Easter sunshine

(30/04/2019)Easter sunshine

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.

We are now starting to feel the impact of the latest new flats being absorbed into the rental market as those landlords with vacant flats are starting to compete head on with newly built & newly furnished competitors. The first phase of the Jewellery Quarter The Kettleworks & surrounding flats are being delivered. These apartments, mainly bought by private investors, in a project of circa six hundred, plus the first of the larger PRS investments are shortly coming forward, being with two hundred & twenty flats in Newhall Street, two hundred units on Hagley Road at Five Ways and another two thousand or more institutionally owned apartments underway or in planning.

We saw a similar trend in 2003-2005 as several new City Centre blocks , each offering higher standards, with better kitchens plus bathrooms, came forward. Each block wooing tenants out of their existing apartments. The law change for tenants from June 1st is also being noticed with increased numbers of tenants now giving notice to move in early summer. Estate agents upfront fees are being banned, and therefore tenants are putting themselves into positions to move and clearly those holding over have no reason to stay if their existing accommodation isn’t right. This pattern will reverse the recent trend of the length of average tenancies extending across the City. My recommendation to landlords is not to increase their rents at this time but to look & reinvest into their properties. This will mean updating the furnishings and decoration where necessary alongside committing their existing tenants if their contracts are now rolling & placing them into one year or longer tenancies. Underpinning lease periods with fixed rents, reduced a bit if necessary, must be the hook. This balloon of new stock will upset the market as it gets absorbed & my logic for landlords is that an occupied flat is better than a vacant one and I have no doubt this upset will fall back into trend once these new properties are occupied.

One of the interesting features of this spring is that the established prime locations in the City Centre are starting to be challenged by the new build coming forward. The demand for new flats is always there and their location is key alongside importantly the pedigree of the developer. The new St Joseph , Berkeley Homes canal side scheme Snow Hill Wharf in The Gun Quarter is one , Assay Lofts in St Pauls Square being developed by local developers Elevate Property Group is another plus London based Galliard’s Timber Yard in Digbeth wooing investors. I sense that the Convention Quarter, historically housing the very best Birmingham City apartments, is going to see its audience of buyers changing, with those professionals now choosing the best blocks which in fact are most convenient to them. Snow Hill Wharf being on the doorstep of the million square feet of prime offices will be an obvious attraction. The new Digbeth blocks too will feed from the corporations moving into Lend Lease’s new Smithfield offices once the scheme is built.

Finally Brexit.. fortunately the international content of our Birmingham buying audience is fairly small and therefore we are largely unaffected. We have noticed that those serious buyers are spending more time viewing & looking at all the competition. Presentation and price are therefore very important, probably more than ever. Our sales team continue to market some of the best stock in the City. The very best still sells quickly but our advice to vendors is that you mustn’t be inflexible once the demand comes forward with an offer.

The Birmingham year ahead

(07/01/2019)The Birmingham year ahead

This forthcoming year ahead promises undoubted uncertainty in abundance early in the year, yet surprisingly increased opportunities for those taking a medium or longer term view on Birmingham, being a key UK City for the future.

Whilst the current Brexit chaos will resolve itself positively or otherwise in the months ahead, the reality is that some vendors are already starting to make decisions based on the anticipated result. We therefore expect to see more properties becoming available in the coming weeks , both as development opportunities and individually. We also expect to see some more flexibility on the asking prices as vendors realise that they can probably transfer their receipted monies into other properties in the knowledge that other sellers will probably be taking a similar view. We are though not anticipating a slump in prices but we can see prices stabilizing as development & independent vendors look to secure those buyers who are in a position to move.

One of the features of this coming year will be the increased number of new build flats completing plus the launch marketing of stock which is within sight of completion within this year or very early next. For buyers frustrated by the lack of available property through the last twelve months this has to be good news. There undoubtedly will continue to be shortage of overall stock in the Jewellery Quarter and the reasoning is the continuing planning restrictions which includes the height limit of four stories throughout. Elsewhere, being in the Convention Quarter, City Core & Digbeth, things are going to be easier but the depressed pound might bring in more competitive overseas buyers , particularly from the Far East. Many of whom may have already successfully invested in both Manchester or Liverpool & been rewarded with good capital growth over recent years.

