Flat market

Have we overdone it with city centre flats?

Or apartments as they are often called in the sales literature.

Arrive at almost any railway station - from Norwich to Nottingham - and you can't help but be struck by how many new blocks have appeared.

But there's some evidence the flats are not selling.

The tallest residential block in Britain is Beetham Tower, the iconic Manchester building that opened less than two years ago. Some colleagues of mine have found fifty of the flats in there are now on sale - getting on for a quarter of the 220 built.

The bulk were bought by investors hoping for capital gain. They can reportedly still get tenants to rent them out, but capital gain will be harder to come by if they try to sell them with so many others doing the same thing down the corridor.

In Leeds too, the situation is said to be bleak.

Estates Gazette has reported that a thousand flats lie empty - but many thousands more are in the pipeline to be built. One can only assume most will never be constructed.

And you don't have to go to big cities to find stories of the flat phenomenon going too far.

In Colchester, one surveyor told the latest RICS lettings survey that there are signs buy-to-let investors failed to do their homework; they believed unrealistic valuations. Investment clubs have been a problem, and surveyors acting for them had better watch their backs, he said.

Block of flatsAnother interesting piece of evidence is that housing associations are reportedly being offered new flats for social housing - at discounts of about 15%. A reversal of the principle of council house sales.

All in all, flats have been where the property market action has been most extreme over the last decade - prices have risen faster there, speculators have invested more in them, homebuilders have constructed them in ever larger numbers.

It suited the authorities, who produced numerical targets to build more dwellings…never mind how large they are.

And there was an apparent economic logic given the growing number of single person households.

Alas, it seems that the new singles are not urban youngsters enjoying a latte on the balcony as depicted in the hoardings. They are elderly widows and divorced dads, who aspire to having a family home with a garden.

And now the market seems to have turned against flats more ferociously than other types of housing.

It's patchy and anecdotal for the moment and local conditions certainly matter.

But when the dust settles watch for blame to be attributed by some people who will have lost money…in a market not so much flat, as falling.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 09:51 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Martin wrote:

"Local conditions certainly matter" is the key phrase Evan. Surely local councils ought to know the housing needs of their area? Or are we now dealing with a centerist government so far removed from reality? Aren't we going to invest in even more homes?

Blame game? Councils? Developers? Investors? Surveyors? Banks? falling for 'Location, Location, Location?

Obviously all the unhoused migrant labour doesn't want to live in Leeds and Manchester. Or is it that the jobs aren't there?

There is no point in 'buying off plan' unless you understand the risks.
No risk no reward also means no risk no loss.

  • 2.
  • At 10:01 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Gareth Stephens wrote:

It's interesting as me and my partner have lived in rented City Centre apartments for the last couple of years or so.

I think a lot of people realise how nice they can be but for definite we could see over development.

In the apartments we lived in in Birmingham (close to the city centre) we could see a number of flats that remained empty throughout the time we were there and they appeared to be struggling to sell the last few flats even though it had been up for 2-3 years.

Still only anecdotal but I certainly believe that there is now an oversupply of city centre apartments (at least in Birmingham and to some extent Reading).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, although I'm glad I don't own one!

  • 3.
  • At 10:06 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Dave wrote:

Interestingly enough, and I know this from personal experience, the prices of city centre flats in Manchester have never increased as much as the housing market in general, even when prices were shooting up a few years ago. The reason, I believe, is that although demand for such flats grew in the 1990s and 2000s the supply increased even more as Manchester has a virtually unlimited supply of old commercial buildings that can be converted into "loft apartments".
This has given rise to the interesting phenomenon of individual investors in a dynamic and rapidly growing city actually making far less money than they would have made had they invested in slums in other more run-down towns. The laws of supply and demand can have some unexpected consequences!

  • 4.
  • At 10:06 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Simon R wrote:

In most of the world properties are sold by the square meter size of floor area. Differing regions and property types have their own per meter price. This allows transparency. Here we have apartments that are "deceptively spacious", "Quality living" etc. They even make special 3/4 size furniture to make show flats look bigger.

