It’s All On A City Dweller’s Wish List

BroadbandCity apartments are evolving and as developers prepare to start work on several new residential developments in Leeds city centre that were mothballed during the downturn, we decided to find out what residents want from the next generation of apartment schemes.

We recently surveyed hundreds of our tenants about themselves and their priorities when it comes to looking for their perfect apartment. Almost half, said finding a good-sized, light, airy apartment in a central location are priorities in their property search.  Just over 80% of respondents also said utility costs are an important consideration and 44% said a balcony is a crucial feature.

The research also revealed that 48% of city apartments are car free and only 10% of apartments require parking for two or more cars.  In addition almost 80% of people said having an immediate broadband connection is imperative, 65% want good sound insulation and 56% of people revealed they would pay a premium to live in a building with an on-site gym.

Plus, contrary to popular belief, more than two thirds of respondents don’t think it is important to have an open plan living and kitchen area and less than a fifth are concerned about being part of a community within a development.

Also, for any developers ‘building to rent’ 76% of tenants want furnished properties and 43% of tenants said it is essential to rent from a reputable landlord.  Two thirds of tenants also wanted the option of a longer or shorter tenancy rather than a standard six-month agreement.

Leeds city centre desperately needs new apartments because our figures suggest that out of 11,000 city centre apartments, only about 100 are currently sitting empty.  However, even though demand is outstripping supply, developers still have to give residents what they want and for the next generation of developments features such as energy efficiency, on-site gyms, fast broadband and good sound insulation should all be the norm.

New School Will Help Educate The Property Market In Leeds

school-signNews that a £25m free school in Leeds has been given final approval by Ministers has been widely welcomed and is likely to continue driving regeneration to the south of the city centre. It could also have an interesting effect on the local property market.

One of the main criticisms of City Living in Leeds over the past 20 years or so been the lack of services and provisions for families. The Ruth Gorse Academy, which will open this September, initially on the Morley Academy site, will move into a purpose built home on Black Bull Street in 2016 and will provide further impetus to the South Bank. With 252 new places for year seven children becoming available from 2016 the new free school will no doubt provide food for thought for many families currently living close by, as well as those considering a move to the city centre.

Obviously the creation of the new school will not automatically lead to families flocking into the heart of the city, but it is a start. Leeds city centre has enjoyed a huge amount of investment recently across its retail, leisure and office sectors so an investment on this level in public services is very encouraging. But what effect will the school have on property?

Today there are approximately 11,000 apartments in Leeds city centre which are home to around 14,000 residents, and we estimate that only about 100 of these homes are currently sitting empty which proves just how popular city living is.

The majority of these apartments are still rental properties and from our recent tenant survey, we know that approximately half of people living in the city are aged between 26 and 35 and around 40% between 19 and 25.  Approximately 60% of city apartments are occupied by two people and of these 73% are couples and 23% are housemates sharing a home.  A third of the people surveyed live on their own – so no families!

However, there is a small proportion of pioneering families that have moved into the city, people who are looking for a more European lifestyle, and the creation of The Ruth Gorse Academy will be good news for them.

But, in order for the city’s residential market to appeal to families a seismic change has to occur in the way in which property is developed. When we opened our doors back in 1997 there were only around 500 or so hardy souls living in the city – and now there are 14,000.

To replicate that sort of success and appeal to families who generally want to buy not rent, the right type of homes in the right locations with the right services need to become available. Apartment living isn’t for everyone, but it wouldn’t take too much to adapt what’s currently on offer in order to deliver more family friendly homes, with a greater emphasis on layout and more outside provision.

The problem is there is already a shortage of apartments in the city core – we estimate that the city could comfortably accommodate another 1,000 apartments simply to meet tenant demand – but there are only around 300 in the pipeline over the next two years.  If we can’t even meet this demand how are we going to break the mould and start thinking about creating family-friendly homes in the heart of our vibrant city?

Leeds is making headlines for all the right reasons, attracting major investment and building a reputation as a city of real meaning and the opening of the new school will help further enhance this – hopefully the property market will keep pace and open its eyes to the potential opportunities that building family homes could offer.

Claire Surveys Her New iPad

Jonathan Morgan and Claire KennellyLeeds city centre resident, Claire Kennelly who rents an apartment through Morgans, has won an iPad mini after completing a survey about her priorities when she was searching for the perfect apartment.

Morgans manages Leeds city centre’s largest rental portfolio and recently surveyed hundreds of its tenants to gain a valuable insight into what is important to people when they move into the city centre.

The last 15 years have seen a 14,000 strong community establish itself in Leeds city centre and as the city’s largest residential property firm, we’re always keen to track of how the market is evolving and peoples’ priorities when they are moving into the city centre.

This survey offered a fascinating insight into the market so we were delighted to enter everyone who completed it into a prize draw and present Claire with this iPad.