Whilst the City seems awash with construction, several of the larger Birmingham City Centre new blocks underway have been bought in their entirety off plan by London based investment funds who have been keen to take advantage of the institutional value of long term rented apartments for City professionals. This absorption of stock plus the early off plan investment sales, made both locally & overseas, will mean an increased supply but the possibly the not the over supply of new build apartments, talked about by some last year regarding fast regenerating Digbeth.

Rental prices will undoubtedly stabilise this coming year as the new stock coming forward will have an impact the overall market. The choice for tenants is increasing. More importantly for the first time many years existing tenants will have increasing amounts of new stock to temp them and this could impact the length of average tenancies across the city. The banning of agency fees for tenants from April will also further encourage moving. For landlords of existing stock the quality of their apartments needs to be upheld. Secondary poorly maintained houses & flats will suffer in this new climate as tenants will now move because they have no financial hurdle to hold them.

It is going to be a busy year. Pricing whether for rentals or sales alongside good advice is going to be more important than ever. Please do call.

Ready to sell or…. Not?

(25/09/2018)Ready to sell or…. Not?

I have had several conversations with different vendors in recent days regarding the stress of selling & why the initial process generates so much heart ache when seemingly it should be so straight forward.

Whether you have children, dogs or just an untidy partner the demands of agents wanting viewings often with little warning is certainly one cause of alarm. For agents the opportunity of immediate viewings for potential buyers who suddenly find time in their diary’s is without a doubt a huge bonus. Those buyers moving within the City are often the worse culprits. Those investors looking to take advantage of Birmingham’s growth and those relocating usually set up their appointments in advance as they wish do tours with consecutive viewings.

For vendors we recommend that they do try to keep their properties tidy & decluttered where possible. On those second viewings certainly when potential buyers bring their spouses, parents and friends we recommend that the properties do present properly. This is because more time will be invariably spent than on the initial viewing. Whilst we are not asking for coffee to be percolating or bread being baked, we do ask that the windows are open prior to viewing so the property isn’t full of stale air. The autumn and winter are difficult times when there is a trade-off between losing some heat & that of ridding the property of old cooking smells however the upside is when the offer is forthcoming.

One local vendor found to his recent horror the day after cancelling an immediately sought after viewing, because his apartment wasn’t ‘presentable’ that the applicant looking had made an offer of one of the other properties he saw rather than waiting and rearranging a viewing to the following day. There is a balance. For those properties with unique qualities buyers will often give more time but sometimes these buildings too, find buyers who weren’t initially searching for them and it is the agent suggesting an immediate viewing that sometimes secures the best buyer.

The biggest help almost all vendors can give before any viewings happen is that of decluttering. City apartments are often the worst places because space is at a premium & there just isn’t an adjoining garage or garden shed that can hide those bulky rarely used items. This is something suburban vendors invariably take advantage of. There are several good storage companies located close by that will ‘hide’ goods during the initial sales process…being for a few weeks or few months and their service is to be recommended.

Another help potential buyers and vendors can give once terms are agreed is to set a target date for completion of the sale. This date provides a focus for both sides to work to. Through the conveyancing period it is vital both sides keep each other informed as these dates can & do slip however there is considerably less stress if both sides through their agent keep the other regularly updated.



I recently took a short holiday to California, to stay with American friends. Whilst there I was able to discuss with one of their immediate neighbours, who I knew was a successful local Real Estate broker, how she secured her fees .I wanted to know why both seller & buyer seemed content to pay the markedly higher commission rates than we see here. The broker charged 5%, with this split 2.5% being paid by the vendor & 2.5% by the buyer. Clearly living close to the on-line world headquarters for many leading brands, the broker was very aware of computer-based sales agencies and the power of the internet. The response however surprised me, not least because it has ramifications here.