If these nasty little flats sorry "Luxury apartment Homes" had been sold giving the square meter size it would have been obvious that these were not worth the asking price.

In Britain we have bigger booms and bigger busts (coming) due to our "Professionals" who act in collusion to suit their own short term personal financial gains.

I'm currently looking at city-centre apartments with my girlfriend in Lancaster, and it's struck us that parking is the main problem. A single allocated parking space is fine for one person, but what about young professional couples who might both have the need for a car?

  • 6.
  • At 10:20 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Duncan Hothersall wrote:

Would it be too much to hope that in a climate of falling property prices some canny local authorities and housing associations will bag whole chunks of property at a decent price to fill the still huge gaps in social housing provision?

  • 7.
  • At 10:22 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Gary, London wrote:

I work in the planning system, and in particular am involved in acting for developers in negotiating new planning consents.

There is a simple equation which can take months to negotiate and place in "legal-ease": in return for new flats, the bottom line for the developer, the council will seek to extract "planning gain " in the form of social housing, a new creche, local shops and the like.

The goal - a mixed, viable new community. All good stuff.

The problem is that occupation of a new shop unit in a "mixed" development of flats will often be commercially contingent upon a specific number of flats being occupied. That makes the unit viable. Nobody wants to run a new shop without customers. However, in a falling market, flat occupations fall, forgive the pun - "flat" - and you do not get your new coffee shop or supermarket. In turn the the whole "mixed use" developement fails before it has even started such that sales of the flats also do not get off the ground - after all, assuming you can afford it, why live in a new development which is not full of life if you are after that urban living experience?

The answer to all of this - in a difficult market local planning authorities may need to be a bit more realistic about planning gain and perhaps reassess some consents in order to get new developments of the ground and lived in. Chances of this happening - sadly not very likely!

Perhaps the problem is not that there are too many flats but that (i) many have been built where there is insufficient demand (ii) too many people have leapt onto the 'buy to let' bandwagon, as you suggest.

In my part of Oxfordshire a range of high quality flats for all budgets have been built in the centre of Abindon - not exactly a 'destination' town - and demand for these remains high. Abingdon is within reach of Oxford, local employment sites and - crucially - London.

For all the expansion in the ecomonies of many northern cities, demand in Leeds and Manchester many simply be lower and may not signal a crisis in the market for flats nationwide. A more regional analysis would be better.

  • 9.
  • At 10:34 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • robert cargill wrote:

Agreed BEETHAM tower in Manchester was well over priced to start with - I know because I turned it down as an investor in 2004.

As far as I am aware, these were all sold by the developer direct - not a property club in sight!

Yes: there could be some areas that suffer temporary issues - but as usual, there is no reason why these should not dissipate in the medium term.

Investing is not ''for the moment'' in any asset class and a report as unnecessary as this one picks on ''the moment'' and its apparent problems; rather than ''the moment'' and what fantastic opportunities there are NOW!

  • 10.
  • At 10:35 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • sensible wrote:

I'm young, single and I'd buy a flat if I could actually afford one at a sensible multiplier on my annual salary. But I'm not going to risk everything with a ridiculously high mortgage that I'd almost certainly default on if even the slightest thing changed. It may not be that there are too many flat but there are too many expensive flats.

Note that they may be "worth" their current prices, but if I can't afford the price level it makes no odds.

  • 11.
  • At 10:58 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Steve wrote:

Did flats *ever* go anywhere?

In how many towns was the apparent growth in price merely a result of newly built 2-bed "executive apartments" cost more to buy than the already existing 2-bed ex-council flat? Land registry data doesn't distinguish between the two.

Furthermore, each bigger and better development swamped the market and left all the previous blocks in the doldrums.

