are wide ranging from wanting to travel extensively & not have the burdon of an empty house, the children have left & they want to downsize or that they want to live in an enviroment where they are not continually paying out big sums for the upkeep of their home.

A Sutton resident I recently heard saying that his house was marvellous but you did need to provision £3-4k each year for the upkeep of just the garden !

Birmingham Blocks of apartments invariably have managing agents who act on behalf of the long lessees, looking after the maintainance of the building & plan for the future work needed. With many City Centre blocks fast approaching or being just over there ten year birthdays when the construction warrenties expire, the service charges are now more than ever worthy of focus.

Good managing agents steadily build sinking funds through the annual service charges to ensure there is a contingency available for unexpected larger bills plus build up funds for larger planned for expensive repairs & renewals. If you see apartment buildings which on the surface have cheaper annual service charges you may find they aren't being properly contingent about future repairs, favouring larger one off charges in the future when work is required.

Landlords & residents must in our opinion take real interest in their block resident groups , which are now growing in number throughout the City,to both ensure the service charges are both being properly controlled but also to ensure future larger costs are now being planned for.

Website statistics reflect an improving market (03/06/2013)

Young couple moving into new city centre apartmentThe market’s looking up.

Unique visitors to the MJ website are over 50% up on the past twelve months reflecting a steadily improving market for residential property in and around Birmingham.

Also interesting that an increasing number of searches come from mobile phones (more than tablets) so good job we’re optimised for that. Our website more than ever is providing a highly successful platform for vendors & landlords alike

For vendors the key ingredients are of ensuring their property presents its very best, de cluttering at the outset then maintaining that fresh & squeaky clean home . We all know its uncomfortable, especially when you live a busy urban life ,but decisions are made in those first four steps as potential purchasers walk in. As a vendor try & do the walk in ..through the eyes of a potential buyer.. It’s enlightening! The results invariably highlight light bulbs that need to be replaced, boxes of things that need moving to wardrobes and interior doors that would benefit from being permanently wedged open, to let in more natural light.

Ask yourself, “could this be the dream home a potential buyer’s looking for?”

We are encouraged by the statistics so far this year, with many sales & lets coming from those already living in the City, trading up or renting.

Birmingham, as the UK’s second City is also continuing to attract many firms to open or to expand there current local operations and we guide newcomers relocating into this City. It’s all about listening because it’s hard to think of an area of Birmingham – if not in the city centre, in the suburbs – that wouldn’t fit their needs spot on. We’ve such a wealth of community, facilities, cultural attractions – its no surprise Birmingham is increasingly the City of choice

Finally! New houses in Birmingham City Centre. (18/04/2013)

city centre houses with off street parkingOne of the interesting anomalies of Birmingham City Centre has been the complete lack of housing stock for those who don’t enjoy apartment or loft-style living. When I first came to work in the city, I was fed by agents ‘the convenience of Edgbaston’ if you wanted a house. But, in reality, Edgbaston - along with its realty - isn’t that close to, say, Birmingham Town Hall. Certainly not that walkable. And it's quite pricey.

After years of waiting (and frustration), we finally have several new niche developments of houses to bring to the market this Spring. All the schemes are in the Jewellery Quarter, an urban village on the doorstep of Birmingham's city core, which continues to attract creative businesses & residents. Each development is being created by a different builder, and each has distinctly different characteristics.

i) The Badgeworks in Tenby Street is a very clever conversion of a former badge factory in Tenby Street, designed by award-winning architects Sjolander da Cruz. There are seven houses, each with off street parking and benefitting from a Live/Work planning use without any designated work area. This makes them really flexible for workers and owner occupiers alike. Freehold prices are at £275,000. Completion is this autumn and one unit has already been reserved by another leading Birmingham architect; a clear acknowledgement of pedigree!

ii) Regent Place, just off Caroline Street, is a new terrace of four three-storey 1350sq ft loft-style houses, from niche developer CRG Ashby Ltd. This scheme is located adjacent to a very handsome brick & terracotta-fronted former paper warehouse at No 53, built in 1906. These are again live/work, with the ground floors designed as self-contained offices with two bedrooms above. We feel the overall design of these units will appeal again to owner occupiers wanting to put down long-term roots in the Jewellery Quarter. Prices are shortly to be announced, but are expected to be in the region of £300,000.

iii) Regents Parade, again located just off Caroline Street, is a niche scheme of fourteen freehold houses being developed by One Property Group. Phase One - launching next month - consists of four two-storey houses that were built in the 19th century and are now Grade II Listed: they became absorbed into jewellery manufacturing later in life and are now are being refurbished and returning as homes. Phase Two - ten newly built 2 & 3 bedroom houses - will follow later in the summer. Prices are yet to be announced, but strong interest is already being registered.

If you want to be kept up date, you can like our Facebook page at, or keep an eye on the website. But more importantly, do advise us of your interest!

Birmingham City Centre attracts more downsizers wanting lifestyle (17/04/2013)

convention quarter, king edwards wharfOne of the features of mature City centres across the globe is the variety of its citizens; a healthy mix from young families to mature senior folk is the hallmark every City strives towards for balance and continuity. Birmingham's City core is still surprisingly recent, with the bulk of its 15000 properties built & occupied within the last fifteen years. Over sixty per cent of the properties are let out and held as Buy to Let investments, or by landlords who couldnt sell (particularly in the past three years).