The reply was as follows;

''With the numbers of properties coming to the market falling, especially in the popular locations, how can vendors successfully achieve their best price without a broker, skilled in negotiating, being involved with the transaction. The computer brokerage will market a price but it will not negotiate especially when more than one party expresses serious interest & once the price rises to the suggested asking level or beyond. Sellers clearly can heavily lose out and this is widely acknowledged locally by sellers when they decide to sell.''

In the conservation area where I was staying, restricted by height & history, this limited stock was an issue locally. Another resident flagged to me how they had been pushed on a particular house to go to best bids over the guide price then pushed again. They were happy they managed to secure the property knowing that the location was somewhere they wanted to be for many years ahead.

In a Birmingham context I can see popular Inner-City areas like the Jewellery Quarter which has a blanket restriction on height soon starting to echo the position seen already in other popular UK towns, villages & smaller cities. The numbers of resale properties available are falling annually and buyers are becoming more focussed about living in particular locations especially as they see themselves living there longer than might have been the case ten years ago. Vendor's are waking up & realising they can really benefit from having experienced estate agents working on their houses or apartments who are both knowledgeable & are directly in touch with the likely buyers, plus have the skills to secure the best sales figure.

Is this perhaps a nail in the coffin of the on-line agencies for certain locations?



Make, the Ken Shuttleworth leading international firm of architects recently reported that whilst studying their likely marketplace for an edge of City Centre quality residential scheme in Mumbai identified an audience of increasing numbers of a type of City dweller, a group we too have identified here in Birmingham.

Whilst Mumbai is a huge city of 18.41m occupants and Birmingham’s is only 1.1m, albeit Greater Birmingham circa 3.8m, the audience they spotted was a professional discerning group who wanted the urban life but were prepared to forgo developer’s trimmings to achieve what they wanted. They were inclined to lose gold taps & marble floors in favour of an extra one foot or more of ceiling height in their apartments. They wanted well planned apartments but importantly more air to breathe, an offering of space, a quality perhaps found in older apartments or in what we perceive as 'loft apartments' but not modern accommodation.

There are a few Birmingham focussed urban developers who have picked up & recognised this trend including Javelin Block & LIV, especially the latter who have acknowledged that quality urban accommodation is more than just extra square footage of floor area. Undoubtedly and sadly there are architects out there who don’t live in their creations and are blind to this trend emanating from an expanding group of people wanting to live better & put down roots in the urban environment.

Going forward in Birmingham we need more new apartments targeting this audience. I have a genuine fear that some of these new larger blocks now coming out of the ground across the City are repeating past design mistakes. More whirlpool baths & mirror doesn’t necessarily represent quality! We do have however have several smaller schemes coming forward which have acknowledged this group of buyers so do ask if you are in that group.

Whether though agents will measure apartments in the future in terms of the space volume in the years ahead remains to be seen…I sense ceiling heights though will be mentioned!



Some recently published statistics following a survey of tenants have highlighted several interesting facts which might be of interest to Birmingham landlords. The highlight being that whilst location was important the key in fact to a successful letting was price, with 77% choosing price above location 68%.

bulk of these off-plan sales going to investors, this price mark is one of the main ingredients for retaining current tenants or indeed attracting new tenants. The research highlighted that the length of the void between tenancies can readily be addressed through price when the property is placed to let despite the location.

For existing landlords and indeed those investors bringing their flats forward, & perhaps competing with other apartments within the same building, just one month of lost rent for a typical two-bedroom flat is worth a discount of £75per month on the years term. Any price greater than this being a bonus. As an agent having watched an individual landlord turn down a good tenant for just £25pm then seen the flat stay on the market for nine further weeks with the landlord incurring Council Tax & utility bills through this period, the additional cost is obvious.

Other statistics highlighted include that 23% of tenants want parking, 32% want to keep pets and 48% wanted a garden. All three making me think that this survey was conducted in the suburbs although here in the City the latter could be interpreted as demand for a terrace or balcony.