  • 12.
  • At 11:00 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Phil wrote:

"who produced numerical targets to build more dwellings ... never mind how large they are"

It is a great shame given the mass of legislation and regulation this Government has produced over the last 10 years - not least in this context the ridiculous Home Information Packs - that it could not see its way to finally catching up with more enlightened parts of Europe and making it mandatory to list floor area in housing descriptions.

Then again, when we have a Government and a building industry mutually conspiring the populace to ever smaller shoeboxes perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. Saddened, angry, but not surprised.

  • 13.
  • At 11:00 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Felix Gallagher wrote:

It's not only city centres. You should visit the little town of Cowes. Most of the local population is only seasonally employed but this is getting worse and worse as local businesses take the government shilling to turn their premises into blocks of (empty) flats. We have lost the cinema, the dance hall, the territorial army hall, any number of shops - all to convert to flats. The Post Office is about to be converted to flats. The developers all seem to be foreign, from Jersey, Cyprus etc. Some of the flats are bought by weekend Londoners who turn up once in the winter and never come again, but as the market is glutted they cannot sell. The buyers are also told buy estate agents they can make enough letting for the Cowes Week festival to cover their mortgage for the year. But with the new apartment glut of course they can't. In fact the hotel (which used to sell out 5 years in advance) had vacancies throughout last years Cowes Week. The goverment directive was to create housing for the homeless, which is odd in Cowes as there are no homeless here. And now the town is darker and emptier in the winter than it has ever been. And crammed with dark empty blocks of flats.

  • 14.
  • At 11:02 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

"Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus." - The Matrix

Ever since I heard that quote, I couldn't help but sympathise with the expressed sentiment.

You would have thought we had all learned from the flat-building fiasco back in the 60's and 70's. Look at the state of them now. These new generation of flats are even smaller.

I'd imagine that given the choice between a flat and a modest house with a garden, most people don't want to live in flats - hence why they aren't selling.

People like the space to breathe, but of course in this brave new globalised world, it's about packing us in as tight as we can go as far as Government and businesses are concerned.

As nobody ever stopped to ask where will it end? I suppose the back garden is to be luxury we canno't afford soon, just like parks, woods, and probaby the green belt.

  • 15.
  • At 11:15 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Marcus West wrote:

It's actually these very flats that are going to support house prices in the next ten years.

As you mentioned yourself, people aspire to more than living in a "new-build" flat blocks that were thrown together in three months, have poor standards of construction, enjoy high densities of people living in them and are typically over-priced in the first place.

As such, the prices of "aspirational" properties - say, with a private garden, own front door (anyone living in London will know how rare that can be!), Victorian build etc - will continue to be supported when we see the flight-to-quality which the domestic housing market is due. I actually think demand for such places is going to increase massively when people realise just how bad these new-builds really are...and I speak from bitter experience.

On another point, I do think it's a bit rich for the RICS to be pointing the finger entirely at buy-to-let investors believing "unrealistic valuations." The reason these places sold for so much was i) demand and ii) the price of the land being sold at a high price to the developers...a price which was have been advised upon by a member of, er, the RICS!

  • 16.
  • At 11:28 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Pete wrote:

Well, what a surprise.

More flats in cities is a good idea, but the prices developers have been posting are ridiculous.

In my bit of Cambridge, there are two new blocks of flats. Very nice flats, but at 450000 for 2-beds, rising to nearly a million if you want decent space, they'd need to be gold-plated to represent value.

In the same area, you can have a nice big Victorian semi, with a garden, for the same money. Or you can have my modern 5-bed (again with gardens), and have change for a new Porsche.

In this city, of all places, you'd think they'd expect people to be able to do math.

  • 17.
  • At 11:29 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Sean J wrote:

Surely the reason why so many flats are empty is that they are usually the first-step on the housing ladder for most people. However due to the rampant housing inflation of the past two decades first-time buyers are increasingly priced out of the market even for flats. For the last few years the market has only been held-up by 4 and 5 times salary morgages and 125% morgages. With the credit-crunch and fear of bad-debts even this 'lifeline' is now being withdrawn.
If they were afordably priced every single one of these flats would be occupied by people who currently have to lodge, rent rooms, flatshare, or live with family/ relatives.

