Pandemic drives rise in commercial to residential conversions, presenting new opportunities for investors

Pandemic drives rise in commercial to residential conversions, presenting new opportunities for investors

United Kingdom
  • Fabrik Invest highlights significant shift from new builds to conversions
  • Lower prices, higher yields and faster income all driving the change
  • Location winning out over facilities in terms of investor priorities

Property investment firm Fabrik Invest has reported a shift in developers’ and property investors’ priorities, driven directly by the pandemic. Managing Director Dale Anderson comments:

“We’re seeing much more emphasis – from both the developers and the investors that we work with, and particularly over the past six months – on commercial to residential conversions. This is marking a significant and sustained swing away from new builds, as lower risk, more economical projects appeal more in the pandemic era.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

It’s cheaper to convert an existing building than to build one from scratch. This means that savings can be passed on to the investor, resulting in a better purchase price per square foot than new build homes. They can also be passed on to the tenant, with lower rents meaning the building is faster to fill.

Given Covid’s impact on the economy, lower rents are certainly appealing to many tenants right now. Rent arrears protection service Only My Share reported last month that it had seen a 300% rise in claims during the pandemic, as tenants struggle financially. From a development perspective, this emphasises the need to focus on lowering costs where possible.

The other major factor behind the rise in commercial to residential conversions, according to Fabrik Invest, is the speed at which the work can take place.

“New builds can take two to three years to complete, whereas a conversion can be finished in just three to six months. That’s a huge difference for developers in terms of risk, as well as cost. It’s also extremely appealing for investors looking to receive income as quickly as possible.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Off-market apartments at Albion Place, in Manchester city centre, is one such example. Newly launched to the market this month, the first phase of homes are due to complete before the end of the year, providing investors with much faster returns than a new build ever could. Available from £140,000, the one- and two-bedroom apartments are also competitively priced – again, due to being a conversion, rather than a new build.

Commercial conversions also tend to deliver maximum benefit in terms of location. Albion Place, for example, sits in an enviable position between Spinningfields and MediaCityUK, just 850m from Salford Crescent station. According to Fabrik Invest, this is another plus point for investors.

“The pandemic has led investors to focus on location over and above amenities. This comes back to price, again. Cinemas, pools and gyms are all very nice, but they also eat into yields significantly by driving up service charges. In a price-conscious era, the right location – with a price-tag that can attract tenants fast – is proving far more appealing than on-site facilities and services.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Over 60,000 homes have been created using permitted development rights over the past four years, according to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. With demand increasingly favouring commercial to residential conversions as a result of the pandemic, it will be interesting to see how many more are created over the next four years.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Is buy-to-let under threat in 2021?

Is buy-to-let under threat in 2021?

United Kingdom
  • “Taxes pose the greatest threat to buy-to-let investment” (Fabrik Invest)
  • Record 228,743 buy-to-let companies up and running
  • Around 2,000 buy-to-let mortgage products now available

The UK housing market has, thus far, weathered the COVID storm remarkably well. The Stamp Duty holiday led to an unexpectedly busy 2020, with provisional data from HMRC showing that 121,640 sales went through in January. That’s an increase of 24% year-on-year.

Plenty of families used the holiday to upgrade their home, with space becoming a highly prized commodity as a result of the pandemic. But what about landlords? An increasingly punitive approach to taxation over the past few years has seen the addition of a 3% Stamp Duty surcharge for those buying a second (or subsequent) home, along with a significant reduction in the amount of mortgage interest that landlords can offset against their profits.

Will the impact of this spell danger for the buy-to-let market in 2021? Far from it, according to Dale Anderson, Managing Director of Fabrik Invest.

“Taxes certainly pose the greatest threat to buy-to-let investment in 2021, particularly as government debt has spiralled due to Covid. The Chancellor will be looking at all angles when it comes to rebalancing the books. However, interest in buy-to-let properties in the UK continues to be strong. We still have a major shortage of housing in many areas of the country, along with a growing gap between salaries and property prices. All of this continues to create plenty of demand for rental properties.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

The increasingly availability of mortgage products certainly seems to back up the case for interest remaining strong. There are now approximately 2,000 buy-to-let mortgage products available, based on figures from Moneyfacts. That’s a rise of over 500 products since May 2020. Not only that, but lenders are increasingly dropping their requirements when it comes to deposit size. Back in May just 19 buy-to-let mortgages were available to investors with a 20% deposit. That number now stands at 100.

When it comes to taxes, buy-to-let investors are increasingly turning to holding companies in order to make a saving. Investing through limited company is, in many cases, significantly more tax efficient than buying property as an individual. As a result, a record 228,743 buy-to-let companies are now up and running, following a record number being formed in 2020.

