Labour’s Sadiq Khan has comfortably beaten his Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith to become London Mayor, retaking City Hall from Boris Johnson, who has stepped down after eight years. Both candidates put housing at the heart of their campaigns, but it remains to be seen how much influence the new mayor will have on London’s chronic building shortfall. He has promised 50,000 new homes a year, with a particular emphasis on affordable housing – alongside a raft of policies designed to deter ‘buy-to-leave’ investing, require developers to prioritise sales to Londoners, and increase the rights of renters.
Khan has promised a business-friendly administration, and supports Crossrail 2 and HS2, both of which are likely to open new areas to housing, although – like all major party candidates – he is committed to protecting greenbelt.
“In common with previous mayors, Khan is likely to struggle to meet his house-building targets, given continued local opposition to new developments and limited brownfield options,” says Black Brick Managing Partner, Camilla Dell. “With London’s population forecast to grow to 10 million and beyond, the private rental sector will have to take the strain. Rents and prices are only headed in one direction, providing an enormous opportunity for investment clients.”
‘Multi-speed prime central London’ is how one leading agent describes the capital’s residential sales market – and the price data emerging from the first quarter of 2016 is indeed showing a complex picture. While overall PCL price growth has been disappointing, emerging areas of London have seen strong appreciation, and are forecast to keep growing. According to figures from agent Knight Frank, overall PCL prices have risen by 0.8% over the 12 months to the end of March, while rival Savills puts the rise at 1.1%. This compares pretty poorly with the overall price rise in UK residential property, of 5.7% over the same period.
But the overall figure hides wide variation. Knightsbridge has shed 6.8%, and South Kensington prices are off 4.9%, Knight Frank figures show. Meanwhile, emerging prime areas such as Islington (up 8.2%) and City and Fringe (8.1%) have performed strongly.
The reason is straightforward: those areas dominated by international buyers have suffered from falls in demand as a result of falling oil prices, sanctions on Russia, and the slowdown in the Chinese economy, among other factors. Conversely, those parts of London where demand is driven by domestic buyers have benefited from the perennial shortage of supply and the strong recent performance of the UK economy.
In addition, recent changes to taxation have reduced the appeal of more expensive properties. Investors seeking attractive rental yields and the prospect of capital appreciation have been pushed towards properties below £2 million – which tends to lead them away from traditional prime areas in west London.
This differentiation is expected to continue: Knight Frank is forecasting that PCL West is set to deliver returns of 10.2% from 2016-2020. PCL East, meanwhile, is on course for 26.4% over the same period.
This complex picture has two related implications for buyers: the first is that they need to cast their nets more widely when carrying out a search; and the second is that they need to consider areas of which they might not have much knowledge.
“The upshot is we’re seeing considerable interest from investors in parts of London they aren’t familiar with,” says Caspar Harvard-Walls, Partner at Black Brick. “They need a buying agent that not only offers broader geographical coverage, but also brings extensive knowledge of emerging PCL.
“In a market that’s going up, it’s hard to make a bad decision – in a market like this, good guidance is really important.”
If evidence were needed of the monetary value of good advice and good connections, it can be found in White City. On 22 April, apartments in the redevelopment of BBC Television Centre went on sale to the public for the first time.
More than £30 million worth of property was snapped up in less than five hours, with one seller queuing up at 1am to be first through the doors, according to the Daily Mail. But for some of our clients, the development is old news – and they secured apartments for more than a third less than they changed hands last month. Black Brick was offered access to the development in its first phase, and in November one of our clients bought at apartment at £1,125/square foot. A comparable unit was sold for £1,534/sq ft at the public opening.
The increase in prices is a function of the strong demand the developer has seen since the first phase. But, with London awash with new developments, how can buyers anticipate those that are likely to rapidly rise in value?
For us, the BBC Television Centre development stood out for a number of reasons. The site has excellent Tube, train and motorway links, including to Heathrow. The area is undergoing extensive regeneration, including the Westfield extension and the development of a new Imperial College campus nearby.