  • 18.
  • At 11:32 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • paul milner wrote:

I don't think it just the number of flats. Its also the amenities to go with them.

Take Newcastle where I live. Eldon Square have redeveloped the green market (the granger market is still run by the council) but we'll probably lose the co-op when Waitrose opens in the new part of Eldon square. So we'll have three highly price supermarkets in the centre of town. Is there a doctor surgery? No (nearest in Jesmond or the Walk in centre on thne est Road). Any kids go to surrounding schools (some of which are good, some not so good). Social care provision is difficult but this is due to the one thing that keeps the central Newcastle market moving - students. If student numbers go down we'll be up tree without a treehouse (or flat). And Newcastle is small in comparison to Leeds or Manchester and Brum.

I live in Milton Keynes and it has seen an explosion of luxury (overpriced) flats. The demographics are good, as are transport links, but at the end of the day, these flats are simply overpriced. On a simple rental yield calculation, who would buy one of these flats given the high transaction costs and opportunity cost involved - you can earn 7% in the bank with no risk to your capital. Like the semi-conductor industry, and as with big mining projects, residential building has a long lead time and you can't blame the developers for extrapolating price gains of recent years...or can you?

  • 20.
  • At 11:50 AM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Patrick Stevens wrote:

I'm a solicitor and it's been clear to me that a false market has existed in new flats for several years. This is because of unrealistic expectations of rental yields on buy to lets and also of expectations of capital gains. In many cases, the gains have been realised - but only by selling on to another speculator.

Anecdotal evidence is that developers have started off with headline prices of say, £250,000 and then discounted heavily (but very discreetly) so that those who paid full price are sitting on some very over priced property.

The market appears very twitchy, with a lot of sellers unwilling to drop their prices to match the market price. The consensus among property professionals is that the market is 10% over priced at the moment.

I think we have overdone it with city centre flats.

Speaking as a property investor (and as someone who has worked in housebuilding for many years), I would still invest in flats, but never in new build flats due to the competition.

I run a 'sell your home fast for cash' type business, and would say that the people who are looking to sell on flats are generally investors that have been bitten, their expectations far exceeding the reality.

But these flats would not been built by house builders in the first place if local council planning officers had any real understanding of 1) the kind of living 'real' people desire and 2)the UK housing shortage.

And herein lies the root of the entire UK housing problem.

  • 22.
  • At 12:13 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Serena wrote:

Robert Cargill,

If, as in many towns, a huge oversupply of new-build, gardenless apartments has been created by the greed of developers feeding on the property bubble, then don't expect the problems in this area to disspiate in a hurry. Hardly anyone wants to live in these apartments, they are mostly owned by people who wish to let them out at a profit, but in many cases are unable to do so. To add to the problem, prices are falling sharply in this sector of the market.

"In it for the long term"? You better have some deep pockets to cover the colossal losses that owning one of these apartments will entail.

  • 23.
  • At 12:13 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Robert - the best investment is the one that has the greatest return between the time it is bought and the time it is sold.

If these investments are generating less profit than a standard savings account then are obviously a pretty poor investment. I keep hearing about being in it for the long-term, but surely it would be better to let prices hit the bottom whilst (investing the money elsewhere).

  • 24.
  • At 12:57 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Ad wrote:

Lets get straight to the point. These new build flats are identikit boxes, soulless places which have not been built for families or couples but for pure investment purposes ie; the new breed of 'buy to let landlord'. The fact many flats have been left intentionally empty for capital gains proves the point.

Anyone with any financial common sense could see just how this was going to end. The government also knew. These places are the social housing of the future.

