Raj Deb, CEO and founder of Seed Property Consultants explores current industry trends and shares his thoughts on the main considerations for property investors and what the housing sector will look like in ten years time.
The UK is currently in the depths of a housing crisis, yet the opportunities abound for the smart investor. Significant population growth generated by increasing birth rates, immigration, low wages, lack of government investment, limited space and most recently Brexit, have all had a part to play. However, despite the current picture, house prices are still anticipated to rise, albeit at a slightly lower rate due to Brexit.
As obvious as it may sound, the key factors currently faced by the property sector can typically be split into two main categories: (1) more immediate and (2) longer term.
Key industry considerations: In the current climate
+ Lack of available space
Green belt policies, local pressure groups and environmental issues often prevent land from being developed where it’s most needed, this leads to a squeezing of opportunity for housing developments.
+ Population trends
More people with the same space! Increasing population size is only adding to the problem. Population is impacted by a number of factors. Birth/death rates and improved medical science has resulted in more births and longer life spans. Immigration is a sub-set, not only are adult numbers increasing, but the emergence of affluence and safe havens has also meant births are increasing too.
+ Housing shortage
Research shows that the UK needs a minimum of 240,000 homes built per year in order to meet demand. In 2014, less than 120,000 properties were built and lack of investment by successive governments has made the problem worse. Another more recent social factor is the rise of more single occupancy households. Remaining single for longer is at one end of the spectrum while divorced singletons are at the other. This has resulted in occupancy density levels and numbers of available dwellings decreasing.
+ Low wages
Since 2008, when the most recent recession hit, wages have remained low, even decreasing for the vast majority of workers. The lack of disposable income has meant the practice of getting a mortgage is not as popular as it once was. In fact, what we are now seeing, is a move away from Thatcherism’s ‘buy your own house’ edict towards the more European ‘rent first and buy later in life’ outlook.
+ Brexit ripple effect
The shock waves from this unexpected political bombshell are still reverberating and with talk of the process of leaving the EU not starting until 2019, this remains a relative unknown. However, in or out of the EU, Britain still undoubtedly remains an attractive country in which to live.
Key industry considerations: For the next decade
+ Green belt land and laws
As space runs out, it’s hardly surprising to hear there are calls on all sides for current green belt principles to be re-evaluated. Some want stronger protections to help meet the challenges of climate change and food security. While others question how areas of the green belt, without public access and/or high environmental value, can continue to justify protection.
In the next ten years, it’s highly likely we’ll see a relaxation in laws and an overall reduction in green belt land, which will increase the amount of land available for development. However, rather than simply filling the space with large individual houses with significant gardens (like those built during the 1940s to 70s), we’ll see an influx of new-builds comprising multi-occupancy flat blocks and smaller proportioned houses.
+ Housing shortage
As we said, population is seeing a growth spike and to expect it to stop rising would be a pipe dream. At best, it may slow a little, but as ever, the trend is upwards. Despite government promises, the current housing shortage will continue, as supply can’t keep up with demand. In turn, we can expect to see increased development and extensions of existing homes to cater for the ‘live with mum and dad’ 20 to 30-somethings, who simply can’t afford to move out.
+ Renting v buying
Wages not keeping pace with inflation has brought about an increasing new trend – to rent. The ‘Help to Buy scheme’ has benefitted some, but not the majority due to rising house prices quickly exceeding loan limits.
The trend of the decade
Over the next ten years, there will be more renters and less owners as house prices become out of reach of many average-earning families. As rented properties prove more popular, rents will rise significantly to be near (but not exceed) mortgage costs.
Furthermore, average occupancy will change to either single person or more than four – and not exclusively family. Low high rises of 3-4 floors will become the norm and off street parking will attract a premium. Proximity to public transport and other facilities will also increase in importance as the UK’s roads become more and more congested.
So, what does this mean to property investors?
Property investment opportunities will boom for the smart investor. But they’ll be a drastic change in the nature of property and investors will look more closely at the development/extension potential of existing properties as opposed to new builds.
As the baby boomer age group look for more of a return on their investment, competition for property will increase and as prices increase, there’ll be a consolidation of property investment companies. The number of high net worth individuals seeking professional advice and joint ventures, such as crowd funding has dramatically increased over the past five years, will also rise as the cost of purchase starts to exceed personal limits.
All of this change will bring with it the question for formal regulation because as with all profitable enterprises, there’ll be some who’ll undoubtedly try to take advantage.
The types of property that are built will also change. Second bathrooms will become essential for family homes, as will parking. Gardens will shrink, if they exist at all, and rooms and furniture will all be scaled down in size.
As demand continues to grow, property investors are better placed to profit than many other forms of investment and without the high risk associated with stock markets. However, competition for property will increase because of interest rates falling through the floor and more savers seeing investing in property as a more reliable way to get a better return from their savings.
The ‘bargains’ of ten years ago will be harder to come by, but they will still be possible to find especially if you seek advice from specialist property consultants.
Yes, there may still be plenty more changes coming our way, but there is light at the end of the tunnel!
By Raj Deb, CEO and founder of Seed Property Consultants.
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