“Investors are increasingly using companies to hold their properties, as the savings can run into the thousands for each home that they own. We saw a record number of buy-to-let holding companies formed as a result of this in 2020 and there’s every reason to believe that the same will occur in 2021, as more and more investors seek the most tax efficient setup possible.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Taxation aside, there is one further threat that Fabrik Invest has identified for 2021: the oversupply of rental properties in certain cities, or in particular areas of certain cities.

“Investors really need to do their homework and perhaps focus more heavily on tertiary cities this year. We expect to see smaller cities such as Preston out-performing some of the bigger hitters in 2021, in terms of both capital growth and yields.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

This is why Fabrik Invest is focusing on developments such as Bishopgate Gardens right now. Centred around an impressive plaza, the 130 homes and seven retail units are raising the bar for Preston’s rental market. Two show-stopping rooftop gardens, a coffee pod café, an extensive lounge area and a stylish work-from-home space will set new standards for the city’s renters. As a result, investors have been flocking to the scheme, which now has just 14 homes left for sale.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Fabrik Invest reveals property investors’ top concerns as they navigate Covid and Brexit

Fabrik Invest reveals property investors’ top concerns as they navigate Covid and Brexit

United Kingdom
  • Post-pandemic market projections occupying investors’ minds
  • Big wins for tertiary cities already beginning to play out
  • Local migration patterns and employment fluctuations being carefully monitored

Property investment agency Fabrik Invest has shared insights into the top concerns that property investors are expressing as they navigate the dual complexities of the pandemic and Brexit. The company works with investors from more than 20 countries and has been monitoring their top property-related concerns for the past year.

“The impact of the pandemic on the UK property market is, naturally, top of investors’ minds right now. They are even more keen than usual to see the latest data on price movements both nationally and locally. There’s also a lot of interest in what’s next for the market – what’s the landscape going to look like in the future, post-Brexit and post-Covid?”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

The stamp duty holiday – now extended to the end of June – has done much to not just keep the property market moving over the past year but to accelerate transactions significantly. Prices have risen as a result, with Nationwide’s February house price index showing annual growth of 6.9%.

Of course, the question on property investors’ minds is whether or not a crash is on the cards. Yet key industry analysts think not. Savills is projecting 4% growth in prices in 2021, followed by 5% in 2022. In fact, in the five years to 2025, the firm is anticipating price growth to total 21.1% across the UK, led by growth of 28.8% in the North West. The figures reflect the measures in the spring Budget, including the introduction of a government guarantee on 95% loan-to-value mortgages. The scheme is set to provide further stimulus for the housing market.

The fact that the Office for Budgetary Responsibility now expects, “a return to pre-Covid levels by the middle of next year, six months earlier than first thought,” according to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, is further good news for investors’ looking at the UK property market’s potential for growing their capital.

Quantitative easing and the recently announced Corporation Tax hikes will also play into the UK’s overall economic picture over the coming months and years, as will migration patterns driven by the pandemic and by local fluctuations in employment levels.

“I expect a short-term dip in prices in certain parts of the country – specifically the prime London and Manchester city centre markets. We’re likely to see homeowners and investors looking for better value outside of these areas instead. Third tier cities should make for the most attractive prospects.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Preston, in Lancashire, is one such example. With a rapidly growing population and £434 million worth of investment schemes underway, plus a further £19.9 million from the Towns Fund announced in the spring Budget, the city has plenty going for it.

The fact that Bishopgate Gardens, a 130-home residential scheme in Preston, is seeing a surge in interest right now speaks to the appeal of tertiary cities in property investors’ eyes. With shared social spaces including a stylish lounge area, a coffee pod café, show-stopping rooftop gardens and a shared working space, plus seven ground-floor retail units, the development offers a lifestyle experience designed to level up choices for Preston’s renters – and for its investors.

“What we’ve also heard over the past year is investors’ need for significant reassurance over the online nature of their transactions. This has been a direct result of the pandemic. Investors want to know how they can be sure they’re making the right decisions when everything is done virtually.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Fabrik Invest has fared well in this respect. The firm’s knowledge-based approach has seen it partner with leading financial and mortgage advisors as it works to provide investors with an honest approach to their investment options. That means not only providing deeply researched information on each investment location, but also being upfront about the risks associated with off-plan investment. The company’s consultants, all of whom have a minimum of a decade’s experience in the sector, host personal strategy meetings online, working to understand each investor’s goals at an individual level. 

