NW 2015: Improving investment sentiment
To the question 'what have you been up to?' the normal investment agent response at the moment is 'keeping my head down', says Dan Crossley, investment partner at WHR Property Consultants.
This is an interesting response as it suggests that they are very busy at work – 'head down' is due to positive workload rather than despondency at work.
What a turnaround in 12 months. It was a little over a year ago when we had patchy investor demand, limited available stock and the confidence-ometer read 'confused'. Now with only a handful of working days until the property factory shuts down for Christmas you can still see many of its workers beavering away trying to finish things off.
The question is 'where do we go from here?' This is a difficult question to answer as, what recent history has proved is, nobody quite knows.
After the threat of interest rate rises earlier in the year we are about to start 2015 with no immediate threat of that happening and a potential no-man's-land that you often get pre-election. Although we are unlikely to see the same open concern or opinion that we experienced from investors stalling deals prior to the referendum in Scotland, in the run-up to May we will see the property market as a whole voice their various opinions on what is good and bad for the commercial market in particular.
The recent trading figures coming out of 2014 are very positive for the prime in all sectors, with a good example being Manchester city centre offices breaking below 5% yield – something that has not happened since early 2007. General market sentiment is that we are now working in a stabilised property market which has righted itself at an amazing pace accompanied by some "fizz", but this is expected to settle in the new year and ultimately continue on a more sensible level going forward.
Finally, we have seen the return of debt to the market with more providers coming in or returning. However, that has yet to filter down to some of the bread-and-butter smaller transactions that remain important for the market as a whole. There are signs that, as competition increases, we will start to see lenders actively seeking to take more of the smaller end of the market. This will be great news for those who have not been able to refinance and will be welcomed if it arrives but it hasn't landed quite just yet.
In a nutshell we are predicting strong, continued activity in the first few months of the New Year but not necessarily at the feverish levels that we experienced in 2014.