There is little doubt the UK property market is suffering from a period of some uncertainty, and this in turn can make potential investors yet more nervous about getting into the market. Despite this, there is still significant investment gain to be found through UK property purchases, and The Times recently examined the areas to look for in order to make money in a flatter market.
There are lots of reasons that property investment in a university town is a sensible option – a ready supply of renters, the prestige that a top establishment can bring, the fact that they are a steady, large-scale and reliable employer, and the companies attracted to the town as a means of attracting top graduates to name just a few. Research by HouseSimple shows that average property prices in the top 50 university cities in the UK have risen by more than 27 per cent in three years. The top name university towns like Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Bristol and York still offer great value, though the greatest growth potential lies where initial prices leave more room for capital gain – Birmingham, Manchester, Southampton and Norwich.
Long one of the biggest property battlegrounds, there is little sign that investors will want to give up on buying property in the catchment areas for the best schools, and according to Alex Carr, a partner at Knight Frank, “Whether buying for investment purposes or as an owner-occupier, proximity to good schools and universities is often at the top of a potential buyer’s list.”
This can mean interest and price premiums are focussed on smaller areas within a locality, but research from Savills suggests that towns offering parents a good choice of high-performing state and independent schools, such as Sherbourne in Dorset, Tunbridge Wells in Kent and Cheltenham in Gloucestershire are hugely popular and can command premium prices.
More buyers than ever are also looking for a ready-made community to move into. The presence of traditional shops such as a local butcher, artisan baker and grocer, plus a good pub and a decent school help, while many stress the importance of a sense of community. The requirements of every buying in this area are different, but high street shops, cultural facilities and community services all play a part, and those towns with most of these services prove to be carry the highest premiums.
Urban country markets
Where the main town in a more rural area outperforms the rest of the region by a significant margin, there can be some great investment opportunities. Cambridge and York are great examples, where property prices are outperforming their local areas. Demand in these areas continues to outstrip supply, meaning that price growth is set to continue.
Due to a combination of style, location (usually in the best parts of a town) and the fact that they offer similar space and price levels to apartments, but with the advantage of being freeholds, mews houses are very much in demand. They often lack a grand entrance, but are often secure and gated due to the nature of how they came to exist. They can also be very quiet and secluded, tucked away behind the grander houses they once serviced, while offering a sense of community.