The development itself is within an iconic building, and will include a hotel from the Soho House group, a Cowshed gym, and a number of leading restaurants from the same brand. These aspects made it a standout development that we were happy to recommend to our clients – with fantastic results.
With still two months to go until the EU referendum vote, the two sides are trading claims and counterclaims about the prospects for the UK were it to vote on the 23 June to leave the EU. But while many of these claims are little more than speculation at this point, the uncertainty caused by the vote is without doubt having a chilling effect on all sorts of investment decisions.
Agency Foxtons is merely the latest to warn that the run-up to the referendum is set to harm its business, as political uncertainty paralyses the property market. But, as is often the case, this creates opportunities for buyers.
For all the froth in the opinion polling, the betting markets – which have tended to outperform pollsters in recent elections – have remained convinced that the UK will opt to remain in the EU. Indeed, those odds have tightened in recent days: Betfair, the largest online betting exchange, shortened its odds of a remain vote from a 71% probability to 75% following US President Barack Obama’s visit to the UK, and his outspoken comments in favour of EU membership.
Property sellers who persist in seeking to transact in the face of this uncertainty are likely to be highly motivated to sell – and those buyers who can look beyond 23 June are likely to be able to snap up a bargain by getting ahead of a post-vote relief rally.
For those buyers with continuing appetite for grand plans in Kensington & Chelsea, be warned: the local authority is getting tougher on owners seeking to knock together two or more properties. This year and last, the Royal Borough has rejected almost half of applications to merge properties, having approved almost all before then.
The move follows a quadrupling of applications between 2010 and 2015. Allowing owners to combine properties makes it harder for the borough to meet targets for new housing – it is required to add 733 units per year, and the council estimates it was losing around 100 each year through amalgamation.
Given that large properties trade at a premium, merging properties can be an attractive prospect for investors – and can drive purchases. Buyers need to stay abreast of changes to council policies and practices, which can sometimes alter without much publicity. Similarly, buyers need to ensure that, if they are buying a property that may be the product of an amalgamation, it has received the appropriate planning consents.
Situated between the east London technology hub around Old Street and the City, the Stage development offers the best of both worlds – combining the cool of Shoreditch with proximity to London’s financial centre, and with appeal to two rental markets as a consequence.
An apartment in this brand new development proved perfect for our client, an Indian buyer seeking a buy-to-let investment in PCL for under £1 million. Our connections got us in on the ground floor: we had access to the development before it was marketed to the general public, allowing us to negotiate a favourable discount, securing a one-bed unit for £787,500.
At Black Brick, we pride ourselves on speed of execution – but, when property purchases don’t go to plan, we can be relied upon to stay in for the long haul. Here, our clients were trading up to a bigger family home, and we found them the perfect four-bed house in Hampstead, an area they had assumed to be out of their budget, for a great price of £2 million (£1,010 per sq ft).
The offer was accepted in October last year: but numerous problems up and down the chain meant it took another six months to exchange contracts. The whole process required huge amounts of management, encouragement and patience – but we put in the hard yards so our client didn’t have to.
We are pleased to report that Black Brick has been recognised as one of ePrivateclient’s Top 25 Residential Property Buyers for 2016. Each year, the leading website and news service for private clients practitioners identifies the leading buyers acquiring prestigious residential property for high net worth and ultra high net worth clients. We are delighted to receive this accolade, which reflects our commitment to our clients and our determination to serve them regardless of market conditions.
In addition to the services we offer property buyers, we periodically act for clients selling properties. This month we have one new prime London property on our books:
Hans Road, Knightsbridge SW1X With direct views over Harrods this 3rd and 4th floor maisonette has three double bedrooms and air conditioning in all the principal rooms. The building benefits from a lift and caretaker. The gross internal area is 1130 sq ft (105 sq m) and at £2.495m offers exceptional value for such an incredible location.
For more details, to arrange a viewing or to see what else we are currently selling please contact Caspar Harvard Walls firstname.lastname@example.org or call +447827277741.