  • 25.
  • At 02:37 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Bruce Mcaaw wrote:

The government have to accept responsibility with regard to the massive number of new build flats that have been developed over the last decade. The atrocious planning policies put in place by John Prescott and co interfered so badly with the market that there is little else developers can build. The combination of density requirements and the restriction of virtually all building to brownfield sites means that flats are the only way developers could go. Flats may be appropriate in city centres but the madness has extended to every new development in the country where masses of flats and town houses are cramped in at one end and a few family homes in the remaining small corner. This also doesn't fit well with the governments new requirement to make all houses suitable for an ageing population. The problem we have is we need and want family homes not tower blocks. For me its a classic example of the unintended consequences of government interference in the market.

  • 26.
  • At 03:04 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Risky developments suppported by pyramid-selling schemes based on valuations always rising on the back of cheap money?

There's a word for the:


Not a nice words, but the UK has far more of it than the US ever did, and on top of subprime we also have "non-conforming" mortgages - yes the euphemism that RICS and ARLA use when they want to dress it up. But they all amount to the same think - risky mortgages on risky properties about turning bad.

  • 27.
  • At 03:15 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Ian Slater wrote:

If there is an 'over-supply' of flats in say, Manchester, then it would follow that there are no singles or couples on Manchester City Council's waiting list for housing. I expect this is not so.

Do you mean there is market failure?

Or just that owners prefer to wait for better times rather than sell at today's actual values?

  • 28.
  • At 03:19 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • dr.james smith wrote:

If a number of flats in an area are sold for social housing. This tends to depress the price.
Social housing can bring its own problems and the average owner/occupier wants to keep away from it.


  • 29.
  • At 03:26 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Tim wrote:

I think we needed the flats, but at a price a first time buyer could afford. Once they rose above this then the only market was the buy-to-let bridage. But if you can't afford a mortgage on the place then you can't afford the rent that will pay a landlords mortgage. Alot of the late buy-to-let entrants will be badly stung as prices fall, as well as those who have leveraged themselves too highly.
Maybe then I'll buy a flat!

  • 30.
  • At 03:33 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Natalie wrote:

Being that the housing market is overpriced, perhaps the excess appartments will drive rental prices down and throw the rental market into the hands of the consumers. Renters, such as myself and family, have had enough of exuberant rental prices, ridiculous lease terms and fees. I welcome rental costs as low as the average mortgage repayment.

  • 31.
  • At 03:59 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Oliver wrote:

Prices falling is the only solution to the current problem - that prices are too high for many. Large scale investment in flats or "supply" is required to match rising numbers of households or "demand". It is a very good thing that we are seeing flat price falls as a result of getting the supply side to move prices in the direction that is right for first time buyers.

  • 32.
  • At 04:14 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Toby Rothwell - London wrote:

It's astonishing it's taken so long for the new-build city-centre flat market to begin to implode.

It goes to show what a combination of (1) incessant ramping (courtest of media, viz 'property' TV and the Money sections of the press) and (2) vast amounts of easy credit can do to inflate and maintain a bubble.

Fortunately, number (2) has now been scuppered, and as investors' losses build, so will (1). Property investment of this type, where even gross yields are below the cost of capital, will be reviled, and go out of favour a decade or more, until eventually, the sums once again begin to stack up.

However, by that time, the majority of first-timers those who joined the current bandwagon will have long ago given up on their investments, either voluntarily (if they are in a position, equity-wise, to do so), or involuntarilty through being bankrupted and repo'd.

  • 33.
  • At 04:35 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • David wrote:

I live near Colchester and can confirm that there are hundreds and hundreds of new empty flats there. Only a fool would believe they were 'luxury' as described. Having small rooms and tiny windows that look out on busy roundabouts or car parks or open onto a stinking river (yes really) is not my idea of luxury! Many amateur (or amateurish) speculators are going to learn an expensive lesson in 2008

  • 34.
  • At 04:50 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Ian Harris wrote:

I would agree with post 20. There are huge numbers of modern flats either for sale or about to come on to the market over the next few months.

There is a huge over supply in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and many other places.

