Floods Won’t Dampen Spirits At Morgans


Dock Street front viewWe are now ready to embark on a major refurbishment programme at our Dock Street office after the property’s lower ground floor was submerged in more than five feet of water.

After heavy rainfall trounced the North of England over Boxing Day and the River Aire burst its banks, remediation specialists worked through the night to remove more than 40 tonnes of water from the building meaning the office could reopen on Monday 28th December.

The basement area of the building, which is located directly next to the River Aire, houses the office’s kitchen, staff bar, lounge, toilets, shower rooms, stationery stores, archive, air conditioning plant and communications room, which were all destroyed.

Thankfully Leeds City Centre is home to very few basement and ground floor apartments so it’s reassuring that only 12 of 11,000 apartments in the city suffered flood damage as a result of this unprecedented event.  Unfortunately, our office wasn’t so lucky and is one of many buildings that fell victim to the river bursting its banks.

However, we’re fortunate to have received lots of support and our team have been amazing with many of them involved in the clean-up.  Our operations manager Jacqui Pringle did a sterling job in getting Morgans back on track and reopened within hours of the floods hitting.  We’ve also had visits from Tom Riordan and Judith Blake from Leeds City Council, MP Hilary Benn and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark.

We’ll now finish the clean-up before completely refurbishing the entire floor and installing a new and improved staff breakout area and facilities.

Top five ‘unusual’ tenant requests of 2015

As letting agents, we rent properties to people from all walks of life and with varying degrees of common sense. We believe in Householder Responsibility during a tenancy, which might surprise a few of our tenants – the basic principle is that whether someone owns or rents a property, there is a duty of care to make basic repairs and renewals.

We’ve looked back at the top five surprising calls our maintenance team received in 2015 – they raised a few chuckles in the office so we thought we’d share here:

  1. A young lady called to say that the Hoover in her apartment wasn’t working. We asked her if she had changed the bag. Her reply? ‘What’s the bag?’
  1. A young man called from his apartment to report a leak from under the washing machine which was flooding his kitchen. He knew it was the washing machine because it only happened when it was in a cycle. He was sorry he hadn’t reported it 3 days ago when it first started flooding his kitchen but he had ‘been busy.’
  1. A young lady rang from the terraced house she rented from us to say that water was ‘pouring through the glass’ of her bedroom window.
  1. A man called from the apartment he rented from us to say that ‘the door handle had come off in his hand’. We asked him if he had a screwdriver, with which he could re-affix it. He replied ‘I have never owned a screwdriver and nor do I wish to’.
  1. A couple called into the office to say that they couldn’t shut the freezer box door in their fridge and please could we fix it. Our handyman visited the flat and discovered a year’s worth of ice and frozen peas. When questioned, the tenants said that they thought lots of ice was what kept the peas frozen.



2016 could mark a major turning point for the city centre’s residential property market, which has been starved of development in recent years, as work starts on a number of high profile new schemes across Leeds.

As managers of Leeds city centre’s largest apartment portfolio, with occupancy figures currently at over 99 per cent as tenant demand continually outstrips supply, we’re making our predictions for the property market in Leeds for 2016.

City centre rental stock still short

Leeds city centre is desperately short of rental stock, largely because the city centre market has been starved of new-build activity since 2008. Back then, around 400 apartments were being built each year, but recently supply has been at record low levels and we’ve had a couple of years where no new apartments were built at all.

However, the city’s economy and population have continued growing and as a result the market has been operating close to full occupancy in recent years with very little genuine choice available for people looking to rent in the city centre. Although this is good news for landlords, it is inevitably driving some frustrated renters into other areas.

Pent-up demand from buyers

The sales market is also performing well. The number of apartment resales doubled in 2015, over the previous year, and this growth will continue into 2016 because there’s a lot of pent-up demand from buyers. We are selling high quality properties, in core city centre locations, for the same prices that we achieved at the peak of the pre-recession market, with interest coming from both investors and owner-occupiers.