The survey revealed that approximately half of people living in the city are aged between 26 and 35 and around 40% between 19 and 25.  Approximately 60% of city apartments are occupied by two people and of these 73% are couples and 23% are housemates sharing a home.  A third of the people surveyed live on their own.

The majority of respondents want to commit to renting an apartment for between six and 12 months even though 49% said they expect to live there for between one and two years with 21% saying they will stay for between two and three years.  Three quarters of people said they want a furnished property and the convenience of living in the city centre also means that only half of the tenants surveyed have a car.

When it came to tenant priorities, 44% said a balcony is essential and half of respondents said a central location is key.  Plus 56% of people said they would pay extra to live in a building with an on-site gym and almost 90% said a good quality kitchen is important.

 

Hospitable Leeds

How we love having the Arena in Leeds-in the last few days, it’s hosted Robbie Williams for 2 nights, Dolly Parton, Eric Clapton, The Tour de France Team Presentation and The Eagles.

Leeds-Arena

During the course of the rest of this year, we will be welcoming, amongst others, Ant and Dec (!), Ed Sheeran, Lee Evans, Il Divo and James Blunt. So where do the stars of the world stage stay when they’re in Leeds? Typically, Manchester, apparently. Robbie made no secret of the fact that he finished show one and headed straight across The Pennines for a rest before making the return journey the next afternoon for show 2. When BBC Sports Personality came to Leeds last December, and put on the most amazing show, there were more celebrities per square foot in the city than ever before. The restaurants and hotels of Leeds must be loving this, I thought, as the VIP seating filled up. Sadly not, but the Lowry in Manchester and the owner of a fleet of limos certainly did.

So, why is it that there is no genuine 5 star hotel in the city centre and why are we so slow to attract Michelin starred chefs? It can’t just be about Premiership Football (Manchester 2, Leeds 0) or the added advantage of the seemingly endless wealth of the club owners. And it’s certainly not to do with size, because Leeds is a much bigger city than Manchester.

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The tour de force

A great city is defined in some ways by its ability to make great things happen- much is said about Manchester’s ability to tear up trees, and the rule book, and to deliver great events and projects. Well, come early July, the eyes of the world will be on Leeds, when the Tour de France comes to town. In typical Northern fashion, and as featured on Look North last week, the dour, practical side of our character has come to the fore and, somehow, we have managed to unearth some negatives around Le Tour and the Grand Departe.

letourUndoubtedly, there will be disruption on the roads and the population will face challenges around local travel and services. For one day.

Maybe this is just ‘Yorkshire’ but I think not- having seen part of stage one around Wensleydale recently, it’s obvious that our rural cousins have completely embraced Le Tour- yellow bikes, bunting and banners abound but I’m not quite sure that us city folk really ‘get it’.

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Who Would Live In A City Like This?

Over the last 15 years Leeds city centre’s residential market has grown phenomenally and, with current estimates suggesting that approximately 14,000 people now live in the city, we’ve just completed a survey that offers a valuable insight into the city’s growing community.

Morgans manages the city centre’s largest property rental portfolio and we asked hundreds of our tenants about themselves and their priorities when they are looking for their perfect apartment.

The research revealed that approximately half of people living in the city are aged between 26 and 35 and around 40% between 19 and 25.  Approximately 60% of city apartments are occupied by two people and of these 73% are couples and 23% are housemates sharing a home.  A third of the people surveyed live on their own.

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New Operations Manager at Morgans

Morgans is delighted to welcome Jacqui Pringle to the team who joins as Operations Manager. Jacqui was previously General Manager at another property firm and brings five years experience in the property industry and over 20 years experience in Financial Services to her new role.

Jacqui’s appointment is a key one for Morgans and comes at a time when we have successfully negotiated the property downturn and have recorded record results for the first quarter of 2014.

City centre and North Leeds rentals are up by 10% in comparison to the same period last year, and sales have seen a staggering recovery – up 100% on last year. This is the ideal time for a dynamic and experienced person like Jacqui to join our thriving business – Morgans is not just about volume – we are determined to set new standards in customer service delivery and this appointment is testament to our commitment.

In addition to Jacqui’s appointment, Lisa Dennett has been appointed as Customer Service and Property Management Administrator to support new business and to provide support to Morgans’ team of 40.

First Anniversary of Help To Buy

This month sees the first anniversary of the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, which is designed to make it easier for first time buyers to get on the property ladder, and the good news is it seems to be working!

The scheme, which launched last April, means homebuyers with a deposit of 5% can borrow an additional 20% of the purchase price of a new build property from the government.  The loan is interest-free for five years and after this point borrowers will be charged a fee of 1.75% of the loan’s value. This fee will increase annually at 1% above inflation.

At the start of this year the scheme was opened up to enable existing homeowners to buy either new build or resale properties with an asking price of up to £600,000.  Again, buyers taking advantage of this expanded scheme, known as ‘Help to Buy 2’, only need a 5% deposit and the Government will cover up to 15% of the value of the property.