There have always been some properties held by owner occupiers & downsizers from the many bigger suburban properties that ring Birmingham's many suburbs. For the combination of lifestyle and convenience, the city centre blocks can offer a level of privacy and security which is hard to beat. The 24 hour porterage in some cases being just one benefit.

Certain blocks like Symphony Court & King Edwards Wharf on Sheepcote street in the Convention Quarter have always attracted downsizers. The combination of larger canal-fronting apartments located close to Brindley Place and good block management have made them a natural choice. In recent weeks the offer of new houses in the Jewellery Quarter has also attracted many enquires from this older audience.The certainty of the freehold - plus parking - being the draw.

As agents we like this segment of Birmingham's property market because of the benefits it brings. These long term residents invariably get involved with block management, block resident groups, and neighbourhood resident groups, that constantly apply pressure to the City for improvement. This can help blighted buildings dont become something better (and sooner), and keeps aspects like street lighting constantly addressed.

Developers, too, are increasingly realising that their audience for new schemes is expanding, and are making design changes that reflect the aspirations of buyers seeing themselves living in the City Centre for the long term. This in turn improves standards of new-build property.

It's very good news all round

Brum magazine extends its reach (12/03/2013)

bullring shopping, city resturantsThe latest Maguire Jackson Brum mini magazine goes out in the coming days to 19000 targeted City centre & near centre addresses, highlighting our properties, services, and some of the people that make Birmingham tick. This spring, as Maguire Jackson passes its ninth birthday, we have even more innovative plans to roll out in the months ahead, keeping ourselves ahead of the competition and firmly entrenched with the very best properties in the heart of Birmingham.

We have advertised our MJ Direct fixed fee service for the first time alongside our mainstream services, acknowledging the growth of the internet sector. With MJ Direct the discounted, upfront fixed fee allows the costs and risks of selling to be shared by both sides, with a huge upside to those successful motivated vendors whose properties catch the attention of the marketplace by price & location. This new service, we feel, will have great appeal throughout Birmingham and beyond as sellers research the real costs of moving.

Our overall turnover increased by 18.5% over the past twelve months and we anticipate further strong growth this year, helped by our increasingly successful residential lettings team, our undoubted expertise in City Centre and City Fringe mixed use/residential development sites, and of course new homes, for which enquiry levels have gone through the roof with the release of such cutting-edge developments at Sterling House and Badge Works

Our lettings team in particular continue to look for high-quality apartments to meet continuous demand, and to any prospective or active property developers sitting on dusty planning permissions since the collapse of 2008, we invite you to get in touch to discuss the massively improving prospects for your future development.

We are quietly encouraged by the lifting in overall property confidence so far this year and feel Birmingham is very well placed for the coming months ahead.

MJDirect gets people thinking about moving costs. (25/02/2013)

city centre shopping apartmentsThe launch of our Maguire Jackson Direct fixed fee estate agency marketing service last week - to sit alongside our usual service - is encouraging a wide range of debate both within & outside of our industry. For some agents, particularly in the South East, it is a ’why are you doing this' but to vendors in the wider Midlands it's more a case of ‘this cost saver could really help us move !'

We were somewhat taken aback by the Birmingham Mail, who wouldn’t allow our initial advertisement this week which displayed the price of our service, being from £595 + vat. They were also reluctant to talk about the matter of property searches now starting 95% online. Whilst they finally let us include the line in our advertisment, they cut the copy out of the press release (!)

The growth of the internet cannot be ignored by the newspapers and neither can the rising costs of moving home. When you look at where average housing prices have gone in the last five years, it is quite easy to see the people today who are sitting on negative equity - or indeed those whose equity has been considerably hit by the downturn in prices - especially those who bought with big mortgages from 2005-2008. There are now many ‘accidental landlords’ throughout the West Midlands who are caught by static house prices at values below the level they bought or remortgaged at.

Now, when you factor in that the average West Midland seller is taking a hit on their price, (compared with the height of the housing market in 2007) and footing the bills of Government stamp duty, lawyers' transaction fees, removal costs and estate agency sales commissions, you realise how expensive it is to move these days.

If you are moving in a rising market, you invariably move with some lift in your existing capital and factor in further rising equity from your new home over time. If you are moving in a market like today - which is relatively flat in prices - you really have to find the cash to move. At £250k these costs can easily add up to £14-15k, which has to be found in a bigger mortgage or savings.

The MJ Direct concept for the motivated seller (who, we add, has to do some of the work) is a bold initiative, but does give the house vendor the opportunity of saving up to 80% in estate agency costs.

And while some estate agents' reactions might be to turn their noses up, those are savings that are not to be sniffed at.

A compelling offer to vendors across the City (18/02/2013)

internet sales, flat fee, no commissionWe have over the past six months looked seriously at our Maguire Jackson residential sales service and what is sought from some of our clients. We have decided to launch a new service alongside our existing agency service which will we feel will have great appeal to many motivated modern vendors throughout the City & beyond.