There is growing evidence of people being unable to get mortgages on flats bought off plan where they expected to make a profit by selling before completion or shortly afterwards.

Look out in the local papers for any of the following offers for a sure fire guarantee that there are far too many unsold new flats out there.

1) Offers of discounts.
2) Offers of mortgage subsidies. How many people who took advantage of these two or three years ago will soon have to sell as they cannot afford increased repayments?
3) Buy 50% rent 50% offers.

I fully expect anywhere between a 15 and 20% drop in prices in some city centre areas.

  • 35.
  • At 05:16 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • john thomas wrote:

This old news really. Flat values were reported as already falling by 10% p.a. in June 2007. And as each new block is released to market the depreciation accelerates for those already there.

The scandal (if that is not too strong a word) goes like this:

The new-build flat is over valued by the developer. In order to hide this he offers 'discounts' ...stamp dutry paid, legal fees, furniture allowance and ofcourse your deposit, all paid. Only the deposit never goes anywhere. Your morgage lender is told that the proerty is sold for £200,000 a morgage is needed for £180,000 (90%) with you the punter contributing a £20,000 deposit. You don't, the builder just 'discounts'. Any suspicions are alaid because the value reported to the land registry by the selling solicitor is £200,000! The flat though remains only worth what you paid for it which is £180,000.

As an estate agent working in Ipswich if you were to come to me looking to by a flat I would advise you don't. If you were a buy2let investor looking to buy a flat I would laugh...knowing you ain't got a clue about what you're doing and then tell you don't!

  • 36.
  • At 05:28 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Prof Kilner wrote:

Market research indicates a large demand for flats in 2-3 storey blocks with a communal garden,which can be found in smaller towns at under £200K for 2 bed rooms.
The large tower blocks which have been constructed should be used for social housing-or renting to temporary immigrants like the Poles which you referred to in a previous article.

  • 37.
  • At 05:47 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Ralph Feldberg wrote:

I think that the "rule of parties" applies here: the bigger the party, the bigger the mess to clean up afterward...

  • 38.
  • At 06:55 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • JonA wrote:

Justification for house-building, and particularly for flat-building, has often been attributed to the increase in the number of households in the country (and particularly in the SouthEast).
So now that these houses are (anecdotally) remaining empty, shouldn't we suspect that the number of households was expanding to fill the available affordable housing? In other words, there is nothing inevitable about the increase in households.

  • 39.
  • At 07:57 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Steve Jones wrote:

This should be good news for first time buyers, as an over supply of city centre apartments means that prices will come down and the apartments will be more affordable.

Some investors who lose money will probably try to blame other people, but in reality they only have themselves to blame. If thousands of investors all buy at the same time with the intention of all selling at the same time, it is obvious that prices will be depressed. This is simple supply and demand. They probably didn't want to think about this because of the greed of hoping to make easy money. That's life.

  • 40.
  • At 08:03 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Roy wrote:

Property rampers will tell you that there is a severe undersupply, which is why house prices will continue to rise. I think now people are beginning to realise that this is balderdash, and a lot of people will be ruined while a few got rich.

  • 41.
  • At 08:30 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Colin Stephen wrote:

UK flats are consistently significantly smaller than those in continental Europe. Often the second bedrooms on paper are little larger than cupboards, and flats large enough for a family are rare. They also lack any storage space storage or laundry drying facilities.
They seem to be targetted at fitting the "two bedroom luxury apartment" label to sell to investors rather than producing practical living space.

This makes it difficult for couples who need a moderate amount of space to live in the centre of towns and commute by public transport. Instead we still see a proliferation of edge of town housing developments (often with rooms almost as small).

  • 42.
  • At 08:54 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • David Abbott wrote:

I don't think that it is so much that too many 2-bed apartments have been built, more the wrong size and type.
There is still heavy demand for apartments where there is a [b]double second bedroom[/b] but these are more the exception than the rule.
I am amazed that council planners allowed so may to be built with an en-suite to the master (the flat already has a full sized bathroom), but with a box room for the second bedroom.
I am more amazed that many investors bought these apartments off-plan often when plans were not prepared but were just lines on a page.