Birmingham is continuing to attract tenants and I have no fears that all these new blocks will fill up however please don’t believe all the sales talk regarding your initial promised rental yield if you have just bought because the price of your initial rent will secure the tenant more than the block!



Almost daily there seems to be an announcement in the press, & associated web suppliers of local news, about planning permission being given granted for more apartments in the City Centre. We can all see the increasing numbers of site cranes as some of these consents are following through to becoming real buildings, and future homes for City dwellers.

From the moment of the announcement of permission to the delivery of the individual apartment key can sometimes be one to four or more years depending upon the scheme size. For many investors this period is often viewed as time of opportunity. This is when they might be able to secure an apartment at today’s price, for a small deposit, with delivery in months or perhaps years in the future. The area around the proposed development might radically change with underlying values lifting during the period of construction.

I recently met a local developer who advised that he had now sold over one third of his City Centre development, being over one hundred apartments, which doesn’t complete until summer 2020. The attraction for the developer by selling so early is the certainty of these secured future sales. This invariably makes the construction finance costs less expensive as the risk is reduced! Unlike building houses apartments invariably all complete at the same time so the developers financing is critical.

Is there a skill to buying these or does everyone win every time? Whether you are buying a future home from plan or an investment property I do recommend you do some research before you commit; Firstly, has the developer built similar projects before? Have you see them? Have you seen how previous sites have matured? Do they still look good?

Secondly, apart from the obvious location question, is the aspect of the proposed building. Is there a best aspect, a side that that has the better outlook? Do jump on Google Earth & look at the likely views from the upper floors. This is something you often cannot grasp from standing outside the site. The other question in the same vein is the aspect. How much is facing South & West because some future buyers from you are likely to be insistent about the better light, & particularly afternoon light into reception rooms, balconies & terraces.

Thirdly you focus on the apartment layout & the ideal floor. Do also ask about the ceiling height because particularly in the City room heights are another luxury.

Finally, location is always important when buying property. When buying off plan, especially when it’s a year or more in the future, you need to factor in the changes that are likely to happen in the meanwhile. Are there infrastructure projects nearby which will improve the location? For instance the Tram will open-up the connectivity of some parts of Digbeth into the City Core from 2022. Are you also aware of other nearby developments on route through planning which will help regenerate the location. This is especially the case if the current location feels as if its on the City Fringe.

The key to the best future rewards is to try & pick the best apartment in your price range in the strongest location. Areas change, but some much faster than others. Please do ask our team if you have any questions

Happy hunting!



The increasing number of serious investors, both from the South East & overseas looking at the City centre suggests something special is now starting to happen to Birmingham. This increasing demand is undoubtedly helped by Marketing Birmingham both here, in London & abroad. This has been assisted by the significant infrastructure changes of recent years together and now with the immediate impact of the large number of tower cranes seen in the City. For those now arriving and wanting to get a feel of what is going on here the investment monies coming in can immediately be seen.

The City is pushing itself to be pushing to be seen as a close cousin of European neighbours Berlin, Barcelona & Bordeaux rather than just being the quieter brother of a certain northern City, and many of the audience now putting down roots here undoubtedly recognise that feeling.

Birmingham is benefitting from the increasing numbers of people who want to live & work here. This pool of local talent is pulling in those smaller & larger regional firms who are looking to grow in the coming years. The success of Direct Line’s call centre operation in the City core plus that of Deutsche Bank in Brindley place have been models to incoming firms. Whilst the running costs of accommodation are higher the employment force is invariably more stable with vacancies importantly, being more rapidly filled.

Is the City’s success going to cause increasing numbers of regional business park offices to close? Its an interesting question and will depend upon the business but certainly the current evidence is that the bright graduates of local Universities plus the millennials are keener to stay here in the City than go outside.