Maguire Jackson Direct is an estate agency service which acknowledges the increasing power of the internet. The facts are that 95% of buyers now start their searches on the internet & through the major internet portals rather than registering initially with a High Street agent. We also acknowledge that not every vendor needs or demands the high level of service which is built into every current standard Sole or Multiple agency agreement we offer

The Maguire Jackson Direct deal is simple; A flat fee… No commission.... but the marketing is paid at the outset (in one or two easy payments). The Maguire Jackson sales advisors are still motivated to sell because Sold signs are the signs of their success

£595 + vat* buys you a Maguire Jackson inspection & trusted valuation ,an Energy Performance Certificate , a full set of Maguire Jackson details with photographs, six months of marketing including advertising on Britain’s highest profile search engines Rightmove & Zoopla, the convenience of viewings to suit yourself ,regular sales & marketing advice with a dedicated Maguire Jackson sales advisor + a dedicated phone number

  • £595+ Vat for four principle rooms or less (2 beds)s. £695+ Vat for five or more principle rooms(3 beds+)..payable in two easy instalments one month apart
  • A board is £75 inc Vat but free to the first quota of instructions

Each contract is for six months marketing

We will not accompany viewings for these instructions but will liaise each time with the vendor & the potential buyer

If the vendor requires the full service with us accompanying each viewing & reporting daily we do recommend the full service , likewise if the property is vacant & the vendor cannot attend the viewings we will charge our standard commission fee however for many ,particularly those in the Birmingham inner & outer suburbs, the Maguire Jackson Direct service gives vendors the marketing confidence & coverage of the quality plus the fixed price they need to help them move.

We think the concept is bold but very today. It acknowledges the increasing power of the internet & the way it increasingly empowers vendors & applicants alike with market knowledge. The service also acknowledges the rising costs involved with moving, particularly with Stamp Duty by bringing down the sales agency costs.

If you would like to talk to the Maguire Jackson Direct team please call Lee Astle on 0121 285 3111

Birmingham is back in demand (06/02/2013)

Canal side, Bridge street, Gas street, Granville streetA recent affordability study highlighted Birmingham sitting very highly on a list of other leading UK cities when salaries & house prices are compared . Whilst the local prices from the local perspective sometimes seem high it is only when placed in context to the rest of the UK that the real value can be spotted.

There is already evidence that some South East based investors are already starting to look at Birmingham & the region for future income & capital growth. The facts of a solid resilient residential lettings market with low voids throughout the City and an improving house & flat buying market alongside the PR benefits of the HS2 fast train can only help push Birmingham forward.

Our increasing agency presence across the City for new homes, residential lettings, our backbone of City Centre residential sales plus City Centre & Jewellery Quarter commercial brokerage puts us in an almost unique position to advise vendors & landlords on the options they have available when considering their property.

Armed with our highly optimised web site and broad internet advertising in the key websites plus the wide ranging mailing of our successful Brum mini magazine..soon to be increasing in size and volume further to 18500 copies vendors & landlords can be assured that we make every effort to find the buyers & tenants looking.

If you are considering your Birmingham property options please do not hesitate to call our offices.

Is there potential for increasing values in the West Midlands? (03/01/2013)

I was asked between Christmas & New Year to comment for BBC WM on the just published Halifax Building Society statistics which highlighted an increase in the national rise of first time buyers coming into the housing market. We like many other agents have witnessed this, building particularly since the late summer along with a general rise in overall activity & confidence in property across the board.

Before being interviewed I looked on line at UK housing statistics overall which have highlighted a number of interesting facts, not least the skew of prices across the country rising towards the South East & London in particular. Here in the West Midlands, according to Rightmove ,the typical average price is £174,098 yet in Greater London it is now £464,398 ! Whilst there are pockets of higher values locally such as Solihull (Av asking price £363051) & Sutton Coldfield (Av asking price £319112) there are also areas of lower prices particularly towards the ‘black country’ such as Walsall (Av asking price £144710)

If we glance over our shoulder at average prices paid at the height of the residential boom in June 2007 when West Midland prices averaged £205663 & Greater London £387898 we can instantly see how Greater London has successfully climbed back from an immediate dip after the crash & then stepped ahead with several years of year on year growth fuelled by international & local confidence. The West Midlands slid back & then has remained remarkably stable.

Historically there is a rebalance that occurs as London growth slows , which it is now doing,& investors start looking outside of the Capital for better yields & the potential for greater growth.

With Greater London prices now averaging over two & a half times of that being paid locally my instinct says the West Midlands currently looks very good value

A New Year with great potential ahead (21/12/2012)

Birmingham City Centre, Icknield Street, Great Hampton Street, Spencer StreetAs we see out the remaining days of 2012, we have looked back at the progress we have made through this past year, particularly in improved marketing, our own branding and the growth in activity for both our New Homes and Lettings departments. The market overall since the late summer is continuing to show positive signs, with increased numbers of applicants looking to buy and the lettings market continuing to be resilient. In commercial too there is some uplift in activity which we feel beckons well for the New Year.

