Right the snow’s over everybody and it’s time to get this show back on the road!
Unfortunately it’s likely to be quite a long and bumpy road so I thought I’d kick the years blog off with a priority Top 3. Hopefully it’ll help keep things focussed on the journey towards financial stability.
Priority numbers 1 & 2 are “Location, Location …”
I did have a bunch of great articles with lots of lovely tables and charts demonstrating the likely future variances in house price inflation between key regions however partly as a result of being pleasantly distracted by all the new social networking sites and events (and of course the snow) I’ve managed to misplace them. Still with traditional forecasting having been all but discredited perhaps we shouldn’t rely too much on them anyway. Therefore I’ll just share my opinions with you and you can comment if you agree/disagree. If you happen to have the tables/charts to hand then please feel free to post them too.
It seems certain to me that the North/South divide is going to widen in the years ahead as 1) investors prioritise properties in the safest, scarcest locations and 2) the [new] government is forced to reign in its spending.
Northern regions are more reliant on the state than southern regions and they will suffer more as a result. Demographics were forgotten somewhat during the boom and financial engineering was often prioritised over fundamental property investment criteria like location and future supply & demand. Sadly many investors found that agents, property clubs and developers forecasts for rental income and re-sale values evaporated and have been left sitting on flats that in some cases could take a decade or more to get back to where they were estimated to be at their peak. And that’s assuming the local populace doesn’t move to the south in search of better pay (or just any old job). The same can of course be said for many foreign destinations – let’s not get into Spain or Dubai here.
The good news for those that have holdings there is that Prime West London is pretty much back where it was in 2007. Cash rich investors have continued to fight over flats and houses in Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill throughout the turmoil. Once again the old adage Location, Location, Location has rung true and I believe it will keep ringing loudly for at least 5 years. Investing in the best location you can afford will continue to pay dividends.
Priority number 3 is Yield
Many buy-to-let investors (and others) have managed to hang on to their portfolios despite significant negative equity because interest rates have been reduced so dramatically. In most cases residential property investors have in fact benefitted from significant improvements in their monthly margins as rents have only dipped about 15% overall – as compared with about 50% on commercial property – and they’re now beginning to drag themselves back up.
This means income arbitrage is back on the menu. If you can only get 0.5% interest from the Bank of England or a c4% dividend yield on equities then property starts to interesting above that level.
But what about rising interest rates for those looking to use leverage or with debt already in place? The debate will continue to rage on this in the months and years ahead I’m sure (hasn’t it always?) however it’s clear that they will have to rise at some point and it therefore makes sense to build in some margin for error on the yield. This can be a little difficult if you’re borrowing 50% or more and following the golden location, location, rules because yields on Prime Central London properties can be as low as 3 or 4% gross.
So my tip, and I doubt the big fund managers will like this one, is to stay prime and consider more management intensive residential uses such as student accommodation, young professional accommodation and short-let hostels etc. If you were offered the choice between a long lease on a bank in a regional city centre at a yield of 5% or a flat with a 9.5% gross yield (7% net) in Central London what would you choose?
If you fancy learning more about student & young professional accommodation why not come along to our event on the 11th February where we’ll reveal many of the secrets to successfully investing?
Andrew Goodwin senior economic advisor to the Ernst & Young Item Club wrote the best article I’ve read this week (in Property Week).