It’s an approach that clients have found reassuring in the face of the adversity created by the pandemic – and by Brexit too. It means that, while the market is changing in terms of localised demand, property investors are still keen to be a part of the UK’s economic future. They’re just keen to know which cities will provide the best returns and the best potential for capital growth – so while the questions at the top of their minds have changed, their fundamental needs remain the same.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Balancing commercial and residential developments is key to keeping town centres alive post-pandemic

Balancing commercial and residential developments is key to keeping town centres alive post-pandemic

United Kingdom
  • Just 29% of high street addresses are retailers (Office for National Statistics)
  • 1 in 12 shops closed in 5 years to 2018 (Ordnance Survey)
  • Blending retail units with new homes is key to city centre survival (Fabrik Invest)

Property investment specialists Fabrik Invest have spoken out about the importance of balancing residential development in city centres with commercial premises in the post-pandemic world. City centres have been hit incredibly hard not only by successive lockdowns but also by the reduced footfall resulting from a far higher incidence of home working throughout the pandemic. According to Fabrik Invest, this puts an onus on developers and investors to take an active role in keeping urban centres alive.

“Our town and city centres were already struggling when the pandemic struck, with one in 12 shops closing in the five years to 2018. Yet town centres do so much to help communities connect. That’s something that has become infinitely more valuable as a result of the prolonged isolation of the pandemic. Developers have plenty of scope to help nurture our towns’ and cities’ growth and this needs to be a key focus moving forward.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

By March 2020, just 29% of high street addresses were retailers. Squeezed salaries and the shift to online shopping have been two of the key reasons behind this, both of which have been significantly exacerbated by the pandemic. The closure of offices and the shift to students studying online has intensified the problem, due to the huge drop in the number of those passing through town and city centres. For retail units, footfall is everything

People’s changing preferences have also had an impact on town centres in recent years. While the pandemic has served to push people towards country living, that followed a boom in demand for city centre homes, which is likely to pick up once more as the vaccine roll-out continues and we look forward to a post-pandemic return to relatively normal life.

“People increasingly want everything on their doorsteps – to live within walking distance of excellent restaurants, a selection of shops and the best leisure facilities available. The relaxation of planning laws meant that many old office spaces could be converted into residential buildings, but we need to balance that with keeping commercial premises in urban centres too, as those are a key part of the reason that people want to live centrally.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

The planning law relaxation allowed people with B1 office space to convert it into residential accommodation without the need for a full planning application, provided they stuck to national framework guidelines. The move led to a lot of unused office space being turned into homes and continues to do so to this day. Fabrik Invest regularly offers such developments for investment.

Bishopgate Gardens in Preston is a prime example of this. The office block, which had stood vacant since early 2019, is being converted into 130 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, with shared social spaces including a stylish lounge area, coffee pod café, shared working space, reception area with 24/7 concierge and show-stopping rooftop gardens on the eighth and eleventh floors.

Bishopgate Gardens will also be home to seven retail units on the ground floor, including a deli, barbers, beauticians and florist. Budding entrepreneurs to take over the high-spec shops, which face onto the development’s impressive plaza, are currently being sought.

“With commercial to residential conversions, there’s often plenty of scope for developers to provide retail space on the ground floor. This will be key to the long-term survival of our town and city centres as places where individuals can connect with local businesses and with the wider community. In the post-pandemic era, this will be more important than ever in keeping the commercial heart of our cities alive.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Pandemic drives changes in landlord behaviour/buying patterns

Pandemic drives changes in landlord behaviour/buying patterns

United Kingdom
  • Investors increasingly seeking additional bedrooms and on-site co-working spaces
  • Outdoor space to remain at a premium over the longer term
  • City homes in particular being scrutinised by landlords looking for ideal amenities

Property investment company Fabrik Invest is reporting longer-term changes in landlord behaviour and requirements, as the continuing impact of the pandemic is felt across the UK’s private rented sector.

“There’s still plenty of interest from investors looking to become landlords. Indeed, the Bank of England putting banks on notice to prepare for negative interest rates in the next six months is doing much to fuel a shift of liquid assets into bricks and mortar. Many of our investors are already moving to do this. What’s interesting is the sustained shift in the types of property that they are seeking.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

This shift in demand has put a spotlight on properties such as Bishopgate Gardens in Preston. Priced from £120,000 and due for completion in September this year, Bishopgate Gardens’ 130 apartments have been designed to deliver an exceptional living experience. Residents of the one, two and three-bedroom homes will have access to a shared working space (‘The Common’) and on-site coffee pod café, as well as a stylish lounge area and reception with 24/7 concierge. The show-stopping rooftop gardens on the eighth and eleventh floors, meanwhile, more than tick the oh-so-important outdoor space box.

