Property firms highlight key trends for 2021

The rise of home working, demand for industrial space and the resilience of the residential market are some of the key factors for 2021 according to Yorkshire property businesses.

Max Reeves, development director at York-based property investment and development specialist Helmsley Group, said 2020 had emphasised the importance of working collaboratively and supporting tenants.

“202 1will bring more changes. One of the most interesting and important for us being the way in which the public use city centres. We hope to see a fundamental change to the regressive business rates that have contributed to the decline of the high street in recent years.

“This reform could be one of the key factors aiding the high street’s resurgence as, due to the rise in people shopping locally during the pandemic, we are expecting to see the growth of specialist, independent businesses coming to the fore and filling some of the holes left by the chain stores.

“However, this can only happen in those cities which can adapt and in themselves become an attraction to draw people in. Old-fashioned landlord and tenant relationships are dwindling, as all parties recognise need to work together for the good of the city centre.

“We also expect to see the underused upper floors of commercial units being utilised for residential development, as commercial property ownership moves out of the hands of remote London funds, to local investors who are more able to capitalise on the opportunities offered by this valuable, but underused space. The high street will remain a staple of our towns and cities but not in the way that we know it.”

Richard Heslop, managing director of West Yorkshire property consultancy DE Commercial, said the commercial property market would be dominated by Brexit and Covid-19 in 2021.

“The uncertainty caused by both will take us into uncharted territory not seen since the financial crisis of 2007/8.,” he said. “How the government and the country deals with these will define the market in 2021.

“However, uncertainty often brings opportunities. Let’s take offices. The second half of 2020 was dominated by talk of the effects of the virus on the office sector. Financial institutions were gearing up to have the majority of employees working from home and there were real fears that there would be swathes of empty office buildings across town centres in 2021 and beyond.

“Fortunately the discussion has moved on, as both corporates and SMEs consider the impact of home working, including the psychological impact of working alone, the lack of interaction and the lack of creativity.

“The result is that we will see some additional vacant office space and the resultant dampening of rental growth, but there will be a desire to retain the ‘office environment’ with more attention being paid to the welfare of employees.”

Edward Marshall, director at Bradford-based Frank Marshall Estates, highlighted the strength of the industrial property market.

He said: “2020 has been a difficult year for many sectors in Yorkshire but industrial property has, on the whole been, in a great position and has bucked the trend. Rents have increased and occupancy is at an all-time high. We see 2021 as being a challenge for occupiers, who will find it increasingly difficult to find the space they need in the smaller size ranges below 10,000 sq ft and even more acutely in the sub-5,000 sq ft range. This is because as there are fewer developers operating in this sector and sites are difficult to obtain at a price that makes small unit developments viable.

“On this basis we see business going well for us as one of the major small unit operators in the Yorkshire region next year. In this context, we have formed the successful Nano Park Company which specifically targets this sector, building prime workshop and office space in small units across the region. This exciting model, which is full of potential, provides an ideal base for small and fledgling companies and satellite operations for larger firms. We will be rolling out this concept across the county in 2021.”

Paul Brown, director of Easingwold-based Caedmon Homes, said the Yorkshire residential market was set to remain “resilient” in 2021.

He said: “Hotspots will include York, with such quick access to London by train; the villages around Boroughbridge, with the A1 so close; and East Coast resorts like Whitby, which was named as the most sought-after seaside town in the UK by Rightmove earlier this year. The market will be stimulated by a seismic change in working patterns, a permanent legacy of Covid, with people searching for more space so that working from home can be a joy rather than a nightmare.

“As the economy recovers towards the end of next year, I expect northern regions to continue to see the greatest price growth, further closing the gap with those in the south. In particular, North Yorkshire has so much to offer, from its historic cities, to the glorious Moors and Dales to its majestic coastline, and this will be reflected in the county’s house prices. The economic future may seem pretty grim right now, but, fast forward a year, and I’m hopeful that many of our worst fears won’t have been realised.”

Ben Hudson, managing director at Hudson Moody Estate Agents in York, said that, in many respects, the property market had “defied gravity” in 2020.

“This has partially been as a result of the pent up demand caused by Brexit last year and also people now working from home and wanting larger houses and gardens,” he said. “As we move into 2021, I suspect we will see a more normal market. What has not gone away is people’s wish to move and that York is one of the areas in the country that they wish to move to. I therefore suspect that although we will not quite see such a frenetic market as in the second half of 2020, the market will remain buoyant and York will still be a desirable location to move to.”

Tom Snook, managing director of Harrogate-based property valuations and disposals firm Pantera Property, said: “It’s been an incredibly difficult year for us in 2020, as it has for so many businesses. We have had peaks and troughs due to not being able to attend sites we have been appointed to work on because of lockdown, along with continual changes to the government’s Covid guidelines. But at the same time though, Pantera has never been busier than in the last four to six months of 2020 and we’re looking forward to taking that momentum into 2021.

“I’m predicting plenty of opportunities within the property market in 2021, with variable factors such as the government’s furlough and coronavirus business interruption loan schemes set to have an impact on both the property market and wider economy.”

Richard Conroy, chief executive at Conroy Brook, said 2020 had been a productive year despite the impact of Covid-19.

“Our Wood Nook development in Denby Dale saw a surge in interest as soon as we were back on site and it was the same at HighFields, our first site under the revived Ben Bailey brand at Clowne. As we went into autumn we were really pleased to be able to see work start on our next Ben Bailey project, The Halt in Warmsworth.

“We have some very exciting developments coming up in both west and south Yorkshire in 2021 and the hope is that they should get to site without any of the problems we faced in 2020. That said, the construction industry does need to know it can depend on government support as we make our way through some challenging times.

“The current Help to Buy scheme for new properties is coming to an end – funding stops on March 31 and from the start of April only first-time buyers will be able to use the scheme, with the plan ending completely by 2023. At the same time, the Stamp Duty Holiday – which saw the removal of stamp duty on properties up to £500,000 – also reaches its conclusion at the end of March.”

Sarah Charlesworth, group director at The Harris Partnership, stressed the importance of health and wellbeing.

“When I walked past a socially distanced queue for the office showers at lunch this week it solidified what I had been noticing and what, as a business we are going to continue to embrace and support in 2021 – an increase in physical activity to support our mental and physical wellbeing.

“There has been an unprecedented level of lunchtime training in the Wakefield office and, when speaking to colleagues across the business, this is reflective of all offices in Manchester, Milton Keynes, Reading and London. Exercise, fresh air and taking time away from your desk during the day are really important, especially at the moment and is a habit we want to keep as we enter a new, and hopefully more prosperous new year.”

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