With property and housing top of the agenda as campaigning gets underway for next May’s general election, it is vital that we remain focused on a sustained recovery from the recent recession.
There are lessons to be learned from the recession of the early 1990s that we need to understand to ensure that we achieve long-term stability for the residential investment sector.
In the early 1990s, the pain was prolonged by high interest rates, negative equity and a large number of repossessions. Our current recovery has been helped by a more sympathetic approach of historically low interest rates and fewer repossessions.
Corporate interest in the PRS is being actively encouraged to provide more homes to rent in response to the rapid rise in need, as tightened mortgage lending criteria and deposit levels continue to limit the number of potential buyers.
The lesson from the early 1990s is to be selective. In good markets, people are less careful about what they buy. If the market falls, then secondary locations will be first to be impacted. Prudent investors will continue to concentrate on quality properties in good locations.
Investors should also be aware that the country is now divided into a number of micro-markets and can no longer be considered a national housing market. London and most of the South East is driven by international money, offering high capital growth and low yields. The markets in the Midlands and the North offer less opportunity for capital growth but better income returns.
Since the Scottish referendum, the prospect of increased devolution in Scotland and English regions, with increased regional infrastructure spending, means that major cities in the Midlands, North and Scotland will be increasingly attractive to investors.
Unlike the 1990s, when mortgages were more easily available and renting was considered a short-term option, the demand for longer-term private rented properties will continue to grow.
Tim Theakston is partner for residential development and investment at Allsop.