Moving back towards sustainable supply

The good news is that in 2016, supply will start returning to sustainable historic levels, as work starts on several new schemes, although it’s likely to be early 2017 before many of these are ready to move into. It’s also significant that most of these developments are likely to be of a very high standard, driven by architects and developers who have considerable experience in other markets and areas.

In Holbeck alone the £80m transformation of Tower Works will provide over 150 apartments and townhouses and the Iron Works will see 58 apartments built along with 15 townhouses. Planning was also recently approved for 77 new homes on The Calls and Hunslet Riverside will start to see real change when CITU starts work building more than 300 passive homes.

Competing with York and Harrogate

Prices in Leeds city centre have historically underperformed against those being achieved in the centres of York and Harrogate, but we believe that the quality of these new Leeds developments will command a premium and that Leeds as the regional capital, can and will compete with these locations.


Painting A Positive Picture For Leeds Charity


St George's Crypt shop refurb small

It makes me extremely proud that Morgans has been a key supporter of St George’s Crypt in Leeds for well over a decade and our team has just taken this to the next level by spending a weekend refurbishing the charity’s Armley shop, as well as raising money through a supermarket bag packing event.

St George’s Crypt is based in Leeds city centre and has been on the frontline of support for homeless, disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the city and its surrounding areas since 1930.

As a successful Leeds based business, we’re in a great position to be able to lend our support to people who could benefit from a leg-up and some help and after more than 10 years, it’s great that we can still come up with new and creative ways to support St George’s Crypt.

Our teams from Morgans’ offices on Dock Street in Leeds City Centre and Otley Road in Headingley, have transformed the charity’s shop and café, which is located on Town Street in Armley, by completely decorating it, fitting new carpets and making a range of other interior improvements.

In addition, members of our 40-strong team then spent a Saturday bag-packing at Morrisons supermarket in Guiseley, where they raised almost £900 for the charity.

It was incredibly heartening to see so many of our team give up their own time and get involved with such a worthwhile cause. Everyone really enjoyed it and at the end of the weekend, it was hugely rewarding to stand back and see how by working as a team, our hard work could make such a positive difference so quickly.

This summer I was also invited to join forces with St George’s Crypt to launch a new property development company with a board of directors consisting of some of the city’s leading property and construction experts.  St George’s Crypt Development Company will now provide homes and community facilities for homeless and disadvantaged people throughout Leeds and we’re looking forward to unveiling our first schemes imminently, so watch this space.

Rising Rents

Whilst it does appear to have startled journalists, we should not be in any way surprised that rents are creeping up.


Headlines claiming September to September rises of 2.8% are a little sensational on the basis that when London is stripped out, the average year on year increase falls to 1.9%. The Office for National Statistics doesn’t publish average rent levels and much of this type of data comes from the private sector – it is impossible, therefore, to make any assumptions about the real cost of rent rises.

Years of under supply in the housing market have been rounded off by the most severe financial downturn in a generation which brought speculative development to a standstill when in the context of typical property cycle, it should’ve been taking off again. Many would-be-buyers have been prevented from buying, mainly as a result of highly restricted mortgage availability and it is only recently that the age of the average first time buyer started to lower after several years lingering at unsustainable levels.

It is a well-known fact that we Brits would typically prefer to buy rather than rent and the notion that rent is dead money will certainly have had a bearing on the amount of rent which people have been prepared to pay. It is counter-intuitive for the typical UK resident to pay the equivalent proportion of their income on rent as they would have on a mortgage. We believe that this may be softening as a proportion of the current generation of would-be-buyers accept that they may have to rent for slightly longer than they had originally planned to.

Whilst rents may be creeping up, so are earnings and we know from analysis of our own tenant group, that many have historically paid a rent far lower than what they could afford according to their earnings.

Many landlords would argue that rents in most areas outside London have been static for some time and that some growth is well overdue. It remains to be seen what impact the inevitable increases in housing supply will have on rents as the supply and demand curves come closer together.


Leeds planning – time for change


If you want to understand what makes the planning system tick in Leeds, then you need to get yourself along to a City Centre Plans Panel meeting at the Civic Hall.