The scheme certainly appears to be doing its job and enticing buyers into the market.  Figures released at the end of last year show that first time buyer numbers had increased by approximately 30% over the previous year.  In addition, there were only a handful of lenders offering ‘Help to Buy’ mortgages at the beginning but, numbers have grown considerably in recent months.

However, it’s fair to say there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding ‘Help to Buy’ because although it offers buyers a fantastic opportunity, there are concerns that as the housing market recovers, an expensive catalytic initiative to drive the market even further could result in another ‘bubble’.

This means the Government is facing calls to scale back ‘Help to Buy’, by significantly lowering the current £600,000 price cap, or even scrapping the scheme altogether.  Despite most of the fears originating in London, where there seems to be a constant flow of media coverage about runaway prices and soaring demand, the whole country could suffer if the economists get their way.

As a result, anyone thinking about taking advantage of the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme should act sooner rather than later.

Crypt Factor Is On Song For Charities

More than 650 people from Yorkshire’s property industry turned out for this year’s Crypt Factor and helped to raise a record-breaking net amount of £60,000 for St George’s Crypt and LionHeart.

It was another memorable night with the Crypt Factor continuing to go from strength to strength and firmly establishing itself as Yorkshire’s most triumphant fundraising event by far.  The success of the evening also demonstrates the generosity of the region’s business and property community who helped to make the event so special by giving every act an incredible level of support and creating a superb atmosphere.

Damian Connelly (pictured), who works as a Relationship Director in Barclays’ Corporate Banking Division, saw off competition from eight other acts to win the annual singing competition with a stunning performance of Angels by Robbie Williams.

Shiv Sibal and Joe Haigh from Bond Dickinson performing as the Blues Brothers and Rachel Clarke from Savills, singing Amy Winehouse’s Rehab, both finished as runners-up.

The competition was judged by LionHeart’s Vice Chairman Richard Lewis of Town Centre Securities, Jonathan Morgan of Morgans, Paula Dillon of Bond Dickinson and Dawn Allen of Pinsent Masons.  The event was compered by Alex Duckett, an Associate at Knight Frank’s Leeds office.  

The eighth Crypt Factor was sponsored by Bond Dickinson, Bruntwood, Morgans City Living and Town Centre Securities and The Yorkshire Post was the event’s official media partner.  Other supporters included Saville Audio Visual, Vector Photography and Candid PR.

The First Direct Arena and Hilton Hotel also donated a unique Miley Cyrus VIP auction prize which sold for £2,200 and Tiger Tiger’s Lucky Voice hosted a karaoke after the competition which raised a further £1,000 for the charities.

St George’s Crypt is well known for its work with homeless and disadvantaged people in Leeds and LionHeart offers a range of services to help and support past and present RICS members and their families when they face unexpected problems in their lives.

City Centre Apartments Must Keep Pace With Market Recovery

Leeds city centre has enjoyed a huge amount of investment recently across its retail, leisure and office sectors and there is much more to come, but the city’s residential market must do more to keep pace.

Last year saw the opening of Trinity Leeds and the First Direct Arena and now all eyes are on Hammerson’s Victoria Gate development.  In addition, work is underway on Leeds’ first five star hotel, which will operate as a Hilton Hotels & Resorts property, and a number of high profile new office buildings have recently received planning consent at MEPC’s Wellington Place project and Town Centre Securities’ Whitehall Riverside scheme.

However high quality apartments in prime developments are extremely thin on the ground.  Morgans manages Leeds city centre’s largest property portfolio and our occupancy figures now stand at over 99%.

The residential property market is a fierce place to be right now and we often have three or four people trying to rent every property we bring to the market.  Often homes that are finished to a high standard, in a good location and realistically priced can let in less than a day.

To put it in perspective, when we opened our doors back in 1997 there were only around 500 or so hardy souls living in the city.  Today there are approximately 11,000 apartments in Leeds city centre which are home to around 14,000 residents and we estimate that only about 100 of these homes are currently sitting empty.

We now need to significantly increase the number of apartments available in the city.  Our estimates suggest the market could comfortably accommodate another 1,000 apartments in core locations but there are only around 300 in the pipeline over the next two years.  Some of these are likely to be ‘built to rent’ which is obviously good for the rentals market.

However, even though the rentals market is extremely buoyant at the moment, we don’t subscribe to the claims made about exponential and permanent growth in the rental sector.  Most people in the UK still aspire to own their own home and as soon as they are able to access a reasonable mortgage deal, they will step onto the property ladder.  We are already experiencing significantly improved sales activity in Leeds city centre and sold twice the number of apartments in 2013 compared to the previous year.

Leeds gained an unfair reputation as the ‘empty flats capital’ of the North in 2008 but as we predicted, supply dried up and demand continued to grow, so occupancy levels have risen and we now need the next generation of good quality new schemes.

It great to see that Leeds is now making headlines for all the right reasons, attracting major investment and building a reputation as a city of real meaning.