I am not saying Birmingham is becoming cool but the restaurants and amenities are increasingly reflecting the larger urban audience choosing to now live & work in the City. We are following the established path seen in many other world Cities and those successful entertainment plus eateries will further encourage & pull in even more people wanting to live nearby. For investors the City is only moving one direction!



We heard murmurings recently from advisors for a London based private rental fund saying they were becoming concerned about the volume of new built flats now being built and being planned in Birmingham City centre. This concern about the number of flats being built in the City however is not new, we heard it indeed twenty years ago when modern City living here started in earnest. This particular caution might in fact reflect more about this particular individual funds own investment analysis rather than the market overall.

Whilst the increasing number of tower cranes has heralded a new wave of apartment blocks being constructed , from the Gun Quarter across to Five Ways & down to the bottom of Digbeth High Street many people have forgotten that we haven’t really seen a wave of new buildings like this since 2004! Even when the market peaked in 2007 the number of flats built in Birmingham City Centre was still markedly less than the number built during the same period in Leeds, Liverpool & Manchester. As a result this City never saw the issues featured in some other UK cities with empty unoccupied apartments languishing for years. Here all the flats not sold were readily let.

From investment guidance published which we have seen, the issue might in fact be more that the analysts, and indeed some national agents, projection of anticipated and on-going growth in rental prices might in fact have been just too optimistic. We have no doubt that this volume of new build will readily find occupants whether from owner occupiers or as rentals, being from private or institutional landlords. The relocations of parts of major firms into Birmingham now underway combined with the further movements planned from the likes of, perhaps, Channel 4 with its closely associated suppliers is going to add to a move already underway. This supply of work is supporting an ongoing movement to Birmingham City living, from young professionals to downsizers alike. One of the key factors missed I suspect by the largely London based ‘experts’ is that the local remuneration just cannot afford ever increasing rental prices, which when viewed from the South East do look good value. The mix of local professional salaries is different and therefore landlords are going to have to be price conscious when their new properties are ready to be occupied. Whilst the anticipated yields might take a knock we are sure the voids for being empty wont feature.

Please do talk to our busy rental team if you are now seeking a tenant.



The impact of the internet estate agencies verses the High Street has been an interesting one to watch through the few years, and this past year in particular, as several new companies alongside slightly older brands have tried very hard to gain national traction by using huge amounts of TV & Radio advertising. I am informed that pushed by continuing disappointing results, the equity funds invariably backing these ventures are now recommending a consolidation amongst several of the leading online firms over the coming few months. It seems the biggest beneficiary of the push by online agents has been ITV & Googles advertising departments, along with the brokers booking the media!

For those of us on the ground with local offices, albeit with our own local online brands, noting that national advertising alone will not drive a large market share has been the final acknowledgement. Selling your home is much more than just having national call centres, regionally based valuation teams and quirky brand names. Mainstream agencies like ourselves have been asking again & again for the sales success of the online brands rather than just their listings volume. Many obtain 100% of their fee up front so their success might be the listing however for vendors the inability to move despite paying a few weeks or months later is somewhat galling.

One of the features misunderstood by many online agencies has been the amount of work spent after the purchaser introduction by the agent. This includes ensuring the purchaser & his solicitor have jumped the various hurdles on route, be it ensuring the contract has been dispatched, ensuring the mortgage valuation has been carried, following up on any survey & keeping all the parties, particularly any chain of buyers fully informed of the individual sales progress. This includes negotiating the glitches as and when they inevitably themselves.

The online agents are inevitably going to consolidate & re-examine their offering by becoming more performance based. In some cases, we may well soon see some branded offices, being customer service centres arriving in some Cities. The High Street agents cannot though rest on their laurels and in turn are going to have to become more pro-active to compete. We are opening and staffing a positive new stand-alone team from this month because whilst online makes searching easier it is conversations with knowledgeable people that in fact open doors and guide purchasers towards likely opportunities rather than seeing time being wasted.



