David Adamson takes the temperature of the city centre’s property market
I don’t know if you’ve noticed (maybe you've been exploring in the Amazon for several years) but there’s been a lot of building in the city centre of late. In the last few years, apartment blocks have been cropping up like spring daffodils, adding to an ever-growing skyline and altering the face of the city centre.
Manchester is now ensconced in the numerous lists of ‘best places to live’ - rubbing shoulders with the likes of Berlin and Copenhagen; and while the suburbs of Didsbury, Chorlton and Altrincham have always been popular, the city centre now seems to have its own magnetic pull.
If you put up a one or two bedroom in Cutting Room Square I think we would probably have about 20 live applicants ready to view right now
According to Rightmove, sales of flats around Manchester city centre had an average price of £243,302 over the last year.
Meanwhile a forecast published on behalf of Victoria Riverside in April of this year predicts that property values will rise by just under 19 percent in the coming years, with Oxford Economics predicting that the city will see 16 percent economic growth, the highest of all UK cities.
So if the numbers speak of a city centre property market in rude health, what do the people selling the properties think?
According to Rhiannon Durston, Sales and Marketing Director at Reside Properties, the recent hike in interest rates to 5% hasn’t yet made the expected dint in the sales market.
“We haven't yet, overall [seen an effect] yet. That might come but right now we're still seeing plenty of people wanting to move to the city centre,” she said. “There’s a good number of cash buyers out there as well, so overall I still feel like Manchester is a positive place to be, and we see that in the number of sales that we generate every day.
“We listed a one bed at Deansgate Square, which was a resale so it's someone that probably bought it off plan and is reselling it. That was about two to three days ago and we've got offers on that instantly. So it’s very, very popular.”
This sturdy and consistent sales market also comes as a pleasant surprise to Nick Stanton, Area Manager for Greater Manchester at Bridgfords, who explained that while nothing is ever a nailed on certainty, ‘the market is still there’ - driven partly by the ‘frighteningly busy’ lettings market.
“Nothing’s ever bulletproof,” he said. “But city centres at the minute, particularly Manchester, have definitely got their vibe back, and you can see that in the fact that after Covid the bars and restaurants were reasonably busy every other day - now they’re busy every lunchtime. [Not sure all the resturants would agree - Editor]
“The demand for apartments is huge. Huge. Whether that’s first time buyers or investors. The press at the minute is all about landlords jettisoning properties because of interest rates or because of the tax implications, but there's always somebody to replace them.
“The market is still there. With Manchester you can see all the buildings going up, and somebody's got to be buying them. The guys that are building them wouldn't be doing it if the demand wasn’t there, and they work off 10 or 15 year projections.
"For most estate agents it’s mainly resales that we're dealing with - properties that were built 15 or 20 years ago. That’s the fastest moving part of the market for me, and I don't have many of the new build properties mainly because they’re generally sold off plan abroad or retained wholly and rented out. So the build to rent sector is still pretty buoyant.”
“The city centre is buzzing, driven by the lettings side, because I've never seen the lettings market like it. It's frighteningly busy - the demand is huge.”
This mad dash for rented apartments in the centre is something that’s not been lost on Lettings Consultant at Julie Twist Properties, Darren Bolton, who described the speed with which bookings fill up.
“Demand is far outstripping supply at the lower end of the rental market,” he said. “So any property around £1,250 to £1300 a month is moving pretty fast.
“Sometimes when we make a property live that window of viewing we schedule for a property can be fully booked within an hour or two.”
Rhiannon also has experience of this not only every day, but all day every day, with hopeful tenants now booking to view flats months in advance.
“It’s just crazy,” she exclaimed. “It feels like last year and the year before when people learnt September was too late to rent. Now in April we’ve started seeing people come through for August and September rentals.
“There’s just not enough stock for people, it seems. We're getting people coming in all day long saying, ‘Can I rent in September?’, trying to line it up in advance. It's great for built to rent apartments because you can quite often line it up so it works for the tenants, whereas with the re-let market, it's harder to know when a tenant’s moving out until the month before. So there’s huge demand for rental properties.
“If we were to put up a one or two bedroom in Cutting Room Square I think we would probably have about 20 live applicants ready to view right now.”
Build it and they will come, but as with any tussle between supply and demand something - sometime - might have to give. But for the time being, there seems to be no slowing in the demand for city centre living, notwithstanding the cost of living crisis and the interest rate rises. There's no sign soon the constant construction will slow.
Next time: We investigate who is renting and buying the city centre apartments, young or old, local or overseas?
Get the latest news to your inbox
Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!