  • 43.
  • At 09:51 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Claire Murphy hlw commercial lawyers wrote:

I am a commercial property lawyer based in Leeds.

In the period since I moved from London to Leeds in 1996, there has been an enormous amount of development of all types in Leeds.

There is a current inbalance of demand and supply as developers have all been keen to benefit from the gains of residential development which have been financially greater per square foot of developed area than for other types of development.

The smart developers and the funders realised that there was an upcoming over supply some time ago and moved away from speculative residential development in Leeds city centre.

Schemes that are just being built therefore are likely to have been pre sold to investors some time ago "off plan".

As with any commodity in worsening economic conditions, the demand will remain for new speculative supply but only for unique or premium properties and locations.

  • 44.
  • At 10:20 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • John wrote:

We have an economy which is made up now of 75% service sector. A lot of it driven by House Price Inflation bank rolled by irresponsible lending.

Forget the word "fundamental" that you may hear from time to time. In the long term property purchase and indeed rental is only sustained - wait for it - at sustainable levels. Which is the long term average.

Property full stop is due for a correction of about 30% at least - not 10% as some 'professionals' may state. The only thing professional about it is them watching out for themselves.

Long-term is just an excuse used by an investor to explain why their investment in making no money now or in the near future.

  • 45.
  • At 11:03 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • David wrote:

There may have been a sustainable case for decent quality larger sized apartments, with up to 3 beds and reasonably sized living space, to establish a continental pattern of family accommodation and also to allow equity release for older couples. However, the economics of the recent housing market could only developments to stack up with a combination of 1 to 2 bed flats, with minimal living space and often with a shocking build quality.

I fear we have now created a future legacy of large blocks of slum housing which it will be very difficult to resolve, once deserted by the lemming-like tide of buy-to-let investors who failed to understand housing market cycles and the pitiful net yields their investments will return once maintenance costs and vacant periods are factored in a few years in. Poor planning policies and the need to meet simplistic Government housing targets have meant that we may have missed a unique opportunity to achieve a pattern of beneficial urban development in a benign economic climate.

  • 46.
  • At 11:23 PM on 26 Feb 2008,
  • Jon wrote:

There's no over supply, the problem is over pricing. If they were willing to drop the price people would snap them up. I'd love a city centre apartment but at 100K+ it's an impossible dream.

  • 47.
  • At 12:21 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Gill wrote:

Its not just cities and towns, but also small villages that are being blighted by inappropriate developments. There's a rash of three four and five bedroomed properties being built (in groups of four to avoid having to build any social housing), in one small Suffolk village, where even the larger properties don't have room in the back 'garden', (I use that term loosely), to literaly swing a cat. They have 1 or 1.5 parking places per house in a village that has virtually no public transport just four buses per day), so that parking is becoming a problem and a nuisance because most households have at least two cars, no shop, no playground, no common or communal land or any other amenety.

Country villages are having to absorb developments at the same density as proscribed for urban areas, and their character is being changed out of all recognition. Most villages don't want to be 'pickled in aspic', but would prefer that the local planning authority would take into consideration the views of local residents, rather than appearing to be incollusion with developers that buy parcels of land in the country for considerably less than they would have to pay in the towns, by allowing as many 'luxury' three, four and five bedrooned houses as possible to be crammed into the smallest possible space.

In common with most urban developments, there's no additional infrastructure being built to support them. No additional doctor's surgeries, no dentists and no school places in the vicinity. Out in the sticks, there's no plans for any improvements to public transport, and at the same time, the few remaining Post Office Stores than provide a modicum of local services are being closed.

If all those flatblocks.. sorry luxury city-living apartments, are being sold to housing associations its a scandal waiting to happen.