We are now five years on from the top of the residential bubble and it has - amazingly - taken this long for many vendors, both landlords and owner-occupiers, to adjust to the new values and a very different, slower marketplace. The hangover - thank goodness! - is well and truly over and we are seeing people now moving on with their lives. They are looking for different locations, larger premises, or indeed smaller ones. They are also realising that, long term, it has to be better than to buy than rent, especially if they see themselves putting down career roots in one location. Birmingham continues to be a city on the up and that is undoubtedly boosting confidence.

So into 2013 we go, Mayan predictions notwithstanding… We expect to see more new homes starting to come out of the ground in the City Centre than for many years. We expect to see the residential lettings market showing no holding back in demand, but becoming more discerning toward location and interior finishes. We see residential sales overall lifting a little in volume, with prices stable but firming up, particularly in the key blocks with a high percentage of owner-occupiers. Finally, we see commercial prices continuing to be weak with the exception of where there is the potential to obtain a change of use to residential; this applies throughout the City Core & City Fringe.

Have a great Christmas and New Year. We look forward to helping you next year.

The Jewellery Quarter is missing an opportunity….A personal view (03/12/2012)

Camden Drive, Newhall Hill, Carver Street, Legge Lane BirminghamThe recent Prince of Wales Foundation study of the current Jewellery Quarter planning zones has highlighted an issue of blight in several areas, yet I feel it has failed to properly grasp the nettle of planning restriction in this popular Birmingham City fringe location. There are fringe districts across the leading UK cities. Once heartlands of manufacturing, they are now are the heartbeat of the arts, innovative thinking, vibrant nightlife and homes for thousands. Birmingham has indeed encouraged its marketing department to talk up the Jewellery Quarter as a comparable to London's Islington & Shoreditch: a place for excellence in design, a place live and work, a place to find cosy bars and good independent restaurants, a location on the doorstep of the City and in tune with everything good about it. Yet it isn’t…

Successive developers are being turned away by the overly-restrictive planning policies and bigoted zealots who have watched the area decline. These individuals, with little or no knowledge of comparable city locations both in and out of the UK, are seemingly scared by the possibility of real change and the economic benefits that can come quickly as the area improves. Planning policies set up to protect manufacturing jewellers have become millstones as the jewellery industry declined and large scale manufacturing moved abroad. Individual planning officers have become as rigid as the policies they enforce, hounded by a noisily protective heritage lobby whose voice has been too loud for too long, with no mainstream democratic local support. The policies now in place have been too restrictive for officers to have any waiver. Buildings in the very heart of the area which my colleagues & I inspected ten or more years ago have stayed empty are now too dangerous to view. It is only a question of months before some of the listed buildings highlighted by English Heritage in its superb report of 2002 become condemned by structural engineers.

There is now yet another consultation - commissioned in the wake of the Foundation study - which might allow from next year, a two year planning change window to occur in perhaps two streets close to The Quarter's main shopping streets, as if this will prove to be the panacea for opening up change elsewhere in the area. There isn’t a wave of investment about to roll in, but there are lots of individuals and businesses who we see daily who want to live, work and bring back some pride into the Jewellery Quarter and buildings therein. They want change to happen quickly and they want to have supportive planning officers who acknowledge the positive change they can make by bringing 24 hour life back into the area. They want a Jewellery Quarter Development Trust body that is really pushing the area forward, fighting for change and wanting to outshine the near neighbour business improvement district on Colmore Row ,which is now making terrific and noticeable strides forward.

Why isn’t there a planning officer or a Birmingham Councillor who wants to have the mantle of being the one who brought the Jewellery Quarter quickly into the 21st century ?

Bringing Academy Schools back into the City Centre (22/10/2012)

Tenby Street, Albion Street, Frederick Street, school catchment areas birminghamLast week I met the visionary energetic head teacher Liam Nolan & his colleagues at the new Perry Beeches School II. They very recently acquired the former vacant Severn Trent offices on Newhall Street, close to St Pauls Square. The property was well known in recent years for its ‘No Rent’ commercial agency sign which hung forlornly from its wall. Now with Kier, the building contractors, working around them they have managed to start the academic year confined initially to one part of the building with 130 uniformed polite students & with a vision of another 600 pupils in the coming year or two.

The Academy School has already proven itself in the Birmingham suburb of Perry Barr by turning around a former failing comprehensive. Now having very good Ofsted results… plus moving local house prices in the process.. Perry Beeches II is part following a US model & is being used to regenerate life in the inner City away from the modern campus style schools so sought after over the last twenty years. This Jewellery Quarter based school will hopefully one of several now planned throughout Central Birmingham.

A sought after good School in the inner City has the potential to do a lot. It’s a long way from the ‘Waterloo Road’ vision immediately flagged by the local community when the planning application was first listed .One of the weaknesses of City living has been what happens to the children which invariably follow young aspiring couples who decide to live in the heart of the City. Too often we find couples sell & step out into the immediate suburbs the moment the pitter patter of little feet arrive. You only have to walk into Harborne High Street or Kings Heath High Street to see buggies bouncing along the pavements. Part of the desire to move out is space & the other part is schooling. Mr Nolan is at the forefront of a movement to offer real high standard state education in the heart of the City.