It is the shared working space, as well as the outdoor areas, which Fabrik Invest has found that investors are increasingly focused on. Home-based working has flourished of necessity during the pandemic, but over the longer term it will continue out of choice for many.

“The increase in home working is driving interest in on-site co-working spaces like never before and it’s not stopping there. Many investors are now looking to put their cash into properties with an additional bedroom that can be used as an office. Landlords are adapting their behaviours and approach to the new normal.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

It is city centre homes in particular that landlords are scrutinising through a new Covid-lens. People aren’t using city centres in the same way they used to. Many behaviours are expected to return to normal as the vaccine rollout reaches the masses. However, the fact that Covid-19 may well move from pandemic to endemic in the human population means that some changes will be for good. This means, according to the Fabrik Invest team’s experience, that landlords are hedging their bets by investing in homes with on-site facilities that make localized living easy. In Preston, Bishopgate Gardens’ seven ground floor retail units are a case in point, with residents enjoying easy access to a barber, hair salon, beauty shop and grocery store, among others.

Location-wise, it’s all eyes on the North West. Savills’ latest mainstream residential market forecast pegs the North West as leading the UK for house price growth over the next five years, projecting growth of 27.3% for the region (compared to 20.4% for the UK as a whole). This is already unfolding, looking at recent figures. Zoopla’s latest House Price Index shows that the highest house price growth since April 2017 is being led by northern cities, with Liverpool house prices climbing by 6.3% over the past year, followed by those in Manchester at 6%. But that’s not to say that landlords are looking in precisely the same locations within these cities that they were pre-pandemic, according to Fabrik Invest.

“In big cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester, we are seeing investors looking at areas further out, such as the home counties and commuter belt towns for London. Kent is a good example of this – it has the good transport connections for those who need to commute into London, as well as plentiful green space and more affordable prices than the capital. In Manchester, it is Salford Quays that is turning heads. Tenant demand is strong there and investors are racing to meet that demand.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

As 2021 unfolds, all eyes will be on the UK housing market to see what happens after the stamp duty holiday ends. Ultimately, though, the country has a sustained imbalance between its supply of rental homes and the demand for those homes. With the prospect of negative interest rates also coming into play, demand from investors doesn’t look to be dropping off any time soon.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Buy-to-let 2021 – what will Covid and Brexit mean for the market?

Buy-to-let 2021 – what will Covid and Brexit mean for the market?

United Kingdom
  • Fabrik Invest looks at the likely effect of Covid and Brexit on the buy-to-let market
  • 41,700 buy-to-let companies set up in 2020 (Hamptons)
  • Bank of England looking into potential of history-making negative interest rate

2021 is shaping up to be a big year of the UK buy-to-let sector. Huge, in fact. Hamptons has just reported a record number of new limited companies incorporated in 2020 with the specific purpose of holding buy-to-let properties. 41,700 such companies were incorporated in 2020, meaning that the number of them has doubled since 2016, when the government began ramping up the tax burden faced by buy-to-let investors.

So, will Covid and Brexit combine to finally dent interest in UK buy-to-let investments, when even the prospect of paying more tax hasn’t deterred investors? Unlikely, says Dale Anderson, Managing Director of Fabrik Invest.

“The UK remains a promising and active market for fully managed buy-to-let properties. The country has a fundamental lack of supply and that’s unlikely to change; we simply can’t build homes fast enough. For overseas investors, Brexit actually presents potential for savings, as currency exchange rates fluctuate. Add to that the fact that Covid is bringing about opportunities such as discounted deals and suddenly 2021 is shaping up to be a huge year for the buy-to-let sector.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Fabrik Invest flags up buyers from the Middle East, Hong Kong and South Africa in particular when it comes to key investor demographics overseas this year. The company also points to the impact of interest rates and fiscal policy on the 2021 buy-to-let sector.

At present, interest rates remain at the historic low of 0.1%. Not only that, but the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has been openly looking at the potential impact of a negative rate since June 2020. Such a move would be the first time in history that the UK has had a negative interest rate and would be excellent news for borrowers. Even without a further reduction, the current low makes mortgage borrowing in 2021 an attractive prospect.