Currently developers will offer you all kinds of discounts to take one of them off their hands (after being valued far above its true value). If a HA only gets a 15% discount to current market price they will be throwing their money away. Wait 6 months and then try buying them.. for a 30% discount.

  • 49.
  • At 11:27 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Mark Jones wrote:

I think that overall the boom in flat building in our city centres over the past decade and a half has been a good thing. Sure, they are not everbody's cup of tea but many young people don't want to use their time and money gardening or renovating and cleaning a big detached house in a cul-de-sac.

15 years ago we had got to the frankly bizarre situation where many of our city centres were virtually uninhabited and rapidly emptied after the offices kicked out their employees. The building of so many flats has helped to turn this around.

The problem has been than many speculators looking for a quick buck have pushed prices up to unrealistic levels, the bubble will burst as all bubbles do and some of these speculators will get burned, this is the risk they took. After this happens though, we will still have tens of thousands of reasonable homes that many young singles and couples will be able to buy or rent at more reasonable prices. In my opinion that's a good thing.

Prices here are ridiculous and need to fall, compare prices to rent or buy a flat in a UK city with the price of a similar flat in a German city where salaries are just as high or higher than here.Lower prices for accomodation mean that people will have more disposable cash which will benefit the rest of the economy and give people a better standard of living.

  • 50.
  • At 11:41 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • CheekyPedant wrote:

"almost any railway station - from Norwich to Nottingham"

So that's Kings Lynn, Spalding and Grantham then?

But seriously, its interesting that it is worth an article (asking if we've "overdone it") when one ascept of residential property appears to obey the normal laws of supply and demand.

  • 51.
  • At 11:51 AM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • henry smith wrote:

The problem is that all those cities
aspiring to be like London, dont actually have the same type of economy as London. Most of Britain, except blue chip areas of London, is overpriced

  • 52.
  • At 01:01 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Minnie wrote:

My local council operates a scheme for first time buyers, whereby people who could afford the mortgage but don't have a deposit can have 30% of their mortgage paid by the council, as long as they don't move within three years and they pay 30% of the sale price back to the council. Perfect except the scheme is only available if you are interested in purchasing one bedroom flats. I did point out to my council that should I take up this scheme, and we have twins in a year for example, we will be stuck in unsuitable accommodation for another two yearsby the same people who would have helped us out if we were renting! I added that helping young professionals get yuppie flats at the expense of helping vulnerable people in unsuitabkle housing was not why I paid my council tax.They hung up on me about that point...

  • 53.
  • At 01:21 PM on 27 Feb 2008,
  • Tim wrote:

Maidstone has also seen a massive amount of flats crop up around the train stations and along the river front.

I've been put off investing, intially by the price of the flats (despite developers/council promoting them as low cost housing). Secondly the amenities provided (echoed in early messages about parking). Friends who have bought flats in the developments have also suffered from poor quality construction (thin walls mostly) - don't really want to hear nextdoors conversations...or worse!!

On the cost of it I'd rather wait for a house to come up and benefit from a private garden.

  • 54.
  • At 12:58 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • Keith wrote:

As a general observation. I'd suggest that, despite booming property prices, rentals have been kept managable by two factors. The low cost of borrowing, and the expectation of capital profits.

This market is now seeing borrowing costs rocketing. At the same time capital gains are shrinking and liquidity is vanishing. This leaves investors with three unattractive options. Take the losses, raise rents or sell up.

Raising rents sounds like the easy option, but as long as there are landlords who are willing to take a small loss you're likely to end up with an unoccupied property and even bigger losses.

So, it looks like the easy money from buy to let is over.


  • 55.
  • At 07:54 PM on 28 Feb 2008,
  • DaveH wrote:

"I keep hearing about being in it for the long-term, but surely it would be better to let prices hit the bottom whilst (investing the money elsewhere)."

Long-term investment is code for "I wish I had put my money elsewhere".

The interesting point about flats is that it was the quickest way to create overcapacity - when the property market "experts" told us excess capacity could not happen.

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