A team of council officers, such as planning and highways specialists, meet with elected members (city councillors) to review and debate all manner of applications. There is a public gallery and an applicant area which is easily identified because it will be full of developers, architects and planning consultants tearing their hair out in frustration and disbelief at the circus which is often played out.

Many of the issues discussed are highly technical and require a considerable degree of knowledge of Leeds City Council Policy, heritage, design and highways. Many of the councillors, who ultimately have the power to determine a planning application, have little or no relevant knowledge.

The dynamics of this meeting, where officers are often overruled, might be considered acceptable in a parish council setting in a small rural community, but there is no place for this in the context of a major metropolitan city with an aspiration to be the best.

A few simple changes could have a massive impact:

  • All councillors who wish to be on a plans panel need to go through external training courses in public speaking, planning, city policy, heritage and how to behave like a grown up in a public meeting.
  • The number of councillors in attendance should be limited by number and restricted to those who have been through the training.
  • Those councillors attending should be asked to sign up to a code of conduct which states that they will properly study the papers before each meeting, refrain from making purile jokes, read or send emails on their iPads (which should be banned from the meetings) or leave the meeting to get a cup of tea from the nearby trolley.
  • There should be an independent officer with the power to steer the meeting, strike inappropriate comments from the record, rebuke bad behaviour and, ultimately, remove any councillor who is not adhering to the code of conduct.
  • Officers need far more power in the final decision around each application and the councillors should be there merely to represent their residents’ views and to see that due process is observed.
  • Local consultation through the planning process often fails to reach the wider population. There is no value in collecting the views of the vocal minority in any given area if the views of the majority cannot be heard. It is the vocal minority who inevitably have the ear of the local councillor who in turn can be confident that he or she can have a significant impact on the planning process through plans panel, irrespective of the views of the majority population.

We need to analyse and overhaul the best practice guide for planning consultation and awaken the silent majority.

Time for change at Plans Panel.

Leeds City Centre Prices Hit a High Note

HARDLY a week goes by when there isn’t a story in the media about property prices rising, falling or even staying the same.

The problem is that most of what we read often relates to either the UK or Yorkshire as a whole, without taking into account all the specific towns and cities within the region, and none of the indexes look at Leeds city centre on its own.

As a result, we’ve done our own research, and our figures show that Leeds city centre’s apartment values have largely recovered to the pre-crisis peak they hit in 2008.  However, the gap between prices in core areas, compared to those in fringe schemes, is now wider than ever.

Values per square foot can now differ by as much as 50 per cent when comparing apartments in premium developments and in very central locations with properties located less than a mile away on the outskirts of the city centre.

Buyers will pay a significant premium for a high quality, well-designed apartment in a very central location and the values of these types of apartments have generally held up much better than lower quality apartments.

A major lack of development in recent years has resulted in a chronic shortage of supply, but there is now a wave of new developments on the horizon.  A new generation of experienced and forward-thinking developers recognise the importance of quality, so there’s some real thought going into the latest schemes, which is great news for Leeds.

This is also good news for anyone currently thinking of buying an apartment- for those who are happy to live on the fringe of the city centre, there are some great deals available, and for those buying in core locations, there is still the potential for further price growth, partly because Leeds is still lagging well behind the likes of Harrogate and York in terms of residential values. This is a complete anomaly when you consider and compare the economic profiles of the three.

Come on Leeds.

Morgans Bolsters Team With Nine New Appointments

New appointments at Morgans City Living

Nine new members of staff have been appointed at City Living Specialists Morgans. The portfolio managers, sales negotiator, lettings negotiator and new business development manager are based across the firm’s Dock Street and North Leeds offices.

This comes on the back of a cracking year so far, with both our rentals and sales teams performing extremely well as the market continues to thrive. This raft of new appointments will strengthen our teams and ensure our clients continue to receive the high levels of personal service our business is renowned for.

Portfolio managers Charlie Lampkin, Gemma Johnson, Katie Radcliffe and Kirsty Helliwell are all based at the company’s City Centre office on Dock Street. All four are the main point of contact for landlords and they are also responsible for handling maintenance queries, carrying out contracting and referencing as well as check ins and check outs for tenants.