“With borrowing rates at a record low, now is an excellent time to invest in property. The government is printing another £150 billion due to the pandemic – a move that will catch up with it eventually. It carries with it the potential for the currency to devalue and inflation to rise, meaning that tangible assets such as bricks and mortar carry an even more reassuring degree of safety than usual.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

So, where will investors be focusing during 2021? On regional markets mainly, based on Fabrik Invest’s insights. Michigan Towers, in the heart of the MediaCityUK site in Salford Quays, Manchester, epitomises this regional trend. The contemporary homes have been designed to suit working professionals who want everything on their doorstep, while benefitting from high quality interiors and impressive views.

Covid will come into play in this respect, as demand for apartments with communal gardens, rooftop terraces and innovative home-working spaces continues to increase.

“We saw a push towards a more rural way of life as the pandemic took the nation in its grip in 2020. However, mass vaccinations over the course of 2021 are likely to drive a resurgence of confidence in the urban lifestyle, with people finally able to enjoy the UK’s cities to the full once more. This is why so many or our investors are seeking apartments right now, rather than lower-yielding houses. It’s yet another factor that is underpinning the success of the buy-to-let market in 2021.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikpropertygroup.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Fabrik Invest reveals top 2021 UK buy-to-let hotspots

Fabrik Invest reveals top 2021 UK buy-to-let hotspots

United Kingdom
  • Up-and-coming cities rubbing shoulders with established hotspots
  • Ideal investment opportunities flagged up in five key locations
  • Manchester crowned as top investment destination for 2021

The UK’s buy-to-let market could be in for a bumper year in 2021, according to property investment company Fabrik Invest. The news comes as the 2019-20 English Housing Survey confirms that the private rented sector continues to house 19% of England’s households – some 4.4 million households.

Fabrik Invest has begun 2021 by revealing its top buy-to-let hotspots for the year ahead, while sharing projections on the shape of the market over the course of the year.  

“The Stamp Duty deadline, Brexit and COVID are going to create some interesting conditions for the UK’s property investment market in 2021. Underpinning all of these is the country’s continued shortfall of housing supply, which creates an inviting marketplace for investors looking to pick up rental properties this year.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

The rush to beat the 31 March Stamp Duty deadline has seen buyers in all areas of the market racing to complete. While a drop off in transactions is inevitable following the end of the holiday, the UK’s fundamental shortage of homes means that the buy-to-let market will remain buoyant, according to Fabrik Invest.

Not only that, but currency fluctuations resulting from Brexit could result in some significant overseas interest in UK property investment as the year unfolds.

“If the pound falls as a result of the UK parting ways with the EU, we’re likely to see a surge in investment from overseas buyers looking to take advantage of suddenly being able to get more for their money. The UK remains a preferred investment destination for buyers from a wide range of other countries, many of whom will be keeping a close watch on exchange rates throughout 2021.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Having reviewed a wide range of market factors, the Fabrik Invest team has identified five key locations that should be on savvy investors’ radars in 2021. Manchester tops the table as a result of its rapidly rising property prices and rents and strong long-term prospects. The huge MediaCityUK development makes Salford Quays the area to watch.

Regeneration schemes are also at the heart of the city of Preston’s appeal. The Preston City Deal is overseeing the investment of £434 million into local transport infrastructure and public realm, while major regeneration is also underway in the Harris Quarter, Stoneygate and Preston’s new urban park. Ideally positioned to benefit from the works taking place next to it, Bishopgate Gardens is a luxury development of 130 apartments in Preston city centre. The one, two and three-bedroom homes come with exceptional communal spaces, while ground-floor retail units add neighbourhood appeal. It is this kind of flagship development, which serves to offer a new standard of living in the city, that Fabrik Invest believes will be at the forefront of investors’ minds in 2021.

Another top location to watch is York – a firm favourite with everyone from investors to owner occupiers seeking out a city with charm. The Yorkshire and the Humber region is projected to outperform the UK average for house price rises over the coming five years, while the city’s tourism sector also comes into play.

“Investors looking for a more flexible buy-to-let investment have some interesting options open to them in 2021. In York, for example, apartments at Icona can serve not only as long-term rental investments but also as Airbnb/short-term lets. This provides investors with a welcome degree of choice in order to respond to shifting market conditions.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

Birmingham is another destination that warrants keen attention, thanks to its shortfall of over 30,000 homes by 2031. In particular, the city’s most fashionable location – the Jewellery Quarter – will deliver some exciting investment opportunities this year.

Fabrik Invest’s final 2021 buy-to-let investment hotspot is Chatham. This kind of London commuter belt location serves the COVID-spawned desire for more space both inside and out, at prices that are significantly more affordable than those in the capital (both for investors and renters). Substantial local regeneration, swift train journeys into central London and a rapidly growing population combine to make this a must-watch hotspot in 2021.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikpropertygroup.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com