A Big Year For The Property Market

Crystal ball

As we head into the New Year, all the signs suggest that 2015 will be another great year for both Leeds and its property market.

There’s no doubt that as Leeds continues to enjoy a fast improving city centre living environment and a truly dynamic economy, the city apartment market will continue to flourish and the steady capital growth that apartment values enjoyed in 2014 will continue in 2015.

However, the rentals market will still dominate market activity.  We manage the city’s largest residential rental portfolio and continue to experience soaring numbers of potential tenants and a shortage of high quality apartments across the city centre with occupancy rates at more than 99%.  Apartments that are available are generally not on the market for long and anyone looking to rent has to move quickly to secure a property when they find one they like.

Unfortunately, the supply problem isn’t going to get fixed in 2015 – or even in 2016.  Leeds is the only major city in the UK without a significant city centre residential scheme currently on site and yet it has such a strong economy.

We also expect the sales market to continue improving in 2015.  Investor activity will increase as rents outstrip capital growth and last year we saw growing numbers of owner-occupiers and first time buyers snapping up apartments as the availability of mortgage finance improves.  The British have always been a nation of homeowners and although the rentals market is fierce, the majority of people who are renting aspire to buy their own home.

There is likely to be some disruption to the market around election time which will provide the usual distraction and will inevitably lead to some reticence around decision making.  The spectre of an interest rate rise will undoubtedly provide an excuse for the waverers, but then again, so will the snow – we do not expect a rate rise until late in the year. The snow will come first!

Students Learn To Love Living In The City

75 Otley RoadLeeds has always been a popular student city, with approximately 65,000 university students at its universities, and for the last 20 years or so, many have made Headingley their home.

Indeed when you ask anyone in Leeds about Headingley, 99% of them will say ‘cricket and students because students have been at the heart of life in Headingley for such a long time. Things are changing!

Increasingly, students now want to live as close as possible to the city centre.  And, if they can’t afford or don’t want to live right in the city centre, many are opting to live closer to the campus, in Hyde Park or Woodhouse, which means these suburbs are very much on the up.

There are differing opinions as to what has caused this sea-change and academics struggle to understand the precise factors at play.  It seems the growth of campus living is a major factor which serves not only to provide homes for thousands of first years – and increasingly returning students too – but also creates a much more vibrant lifestyle hub, which students want to be close to.  Just as the tidal wave of student demand has pushed all the way out to West Park over the last 20 years, it is now receding at a similar pace.

Developers are creating homes that specifically appeal to the next generation of students and a number of purpose built developments have established enclaves, particularly around Burley Road, the University Campus and Woodhouse and this clustering draws students further towards the city.

The numbers of young professionals and families choosing to rent in Headingley has in turn increased significantly with the majority of clients at our North Leeds office now consisting of couples and professionals who are renting homes for between £500 and £850 per month.

There will always be a core of students who want to live in Headingley and that’s great. It is a vibrant and friendly place where families, young professionals and students can live happily side by side, as they do in many other areas.

First Time Buyers Make Themselves At Home In Leeds

house keys

Leeds is proving to be a hotspot for first time buyers and we’ve seen a surge of buyers taking their first step onto the property ladder since the start of the year as the availability of mortgage finance continues to improve.

This is supported by recent data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) which reveals that first time buyers now account for approximately 45% of all new mortgages and have an average age of 29.  In addition, figures from the CML reveal that the average loan to value ratio for first-time buyers has risen to 83%, which is the highest it has been since November 2008.

These figures show how the property market has suddenly become accessible again for first time buyers.  Although there are lots of horror stories about completely unrealistic deposit requirements and people having to save until their 30s, or even their 40s, before they can buy a home, these figures often come from London-centric sources.

The outlook outside of London is actually much brighter than many people think, and this is definitely the case in Leeds city centre where we have seen a good increase of first time buye
rs securing mortgages and buying apartments since the start of the year.

This trend looks set to continue as we head into autumn and across the board we’re now selling twice the number of apartments than we did during the same period last year and the market has found a level of stability that hasn’t existed for several years.

The British have always been a nation of homeowners and although the rentals market remains fierce at the moment, the majority of people who are renting aspire to buy their own home and for many this opportunity could now come sooner than they think.

Butterflies And Bees Set Up Home In Headingley

Comma butterfly

We expanded into new premises in Headingley almost three years ago after completely refurbishing and extending a derelict detached house to create a 1,200 square foot, state of the art office, with modern cedar and glass extensions on both sides, an open plan layout, an open roof truss structure and a cut back first floor.

At the time we joined forces with the ‘Headingley in Bloom’ group to extend flower beds, outside the office on Otley Road opposite the Arndale Centre, and create a wild flower meadow garden complete with lavender hedges.  Headingley in Bloom do a superb job in creating stunning flower displays throughout Headingley so they were the obvious people to work with on this project.

Creating a wild meadow style garden right in the heart of Headingley originally seemed ambitious, but its rural feel provides an exciting contrast to its urban location, which makes it a great talking point in Headingley.  The location now offers varying wildlife habitat and flora, and is a large enough area to support a variety of species.

Now I’m no expert but those in the know tell me species already seen in the garden include Skipper, Brimstone, Tortoise Shell and Green-veined White butterflies, as well as Honey, Carder, White-tailed and Cuckoo bees.

Many of these species are often only found in the countryside and it’s thought to be at least 50 years since a lot of these pollinators had anywhere to live along the main road in this part of Headingley, so next time you’re passing our North Leeds office be sure to have a look!

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.


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.

read more

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’.

read more

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.

read more