The latest Hometrack UK Cities House Price Index projects a narrowing of the property price gap between London and the UK’s other cities over the next year or two. For investors, the choice is clear – regional cities are the place to be if they wish to profit from property. But are we at risk of completing the same cycle as we saw just over a decade ago, or has the market learned from its previous mistakes?
Jonathan Stephens, MD, Surrenden Invest said:
“While many factors mirror the housing market’s performance back in the early 2000s, there are some substantial differences that look set to bring about different outcomes from this state in the cycle. Tax changes are playing a key role in this, as are the rising quality and security standards of regional city developments.”
At present, house price inflation stands at 4.3% for the UK as a whole over the past year. For London, the figure drops to just 0.4% over the same period. Edinburgh has seen the highest increase in values, at 7.1% over the year to April 2018, closely followed by Manchester, at 7.0%. Birmingham also fared far better than average, at 6.5%, as did Liverpool, at 5.9%.
The regional success stories stand in stark contrast to the price falls seen in 20 of London’s 33 local authorities. Developments such as Westminster Works in Birmingham are thus offering investors far more potential for capital growth, as well as healthy yields. Ideally positioned to benefit from the HS2 Curzon Street station scheme, as well as the redevelopment taking place as part of the Smithfield masterplan, the premium apartments are raising the bar for rental accommodation in Birmingham. The luxurious apartments come with a range of top facilities, including a concierge service, secure on-site parking and smart home, eco-friendly technology in every home.
The same trend of the regions racing to catch up with London’s prices occurred between 2002 and 2005, when London saw weak growth after a period of strong performance from 1996 to 2000. Regional markets had lagged behind, but began reporting strong performance from 2001 onwards, thus narrowing the price gap.
However, leading property investment agency Surrenden Invest is quick to point out that the current market has a number of significant differences to that of the early to mid 2000s. While the cycle appears similar, secondary cities may actually stand a more realistic chance of catching up to London’s prices than they did previously.
“People have been saying that London is too expensive since before Black Monday in 1987, yet over the last 30 years property prices there have grown enormously. Still, there comes a point when a market becomes too expensive to bounce back quickly, even when there are chronic underlying supply issues, as is the case with London. The city remains one of the world’s most significant and sophisticated property markets, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t suffer a sharp, swift price correction – or that it could quickly recover from such an occurrence.”
In previous property market cycles, the regions have narrowed the price gap between their cities and London, only for London’s prices to race ahead once more. This time, though, the quality, security and corporate governance of nationwide developers are far stronger than they were even ten years ago. Previously a concern for risk-averse buyers, these strong credentials – and the attractive yields on offer – mean that regional cities stand a good chance of catching up to London’s prices outside of the standard cycles that we’ve seen over the past 20 years.
Another contributing factor is the new Stamp Duty regime. Many of London’s properties are located in prime and super prime locations, costing upwards of £1 million. The sale of those properties has been significantly hampered by the higher tax rates, as well as the additional 3% charge on second homes. With regional properties available for significantly less money, the tax burden is reduced sufficiently to make regional property purchases more attractive than London ones in the eyes of many investors.
“Are we likely to see the regions catch up relative to London in terms of their property prices? Probably not, as London remains a uniquely appealing market. However, what we are likely to see is a sustained and significant narrowing of the price gap, as regional cities hold fast in the wake of London’s price correction.”