Forget the retirement dream of long walks in the country, pottering in your oversized garden and enjoying drinks in the quiet village pub. More and more of you are realising not only the benefits, but also the fun to be had by downsizing into the centre of the UK’s leading cities.

In Birmingham, there is evidence of enterprising pensioners selling up in the suburbs and buying cool canal-side or conversion apartments in the heart of the city. And we can’t blame them! Whether it’s a culture fix, the latest fashion, museums, attractions, shopping, bars and restaurants or the ease in which you can get to the railway stations & airport - Birmingham is one city that increasingly has it all and more.

People close to retirement age prioritise proximity to family, good public transport and cultural amenities. Living in Birmingham means you have everything on your doorstep. The old saying goes, 'variety is the spice of life' and you’ll never be short of new experiences and adventure in this fast improving city. Even down to the practicalities, being close to shops, pharmacies, doctors, hospitals and people, it does make a lot of sense for some as you get older.

You may have even worked in the city for years, but retirement means you finally have the freedom to enjoy the cultural and social benefits big cities like Birmingham have to offer. A new-build lateral apartment ,a property with a lift, with no direct maintenance having to be done by yourself, and perhaps leisure facilities in house or nearby (which also contribute to good health), perfectly match the needs for a steadily increasing number of those enjoying their golden years.

The ease of being able to just lock up and leave with the peace of mind your property is safe – with many buildings even having security and concierge services is often a lead factor, especially with those who like to travel. Having a secure city base gives you the flexibility to come and go, leaving you free to enjoy time away with your family or adventures abroad. In Birmingham the airport is only a nine minute fast and direct train ride from New Street station in the city core.

Here are a few key things to bear in mind when downsizing to the city:

  • Make sure the area you buy in is well served by public transport and amenities.
  • New builds can often be very cost effective as they’re energy efficient – especially important when living only off your pension.
  • Service charges are to be expected but worth the money for extras such as a concierge service and grounds maintenance.
  • Look for something that offers you a terrace, balcony or courtyard – For those coming from a large garden, going to nothing may be harder than you think.
  • Make sure you have at least one double spare bedroom. It’s important to have enough space for friends and family to visit. After all, they’ll probably visit regularly with so much to do.
  • Take advantage of complexes with leisure facilities close by as it’s a great way to stay healthy and make new friends.
  • Make a conscious effort to build relationships with people in your community through taking an active interest in the buildings residents groups or organisations. Friendships are great for your health and your soul.
The rise of the urban retiree may not be the best news for abandoned seaside towns. But it certainly indicates an exciting new age and, for those who dare, a more active, more varied and more fun-filled retirement. For increasing numbers the key is to die young but as late as possible! An attitude being picked up by the new city dwellers and developers now addressing this audience.



The usual pattern of the early autumn in Birmingham City Centre is that the hiatus of the peak summer letting months subsides, then we see multiple moves ins occurring with overall demand quietening. This year is starting to feel different. There are several larger corporate relocations underway or now being planned. Many bigger firms are making the decisions to boost their presence here in the City and take on more staff.

Many new flats are being planned or talked up but this minute there is a shortage of completed stock. Consequently, there is a surprisingly limited choice for tenants now looking or indeed those tenants searching for limited stay periods of say six months. In the latter cases they are finding landlords becoming fussy & setting out that they are wanting tenants looking for a whole year or indeed longer.

Birmingham landlords must not though become complacent because those secondary locations now doing well now might be overlooked as the newer stock comes forward through next year. One of the features of a large chunk of the stock being now built is that whole blocks are going to single institutional long- term landlord investors and these buildings comprising fifty to two hundred flats in one place will undoubtedly have an effect on the market.

We recommend that individual landlords now look to rebalance their smaller portfolios, taking advantage of the good sales market & reposition some of their current letting investments which might look to be secondary as this newer well-located accommodation comes forward in the year or years ahead. The accommodation sought needs to be in the right place but also in the very best condition. Those buildings that have character also do well.

For tenants choice will be available next year. For landlords, look after your current tenants as they might move if they see better properties available.



