Space date 2020: welcome to the future

February 3, 2020

Richard Garland, partner at George F. White, reflects on changes to the regional property market

According to the ONS life expectancy calculator, there is a very good chance that, statistically, my children’s generation will still be around in the year 2100.

This got me thinking of my childhood where I used to believe that life in the year 2000 would mean flying cars and domestic chores done by robots.

The reality, of course, is that we are now 20 years beyond the millennium and despite being a ‘space date’, life in 2020 does feel remarkably similar to an observer from 40 years ago.

That said, events towards the end of the last decade did precipitate some market changes to the point where they are now a reality for our region, our business and our clients.

Commercial property wise, we have seen an uneven trend to the flow of high street bank valuations during the Brexit epoch. There is a significant amount of alternative investment being placed, including joint ventures and use of private equity, to deliver some great projects across the region.

We are also starting to see some output from the strategic planning and investment by the combined authorities and mayoral posts. At GFW, our commercial property team have recently been appointed as property managers for the commercial property at Teesside International Airport, under the progressive alliance between the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Stobart Group, one of a number of exciting initiatives driving commercial development and job creation in the North East.

The development land market has proved stable and we saw a number of completions of significant residential development sites over the past year. At GFW, we secured planning consent and sold the land for 200 units at Killingworth to Avant Homes, as well as completions to Bellway and Barratt Homes. We are also seeing housing associations being an increasingly active contributor in the market.

On the planning front, GFW is helping a number of clients get ready for future Local Plan reviews. The timing of reviews is interesting, with three combined authorities now on-line and with ambitious growth plans. Our combined offering of planning and valuation expertise, alongside market knowledge and experience of setting up delivery partnerships is in strong demand to demonstrate deliverability.

Meanwhile, regional house-builders and self– build plots are still an essential feature in the North East market. Figures from the Federation of Master Builders’ House Builders’ 2019 Survey indicated that over 30 per cent of SME builders still report availability of finance as a significant constraint. On the back of confidence instability of North East markets (and with markets in the South suffering) and low-interest rates, we are seeing successful private investment models and specialist funding starting to scale up to larger sites.

Within our Northumberland estate agency team, we’ve seen sales prime locations selling very strongly and performance grow 20 per cent year-on-year. Quality property continues to be a strong draw for re-investment of North East business wealth.

We recognise that technology is changing the way we interact with each other and our clients and, as a business, GFW continue to adapt and respond to opportunities, using technology to build on personal relationships, rather than replace them.

While we may be living in ‘the future’, we know that business is still done through face-to-face meetings and with a cup of coffee. And even if we don’t yet have a robot to wash the cup, the same will apply in 2100.

George F. White

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