Town houses increasingly are becoming part of the Birmingham development mix. As we look over the coming twelve/twenty four months we are going to be able to offer new three & four storey accommodation for sale to those who often against their will are now currently looking into commuter land to find their next residence.

Are some apartments now showing their age? (04/10/2012)

St Pauls square, Brook street, Ludgate hill, city centre flats birminghamThe Birmingham City Centre apartment market is predominantly less than fifteen years old..The bulk of apartments were built from 1998 to 2008. Symphony Court the sought after Crosby Homes built canalside block continues to sit as the older teenager, but that is only seventeen years old .

Things however change over time and you only need to look inside at your own wardrobe to see this. Things you once wore & now wont ever see daylight (!). Styles and colours change, living habits change and apartments like there suburban house cousins do need regular makeovers . Those looking to buy and rent in the City Centre want to see modern fresh interiors and vendors plus landlords can really benefit by making often simple changes to reflect current styles.We know slight internal remodelling too can make huge diferences .Look at opening up the kitchen & reception room , or enlarging the entrance hall. These changes can radically change the numbers of viewers who firstly will want to make appointments to inspect , then crucially to reinspect & offer.

In the older blocks, say over ten years we are now seeing new kitchens being installed and bathrooms modernised. As agents we encourage this. Likely buyers of City apartments invariably have busy lives & particularly unlike there Country cottage cousins have little or no appetite for wholesale updating and are invariable looking for oven-ready to go flats to live in.

If you have been on the market for over six months you have two options... Firstly reduce your price until the market bites because there are buyers out there looking, particularly for bargains OR Secondly look at your property through the eyes of your buyers & with the latter take advice where necessary because a little investment can sometimes easily give you the sale you now require.

25% uplift in lettings (20/09/2012)

St Pauls Place, Holloway Head, Irving Street, city centre apartment lettingsAt this time of year we are fully immersed in the annual peak of the residential lettings market, as the overseas students, post grad students plus relocating professionals fight for securing accommodation in the City Centre before the month end.

Our current quarterly letting statistics show a 25% increase in lettings deals secured by our experienced team, which itself was a new benchmark. Clearly we are securing better instructions in line with the market looking but more importantly we are clearly accessing increasing numbers of good creditworthy applicants looking for well located accommodation in the City ,through our targeted mailings, highly optimised web site & the very successful ‘Brum’ mini magazine. The latter we are soon increasing in size & mailing through the Post Office to 16500 residences , up from the current 13000.

The New homes division is also showing some success. The St Pauls Place & recently launched City Walk apartment schemes are attracting real interest & buyers from experienced Buy to Let investors & first time buyers alike. We are encouraged by the demand for new build but as agents we continue to be concerned about the lack of new build projects coming forward in the City Centre for private use. We can report several smaller projects soon to be breaking ground and ask interested parties to register with us if they are looking for a new home. Buying from a finished show home is going to be the way forward we feel!

The lack of new build in the City Centre… (04/09/2012)

city centre apartment development lettingsWe are now five years on from the peak & collapse in the residential market in the summer of 2007. Since then its been a bumpy ride for both developers, agents & vendors of City Centre apartments & houses. However especially for the last twelve months or so we have seen a steady confidence returning, helped by stable prices , a strong residential rental market plus an increasingly competitive mortgage market which is encouraging investors in particular to see value & now re enter the market.

For those looking for new build today the choice is increasingly scarce. Almost all the properties available have roots back to a construction start on or before the property peak. For some the apartments could have been let for several years before coming for sale, for others they might have been vacant for several years whilst administrators combed over the complex titles of other assets & therefore couldn’t bring the property to the market. Either way if you want something new there aren’t many options which I believe may lead to a hardening of new build prices over the coming months.

Notwithstanding some developers ambitions to build again the funding difficulties particularly for apartment builders has been the reason we do not see tower cranes working hard for private developers. One result which is really encouraging for the City is that we will soon see some house building. The reason is partly demand & also development funding. You can phase a house construction site whereas apartments cant be built five or ten at a time. I suggest those who like the City life but feel Harborne is there only option to find a house to sit tight,,,More houses are on the way!

There is increasing buyer confidence in Birmingham City Centre & we feel really well presented resale apartments will now start competing head on with the limited new build options to those purchasers searching.

Voids..The often overlooked extra cost of Buy to Lets (06/08/2012)

luxury apartment let by maguire jacksonWith the residential letting market here in the City Centre at its annual busiest time ,there is no reason why any good well located & presented apartment shouldnt readily find an immediate tenant for the next six to twelve months. Most incoming tenants realise they need to be in place from late august/early september and therefore will make almost immediate decisions from the stock they view .

However some units are sticking . Sometimes it can be explained through presentation...of the apartment or indeed the common parts of the block .Other times & more likely it will be down to price.My check of B18 on Rightmove this morning highlighted forty x one bed flats listed as being available to let in the Jewellery Quarter. Ok so there is a chunk of new development one beds just launched but all landlords need to spot this competition & realise that they cannot sit out for prices when an immediate market adjustment of £25-£50 per month should fill the property. It sometimes surprises us that landlords will hold out for a rental figure & seemingly ignore the loss of income per week they incur every week the property sits unlet plus of course those hidden Council tax & utility bills which arrive on their door mats the moment the last tenant leaves.