In many ways, the changes we all saw with Travel Agents happening twenty-five years ago, with a high street market of different firms being impacted by the growth of the internet, is now starting to be felt by small, medium size & the larger Estate Agency firms across the country.

Travel Agents started being hit by Travelweb.com in 1994, Microsoft’s Expedia in 1996 then moving quickly with entrepreneurial firms like The Lonely Planet, offering independence with confidence & advice. Further web offerings by firms like Last Minute Dot Com, then the likes of Air B&B who encourage alternative accommodation alongside the growth of niche airlines like Ryan Air who expanded, securing clients who mostly booked direct.

Yet Travel Agents continue to be on the high street. Their business model has changed & they have lost many high street competitors but their offices have become nowadays successful service centres. Their presence has become icons of travel confidence, places of expertise and importantly places to help settle disputes.

Estate agency as an industry is I sense now at the middle of a similar journey. Many of today’s online firms are institutionally backed and consequently making lots of marketing noise. They are picking up business and clearly are hitting those flabby slower agents often with poor branding who have relied on big fees from limited numbers of sales in the past.

There is a reticence however by many vendors who do acknowledge that the online services offer is primarily for marketing. The offer is an easy cheaper route of putting properties onto the leading property portals of Rightmove & Zoopla. The reticence however is primarily about the listing price, the viewings, the confidence of negotiating directly & the follow up, once a sale has been agreed, through to the point of exchanging contracts.

The success of websites like Webuyanycar.com clearly taps into many owners’ reticence about selling. Car sellers know the buying service merely places their car almost immediately into the trade auctions. But sellers like the ease of the service and the certainty it offers. The ‘time saving’ marketing clearly works as owners recognise that the price they will be offered will not be the very best, as against handling their own sale, but the sale can happen on their terms plus their timing. Selling your own property however is different primarily because the sums of money involved are so large and the mistakes are not hundreds of pounds but easily can be thousands or possibly tens of thousands of pounds.

Estate agency on the high street will follow the travel agents journey. The noisy online brands will be soon forced to the High Street offering ‘service centres’ and the smaller brands will become more focussed and niche yet probably offering their own wider online service alongside their mainstream services. Those looking to buy near popular schools or wanting to be in particular villages or certain parts of towns or cities will still want the early heads up from experienced and knowledgeable local agents before the properties hit the internet. Likewise, many vendors will still want their valuations being carried out by locally based experts and with the sales support happening nearby. This is an interesting time.

Are downsizers driving the market?

(27/07/2017)Are downsizers driving the market?

There is increasing evidence, not only in just Birmingham City Centre but also elsewhere in the leading UK Cities, that downsizers are becoming an increasingly important sector in the townhouse and apartment market. Developers are increasingly being guided by agents, like ourselves, regarding this audience which is both pro-active in their desire for specific accommodation & important for certain buildings. This body of demand has specific requirements which need to be considered at the outset of the early design stage.

The desire to live in the City Centre shouldn’t be a surprise, especially as many City cores are having a renaissance, with Birmingham’s being very noticeable. This proportion of the UK population is growing and there is a desire from some ‘empty nesters’ that they spend more time here in the City. This is as against commuting, perhaps to large mainly empty suburban & country homes, combined with a wish to do more in the evenings plus indeed to travel more. This latter desire of travel is pushing for the benefits of ‘lock up & leave it accommodation’, assisted by a block porter, plus easy access to the excellent Birmingham International airport. This is only a ten-thirteen-minute train journey, happening over two hundred times a day from New Street.

Our experience shows that downsizers are focussed on the location, size, specification and parking, (for one or more cars). Whilst investors are often measuring property size verses its price and potential or known yield, downsizers are looking at size, both in terms of square footage but also the volume of space plus the detail of the specification including the amount of storage. Pricing is important but rarely a key consideration.

Downsizers once in residence we are aware often take increasing roles amongst the resident groups which are an important collective voice with the building managing agents .This is often very useful for those absent landlords who hold properties too in those blocks but need a core group to regularly question agent decisions which might affect their investment.

