Every year the Côte d’Azur surprises you with its beauty. Skies bluer than Paul Newman’s eyes look down on shimmering opal seas.
“Your British weather is God’s punishment for voting Brexit. Look at our weather.” My taxi driver fancies himself quite the political satirist. No need to rub it in, I think.
Now it’s straight to Cannes Club de Tennis (that may be a bit of Franglais – sorry!) for the Eversheds Sutherland’s tennis afternoon. I know. All sounds a bit metropolitan elite. But, honestly, it’s a fun low-key runaround with clients over rosé and pizza. Well, it is a runaround for my young, swashbuckling partners Angus Ford, Lee Jackson and Tom Goldsmith.
Me? I am to tennis what guinea pigs are to heavyweight boxing. So I support from the sidelines, chatting to clients and hoovering up pastries and rosé. My future tennis career recedes with every cheese puff.
So what can I tell you about property? Well, the market has a few collywobbles. Everyone’s seen the ominous return of CVAs, ghosts from 2008. Like crows over a battlefield, CVAs can be signs of carnage to come. They are now coupled with weakening consumer confidence and an incipient London price correction.
Elsewhere the mood is brighter. There is still huge amount of optimism in our regional cities, with Philip Hammond’s fillip to Birmingham this week – and the continuing robust performance of the ‘Midlands engine’ and ‘northern powerhouse’. There is also a great deal of interest in multi-family build-to-rent in regional cities and in residential plays generally.
The later-/senior-living sector is the ‘New’ New Thing. Surveys show it is the second most favoured investment class for next year – just behind logistics. L&G and other global institutions are committed to the sector and are shaking it up. My mum was (of course) right – “none of us are getting any younger, Bruce” – and the western world’s ageing populations make this a blue-rinsingly obvious growth sector.
It is also the area seeing some of the market’s most innovative ideas, such as:
- · Smart, IT-enabled houses to help older people stay at home for longer;
- · New senior-living developments embedded in universities, so residents have access to lectures, cultural events and world-class libraries; and
- · Institutions creatively linking equity release with downsizing to modular later-living complexes.
This is an incredibly exciting sector and combines the virtue of long-term returns with tackling what may be the central challenge confronting developed countries.
So the market is a cocktail of messages at the moment: burgeoning sectors and optimism, mixed with the Angostura bitters of economic realism. But we should be upbeat. Real property people show their worth when parts of the market slow. They create value by proactively asset managing, while keeping a falcon-eye on mispricing and distressed or finance-famished opportunities. So let’s get on with the challenge. But first, a morale-raising Marron Glacé under the palm trees.