On managed tenancies my team have access to view in the last month of the tenancy. Sometimes we can secure new tenants during this time so the void empty time between the tenancies can be a matter of hours rather than weeks . The latter quickly roll up .

It is the management & controlling of this void time that makes the difference between a good buy to let investment and an excellent buy to let investment.

Stats stats & stats (24/07/2012)

residential property transactions in england and walesRightmove have just produced a very interesting little blue book armed with recorded housing statistics which run from 1986.Some of these are illuminating not least those of overall transaction levels in England & Wales.

For the last four years the number of transactions recorded have hovered at the 800,000pa level. Alarmingly this is only 55% of the 2007 level (1.43m) and less than 50% of the 2004 level (1.628m).Even in the recessionary years of the early nineties transaction levels were averaging 1.1m yet today we seem stuck at 70% of this.

The early 2012 stats show a 14% improvement on that recorded two years previous yet this year is still predicted to be of similar sales numbers overall. Vendors I sense are beginning to recognise this new reality and acknowledge that the correct asking price is therefore critical from the outset to secure a sale.

At the height of the recent market in 2007 there were 1.8m properties listed for sale yet in 2011 this had dropped to 1.2m .Interestingly this figure was 24% above that of 2009. The facts that more stock is coming back to the market in turn will I suspect attract more sales. The key though is a better mortgage market. In the City Centre 60% of our recent sales have been to Buy to Let investors. These buyers are attracted to Birmingham and are coming into a vibrant City Centre lettings market. I am expecting the competitive lending now seen in that sector will steadily extend to the rest of the market.

Interesting times indeed……

The big summer lettings rush (02/07/2012)

property to let sign, city centre lettings, bullring propertyUnlike many locations in the UK which have little seasonality to the residential lettings year Birmingham City Centre features a high tide of enquires which run from early July to late September. The tide is rising fast as I write this and our previous year records show volumes of move ins three times or more the level of the quietest months, typically being November & January

It is this combination of the large student market ,55000 and rising each year, with its increasing numbers of international students, over 10% being Chinese, plus larger numbers of post graduate students who invariably look for good accommodation away from the Campuses. This audience combines with the junior accountants & lawyers who relocate into the City to the larger firms as well as the junior doctors & dentists who come into the City to the larger training hospitals. This audience swells further with those other professionals being relocated into City during what are typically quieter business months elsewhere plus of course the normal churn of accommodation for those already living the City, moving to larger or perhaps smaller apartments as their individual leases end.

The continued mortgage funding difficulties have led to the latter audience now staying longer beyond their initial lease lengths which have coincidently have further boosted the investment potential of apartments here in the City Centre. 60 % of all our recent sales have been to investor buyers who have the certainty of letting statistics showing minimal voids if they buy well planned apartments in the good locations.

We feel the imminent launch of the 65 City Walk one & two bedroom apartments, located within a stones throw of The Raddisson hotel, will be quickly absorbed by this investment audience plus those first time buyers wanting to enjoy the benefits of city living.

Anyone interested should contact Lisa Hunt in New Homes

Price Price more than ever it is important not to overprice (30/05/2012)

property sold on balcony, brindley place, broad street, brunswick streetThe three principle sectors which we sit as a firm, namely City centre prime residential lettings, City Centre prime residential sales & City Fringe commercial feed market data back daily about the appetite for property, whose looking and what the bigger picture trends are.

The impact of the Euro hiatus in recent days hasn’t touched those looking to rent or buy residential. Birmingham continues on an upward trajectory for those wanting to work or learn. Whilst applicants , invariably professional & discerning when they have choice as is now in both markets ,we find those well located & well presented apartments / houses are readily finding buyers & tenants ,and the latter group extending their tenancies once they are comfortable and settled.

However the importance of pricing correctly is not to be overlooked. Applicants are just not viewing properties perceived to be overpriced and therefore managing vendor & landlord expectation at the outset is so very important. We are aware of particular agencies, in an effort to flatter their own egos & online market analysis sites ,are giving advice unsupported by market evidence to secure instructions. Consequently the time of their clients is wasted as weeks later they try to claw the headline prices back to those being achieved locally after little or no activity, more likely losing their instruction in the process. For Buy to Let landlords every week of vacancy costs money which invariably cannot be recovered. For vendors especially those with eyes on particular houses to buy in the suburbs & beyond the security of the sale process going through today often means future security which will not happen if their own apartment languishes with a price beyond that attainable.

There continue to be particularly commercial vendors with minds stuck in 2007 and with expectations way beyond those current buyers or indeed their banks surveyors. It is a shame that unless commercial rents and values can recover considerably that various dilapidated sites & buildings often in key locations throughout the City will continue to blight the landscape as a result .We believe commercial property is starting to look excellent value in places

Auctions lift off (17/05/2012)

property auctions birmingham, hockley, west midlandsThe second Maguire Jackson auction is being held Monday May 28th at 6.30 at the National Motorcycle museum. Building on the success of the March Auction+ sale in collaboration with our fellow West Midland agents , Hunters, Taylors Oulsnams .John Payne plus Knight & Rennie this next trip to Solihull promises much.