Graham Gomersall joins Morgans as a sales negotiator and Felix Hook has been appointed as a business development manager. The pair are also based at Dock Street.

In the North Leeds office, rental portfolio managers Amy Buckle and Amanda Humphrey and rentals negotiator Ellis Cann join the existing team, who all operate from our offices on Otley Road providing tenant, property investor and landlord services across North Leeds.

Our business has successfully negotiated the property downturn and we have had our best nine months in terms of lets, sales and occupancy figures since 2007. Business in both our City and North Leeds offices is up by around 10% in comparison to the same period last year and as we continue to grow and the market improves, it’s essential that we attract the right people like Charlie, Gemma, Katie, Kirsty, Graham, Felix, Amanda, Amy and Ellis to deliver industry-leading standards of customer service to highly valued clients.

From Generation Rent to Generation Buy

David Cameron waited until his closing address at the Conservative Party Conference last week to set out his crusade around affordable housing and immediately incurred the wrath of Shelter, who rarely appear to have any constructive or viable suggestions and Generation Rent, who have taken on a crusade of their own.

Prior to the last election, both parties courted the rented sector unashamedly, and perhaps mistakenly assumed that this was a unified group with a common experience and set of values. As it appears to have transpired, there appear to be two distinct elements of the group – the crafty urbanite, probably single or pre-marriage renting happily in one of our key cities, and the less flexible family group who are currently finding it difficult to buy and who are having to make difficult life choices particularly around schooling.

No-one yet knows what the long term impact of the recent housing slump will have on the scale and longevity of the growth in the rented sector. The percentage of the population currently in rented property has undoubtedly grown significantly over the last five years, but it is in the context of scant mortgage availability, dismal levels of housing supply and the after effects of a disastrous period of economic decline, unprecedented in its scale and depth. This is the experience of many of those who make up ‘Generation Rent’.

It seems likely that the vast majority of British people would still prefer to rent or buy – the Conservatives cite a survey which claims that this is the case for 86 per cent of ‘Brits’- and will do so again if market conditions allow.

The essence of Cameron’s Crusade appears sound – unlock lending, speed up land release and simplify the planning process- it makes no sense in the context of a market starved of supply that authorities are still able to slow the process to a virtual standstill.

As to whether this is a viable crusade or a false dawn, it remains to be seen.


Six top tips for dealing with a letting agent

Want to make the most of your letting agent agreement? Read our top six tips for dealing with a letting agent:

1. Work within a target range for rent

When your agent first quotes you a rent, don’t rely on an absolute figure. Your rent will fluctuate over time and as market conditions change, so work within a target range.

2. Don’t lapse onto a periodic tenancy

Make sure your agent doesn’t allow your tenancy to lapse onto a periodic tenancy at the end of the fixed term. In our view, a periodic tenancy puts you at greater risk of a void on the property.

3. Avoid an empty property at all costs

A no brainer, but avoid an empty property at all costs – in real terms, it’s way cheaper for you to reduce your rent than it is to have your property empty. Not only will you be losing your rent, but you will have the mortgage and council tax to pay.

4. Don’t pay mark up on maintenance

You may not realise it, but you may well be paying a % mark-up on the maintenance works being organised by your agent. We believe that maintenance is an implicit facet of the range of duties your agent should be carrying out on your behalf and that this should not carry an extra cost. Be a fair landlord and treat your tenants as you would wish to be treated. There is a clear relationship between the condition of your property and the rent you receive over time.

5. Instil responsibility in tenants

Tenants are householders too and have a responsibility to care for the property and not to simply pick up the phone to the agent every time there is a minor issue. Make sure your agent shares this philosophy as it needs to run right through the agent/tenant relationship.

6. Make sure your fee structure is transparent

Your fee structure should be simple and transparent and should not, in our opinion, contain endless lists of bolt-ons and extras. Fees need to be fair and equitable so that you are retaining as much of your income as possible, but also so that your agent is able to properly resource their business and make a reasonable profit.


For more advice and information, visit www.cityliving.co.uk