Whilst downsizer only blocks are unlikely to happen I can see a divide happening as the City Centre market matures with designed 100% owner occupier blocks sitting apart from 100% investor buy to let blocks.



The recent election result, whilst surprising many, has also given domestic comfort to many in the housing market by dampening some of the political enthusiasm for a sharp Brexit, looming up in two years’ time. The economic uncertainty which certainly could follow that route now looks much more cloudy meaning that for many individuals and firms who are closely linked to Europe that the door isn’t going to sharply shut as we were told and we are probably now in for a protracted period of negotiation, probably way beyond the two-year goal albeit with probably an evitable political fudge at the end.

There is one upside already being seen. It is the weakness of the pound & that is encouraging overseas investment into Birmingham, at a scale we haven’t seen before. For the foreign investor, the stability of the UK & the steady growth is well known. The perceived inevitable strengthening of the pound after the Brexit discussions will just give a further boost to any capital growth secured. London & the South East continue to be perceived as expensive offering low investment returns plus limited short-term capital growth and Birmingham plus the Midlands are undoubtedly now benefitting from a flow of funds looking for UK stability plus an anticipated capital upside.

The tower cranes are going to continue being seen on the Birmingham skyline but the owners of these new buildings are increasingly likely to be in Hong Kong, Shanghai & Dubai!

Landlords must not become complacent

(20/04/2017)Landlords must not become complacent

The commitment of several large PRS Funds into the Birmingham city centre residential market has made me want to raise the topic of apartment presentation for existing & those potential new Buy to Let landlords. The London & internationally based funds are buying whole blocks of new build apartments which will be delivered next year & for several subsequent years.

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

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

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



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

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

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


(13/02/2017)HS2 & THE IMPACT OF THE TRAM

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

(20/12/2016)Is 2017 going to be Birmingham’s year of the City Centre tower crane?

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

The warmth & wit will be missed by many.

73 years ago … Pressure to change the JQ

(09/12/2016)73 years ago … Pressure to change the JQ

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

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

From The Bourneville Trust report 1943

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

The post Autumn statement lettings revolution

(01/12/2016)The post Autumn statement lettings revolution

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

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

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

Adventure before dementia

(29/11/2016)Adventure before dementia

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

(12/10/2016)Should I be buying in a larger or smaller development in the City Centre?

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

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

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

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

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

Is your ceiling height the measure of new urban snobbery?

(15/08/2016)Is your ceiling height the measure of new urban snobbery?

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

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

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

On towards the summer....

(01/06/2016)On towards the summer....

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

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

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

Is Urban Art acknowledged enough?

(19/05/2016)Is Urban Art acknowledged enough?

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

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

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

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

Internet imperfection

(28/04/2016)Internet imperfection

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

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

Rightmove have just reported the first quarters statistics of 2016.This has reconfirmed our position as the leading sales & listing agent within the five key postcodes of the City Centre. These Spring figures highlight that Maguire Jackson now sell 50% more than our nearest rival and a very high proportion of sales verses the number of instructions we hold. This is unlike one or more firms based on Colmore Row. These statistics further endorse our continuing focus on Birmingham City Centre as a number of separate local markets and our desire to achieve the very best for our vendors and landlords.
We are aware as we saw ten years ago that more agents are planning to open in the City Centre and we will inevitably see as we saw in the past the very same firms closing after several months of trading. Staff experience, perseverance , very good local knowledge and service are far larger than the brand above the door and the Birmingham City Centre market is not as homogenous as it first looks!

Ageing apartments verses new build?

(14/02/2016)Ageing apartments verses new build?

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

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

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

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

Has Property become too easy to tax?

(22/03/2016)Has Property become too easy to tax?

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

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

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

Will a weakening London market impact us in Birmingham?

(17/02/2016)Will a weakening London market impact us in Birmingham?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rising interest in self developing opportunities

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

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

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

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

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