We are submitting two properties, both large commercial premises in Hockley & both offering exceptional value to join the numerous residential lots offered by our Auction Agent partners

We already have received interest from investors based in London who acknowledge the value these properties offer compared to similar properties in the South East and it is this market outside the West Midlands we feel which will push prices for those wanting to sell. Our next sale on July 24th promises even more & we do ask potential vendors wanting the security of a definitive sale through the Auction+ route to contact us.

Brum raises the residential agency mailer bar (04/05/2012)

brum property magazine with infomration about property in birmingham Our latest sixteen page Brum mini magazine starts being delivered by the Post Office to 13000 individual private addresses in the City Centre in the coming days. Our ability to communicate the best property the City has to offer alongside real facts about Birmingham City life raises the bar & hopefully confines the endless stream of ‘Wanted’ mailers from mainstream national & other agents mailers into the filling bins that these days sit alongside the mail boxes.

We have listened to city residents complaining about their letter boxes filling every day with shoddy ‘Landlords wanted’ & Vendors wanted’ mailshots from our competitors that we put our first mini magazine together six weeks ago which has been a total triumph. This new one ,twice the size, offers both more apartments to buy & let alongside photos & detail of very recent deals, plus City based editorial which is of real interest & not about Property !.

Our recent success selling over 75% of The Minories house & apartment scheme in the Jewellery Quarter which has now sold out (despite some six other agents having the same instruction ) also highlighted how residents are now both grading up within the City & also switching from renting to buying within the City centre when they see good quality product. Brum is another tool for our Clients to reach this City audience when we market their apartments for sale or rent, particularly alongside our very successful Maguire Jackson website which increasingly optimises highly on the front pages of most search terms . Of course our advertising in the mainstream property sites plus our own database widens coverage even further!


A stable property market often shows itself in different ways. Notwithstanding the huge amount of RICS & other housing statistics fed to consumers & professionals alike monthly they rarely show the immediate local picture when you are wanting to buy. The exception to this is probably that of core Central London, which increasingly seems to reflect another world! Here in Central Birmingham stability shows itself with more applicants looking ,more decisions being made and larger deals being agreed and proceeding. Locally larger deals in our eyes are those apartments over £225k.

There hasn’t been an apartment sale over £500k in the City centre for five years. Last week this price barrier was broken through as a 3000ft penthouse sold through our Sheepcote Street office, listing at £1.2m, with several other larger deals following closely behind. This type of sale data will help give confidence & support to mortgage valuers looking in the area for market evidence which in turn will help other buyers now looking. It has been as much the lack of turnover in the better prices which has held the market back because the professional valuers couldn’t easily base sales on recent nearby evidence & thereby give confidence to those wanting to make decisions. Prices aren’t climbing upwards but importantly they now haven’t fallen back for well over twelve months.

Another recent residential investment sale in the City ,over £6m by the George Street team again suggest others increasingly see value in this City.

This time the money was from London where increasingly I expect to see investors coming from Birmingham City Centre is without doubt starting to look good value to those outside of the City.

A time for development.. (20/03/2012)

When is the best time to build new City Centre accommodation? Is it when there is very little available and every one is out looking , or is it when the shoots of recovery show the current new build stock being absorbed and therefore one can anticipate there will be nothing available for buyers in the twelve or more months it takes to plan & build ?

The lack of construction cranes around the City currently worries me when the demand for rented accommodation in the City Centre continues at a high level & shows no sign of abating. There are also some signs of increasing residential sales confidence .Discerning buyers currently looking in the market are making decisions on new apartments ,where the location is special such as St Pauls Place on St Pauls Square or where the location offers great convenience and future potential growth, such as The Hive in the heart of Eastside.Other buyers are being attracted to the prime locations or where the property offers unique character.

I know the issues are about funding however if you can overcome this I think there is a development opportunity today.

Encouragingly there is now more than just one town house scheme being planned in the City Centre which beckons well for the future & for those who want to find a freehold or larger property without having to move out into the suburbs. Watch this space for future opportunities.

The markets are moving (20/02/2012)

Geoffrey Dicks ,chief economist at Novus Capital Markets reported in the recent Sunday Times that ‘Doom & gloom stories will always make headlines .Britain ,in particular has overdone the gloom. My confident prediction for 2012 is that from here on the trend in the economy and in the forecasts will be upwards’ . The economist reported October last year being a particularly dreadful month for the real economy with very weak exports, rising unemployment, industrial production down and service sector production similarly falling then November seeing the beginnings of a turnaround.

