Donna Wells, Director at F4B
Back in October we expanded our operations with the opening of a Manchester-based intermediary support centre. It was seen as a bold step in the current climate but it was a vital one for the business as we were conscious that we needed to provide the same level of local support for our northern brokers as we do for their southern counterparts – in a COVID-19 safe manner of course.
The North West has been on our radar for some time and we have forged strong relationships with introducers and lenders across the region. A larger presence proved an attractive proposition as this region continues to operate from a robust platform after a real push in the supply of affordable housing and stronger commercial infrastructure over recent years.
House price growth remains extremely optimistic in the North West. It has outpaced London since the 2016 referendum and has recovered well post-lockdown. The latest house price index from Zoopla revealed that Manchester saw the largest increase in average house prices during the past year, rising by 5.7%. Leeds followed closely behind with a 5.6% growth. Nottingham and Liverpool had a rise of 5.4% and 5.3% respectively. The index also revealed that the North West of England led the way regionally in UK house price growth with a 5% year-on-year increase. Yorkshire and the Humber and Wales followed jointly with 4.9%.
Manchester is a hotbed of regeneration and there’s a huge amount of money being invested in the city. It has comparatively higher BTL yields than much of the country and an active BTR market. Additionally, there are plenty of developers in need of funding, many of whom – alongside property investors – will be looking to capitalise on some current ‘indifference’ within certain areas of the market.
To highlight this growing demand, research from Accommodation.co.uk revealed that the North West came out top as the area that will offer the best property investment opportunities in 2021, with 32% of landlords opting for it as their preferred location. The South East was the second most popular region with 27%, closely followed by the West Midlands with 20% of landlords picking this region. Scotland, Wales and East of England were the areas seen as being the least attractive for investment in 2021, all accumulating less than 5% of the total votes.
In equally promising news, 81% of the respondent stated they were optimistic that 2021 will be a positive year for property investment as the economy recovers, and the sectors begin to return to the new normal. The majority of UK landlords still see property as a buoyant sector and a safe place to invest in the long-term.
From a commercial property perspective, Manchester city centre’s office market enjoyed a strong end to 2020. Data from The Manchester Office Agents Forum (MOAF) suggested that a total of 349,543 sq ft was transacted during the three months to 31 December, representing the highest quarterly take-up of the year. Total take-up for the year reached 800,188 sq ft across 146 deals. Outside the city centre, the South Manchester office market transacted 272,667 sq ft across 179 deals, while Salford Quays and Old Trafford recorded 226,598 sq ft across a further 62.
Despite lingering lockdown restrictions, the mood in the North West remains buoyant. The stamp duty deadline is driving even more activity within the region – and across the UK – with the short-term finance sector set for its busiest Q1 on record.
Looking beyond this, our introducers and intermediary partners in the North West tell us that a variety of property professionals are positioning themselves to take advantage of the opportunities which will emerge in Q2 and over the rest of 2021. A fact which bodes well when it comes to maintaining momentum. These opportunities will be supported by a range of short-term and alternative financial solutions as the marketplace becomes ever more complex. And a growing number of advisers within this region will lean heavily on the experience and expertise of specialist distribution partners to tap into this demand.