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.

Morgans Celebrates North Leeds Anniversary

After operating in North Leeds for 16 years it’s fantastic to celebrate our best results to date, two years after embarking on a major expansion programme and investing £500,000 in a new office in Headingley.

We have seen a 10% increase in business since opening our 1,200 sq ft office opposite Headingley’s Arndale Centre at the end of 2011 and our experienced team of six agents are currently managing our highest stock levels in five years.

The move to our stunning new building has been hugely beneficial to the business and we have experienced fantastic levels of support from both the local community and our clients and we have won a very encouraging amount of new business since the move. We are hugely ambitious and are determined to reach our goal of being the first choice for professional rentals in North Leeds.

We are currently marketing a wide selection of homes from one bedroom apartments through to four bedroom family homes ranging from £500 to £1,500 per calendar month. The majority of our clients are professional couples or people sharing and we are currently experiencing significant demand from recent graduates, teachers, lecturers and young doctors in North Leeds, as they love the area and appreciate its proximity to the University and Hospitals.

We don’t do any student lets, and have actually seen a big shift in this area with lots of students now migrating more towards the city centre and Hyde Park. This is good news for landlords in North Leeds as the majority of tenants here are looking for more permanent accommodation.

We have a very unique offering in North Leeds and we are one of the most established and experienced operators in the area. We are able to offer our landlords real insight into the ever changing market providing advice and guidance every step of the way which is why so many of our clients have been with us since the beginning.

Our tenants are also well looked after, with many returning to us each time they are looking to move. Our new office, which is in a prime location has given us great prominence on the street, attracting lots of new tenants over the last two years and we are confident that our business can continue to grow.

Apartments Are Breaking The Mould

Every now and again I hear some people say that once you’ve seen one city apartment, you’ve seen them all, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Although there are many apartments that were built in the days when it made good business sense to ‘pile em high and sell em cheap’ there are also lots of architectural gems across the city centre and many of the schemes built in the last five years have focussed on delivering a top quality product.

Schemes such as Saxton by Urban Splash and Crispin Lofts by Rushbond, where every one of the 82 apartments is different, are both testament to this.

There are also a wide range of second hand apartments available that are full of unique features and many have been individually designed or even completely refurbished since they were originally built.

One such apartment is a two bedroomed, split level penthouse on the fourth floor of Centaur House on Great George Street.  It’s quite rare to find a home in the city that offers such an unusual and impressive living space.

The apartment in the Grade 2 listed building has high ceilings, exposed beams and original windows, and a huge living area, a 30 foot wide south facing balcony and a refurbished kitchen with island and breakfast bar- this is a really stunning apartment.

Another unique property is a two bedroom apartment in a beautiful Grade 2 listed building in the quiet and leafy area of Park Square, which is close to The Headrow and priced at £369,950.  The apartment is full of character with original sash windows, high ceilings with cornicing, feature fireplaces and a separate kitchen.

This property definitely stands out from the crowd and as city apartment sales grow and the market recovers, there’s no doubt that demand for individual homes is increasing- this makes for an exciting future and we are confident that the next generation of city living will be much more focused on creating really interesting living spaces in high quality environments.

No Time To Waste In Property Search

The property market is a fierce place to be right now and any potential tenants currently looking for rental property will know that high quality homes in good locations are thin on the ground – and this is especially true in Leeds city centre.

We manage the city centre’s largest apartment portfolio and we’re currently experiencing our highest ever occupancy figures which stand at over 99%.  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.

Fast forward a few years and 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.

This chronic shortage of rental stock means it’s not unusual to have as many as three or four people trying to rent every property we bring to the market and homes that are finished to a high standard, in a good location and realistically priced will often let in less than a day.

However, there are lots of things potential tenants can do to increase their chances of securing their ideal home.  First of all it’s important to demonstrate that you will be a reliable tenant and be ready to commit as soon as you see the property you want.

This means getting your finances sorted beforehand.  Most letting agents will run a credit search so check your credit report to ensure it’s up to date.  Others might ask for references, perhaps from a previous landlord or employer, so think about who you could ask to provide these and maybe even have copies ready to give to the letting agent.

If these are proving problematic don’t lose hope because it may be possible to use a guarantor, such as a parent, who will join into the agreement and offer to pay the rent in the event that you fail to do so.  Obviously arranging this can take time so it’s something you need to think about in advance.

Finally, most good letting agents will keep databases of people who are looking for property in certain areas so whenever you enquire about a property it’s worth asking to be added onto their list so that when anything similar is available you’ll hear about it straight away.