The initial combination of the European Bank without warning announcing new three year cheap finance for banks eased the risk of another credit crunch plus the growing realisation by UK exporters that the American economy was on the mend as unemployment statistics there reported real signs of improvement .On going the January CBI trend survey reported that they expect to see manufacturers increasing output over this first quarter…a 26 point recovery from October..a sluggish start with a stronger second half year. The Recruitment & Employment Confederation January report highlighted a small net improvement for the first time since September with increased numbers of permanent staff recruited. The FTSE too has reflected this improvement by rebounding strongly with values up 20% up since October. The British Retail Consortium also reflect high street improvement described the Christmas & early January stats as ‘dazzling’. Inflation seemed to have peaked at 5.2% last September and is now on line to fall to 2% . Nationwide also keen to get in the act have reported that consumer confidence in January was at a five month high.

What are we finding here in the City so far. Firstly increased numbers of residential sales applicants are registering & want to be kept informed of new instructions for sale. Interestingly the number of mortgages given out in January throughout the UK was an increase of 30 per cent on last January, according to chartered surveyors E.serv and clearly our Sales report mirrors this. The residential lettings market continues to be busy as Birmingham becomes more popular & acts as a magnet for professionals .Landlords need to keep their properties looking good as the applicants are discerning as always ! New landlords are welcome in the market particularly in the prime Convention & Jewellery Quarter locations. Over time we expect to see rents & growth weaken in the secondary areas which benefitted when shortages of rental properties available pushed values. Commercially things overall are poorer with values continuing to weaken as tenants realise they are in short supply so have a strong hand in negotiating rent & terms. This is meaning that some commercial properties inevitably are looking very good value for owner occupiers and likely tenants.

Chinese New Year (08/02/2012)

The year of the Dragon has just started and our Consultant Yifeng Li was leading the way again at the Maguire Jackson sponsored Chinese Students New Year Festival held at Birminghams Aston University Guild Hall on Sunday 5th February. Speeches were made and prizes were handed out as the New Year was celebrated.

Maguire Jackson Sponsor Student Chinese New Year Under graduate & Post graduate Chinese students increasingly feature as a large part of the student population who elect to stay out of Campus housing and seek City Centre apartments during their term of study. There are signs that many starting as tenants often go on to become landlords themselves. Yifeng who has just returned from Beijing is hoping he can encourage some of the larger high net worth investors & institutions to consider investing or funding larger schemes /developments in the West Midlands . Watch this space


Strong start to 2012 in terms of enquiries, is at least partly due to the fact that homeowners are enjoying the cheapest mortgages on record, thanks to historically low interest rates. We feel People are fast realising that this current mortgage opportunity is indeed very good.

For potential buyers, this represents a valuable window of opportunity to secure highly favourable mortgage deals which may look good value in the years ahead. A number of lenders cut their interest rates in 2011 as they battled for share in an increasingly competitive market, but this we feel will not last forever.

The average mortgage payment is currently £494 per month, which compares to £601 at the height of the credit crunch some 4 years ago. In terms of affordability, the current figure represents 15.4% of average take home pay compared to 20.5% in 2008.

interest rate graph, birmingham property prices, mortgages city centre The number of first time buyers also increased markedly last year compared to 2010 as banks relaxed some of their lending restrictions; there were 57,301 loans of 85% or more, up from 43,379 in the previous 12 months.

It is expected that interest rates will remain at 0.5% (now 34 consecutive months) for some time to come, as the Government attempts to help support the economy via quantitative easing and other financial instruments.

A significant minimum deposit, and a good personal credit history remain key to securing the best deals. But for those that can pass these hurdles, the offers are extremely attractive by any financial measure.

There is never an ideal time to move & juggling the wait for the perfect property, at the ideal price, with the lowest possible financing costs and when the economic outlook is favourable –is a call difficult to make. There are a number of factors currently in play which make this an easier decision than over the past four years

Selling under the hammer.. (17/01/2012)

The average time ,according to the website, for a property to be on the market in the UK before being sold is currently 241 days..

There is however a way forward this year for those vendors of mainstream properties & that is the route of Auctions & Auction+. We have linked up with the leading West Midland agents including Hunters, Oulsnams & Taylors to offer local monthly auctions from March 20th ,which will include the Auction+ auctions which are proving to be enormously popular elsewhere in the UK

Through the format of monthly auctions we can now offer vendors the opportunity of securing sales within specific time periods. For buyers, particularly through the Auction+ format ,we can give certainty ,alleviating any concern about possible gazumping from other likely buyers or vendors changing their minds after lawyers have been instructed. The Auction+ sales route has sometimes been called the ‘soft’ auction because it allows the buyer to commit in the room to a binding contract with insured title details on a small non refundable deposit of £4k. The buyer then instructs the lawyer & has 28 days to put down the balance of the deposit & then completes a month later. This is quite some way from the typical property auction room which is often intimidating & full of savvy investors vying for awkward secondary located commercial & residential buildings.

Our first residential auction kicks off in the National Motorcycle Museum near Solihull from 6pm March 20th

If you want your property to be included please call the office & we will arrange for Charles Robinson our auctioneer to call you


Philip Jackson

With the number of tower cranes being counted, rising across the City centre, Birmingham is certainly looking like a City changing shape. The relocation of new staff inwards also continues apace, filling the bigger accounting banking & legal firms with new professionals and those already here are putting down more roots ,with the owner occupy market demand stiffening for well-located lofts and apartments.