More uncertainty - or a sign of further improvement?

Alan K Knight FRICS, Head Of Commercial, Walton & Hipkiss, Stourbridge.

Alan K Knight FRICS, Head Of Commercial, Walton & Hipkiss, Stourbridge.

First published in Commercial Property by

Well it’s Spring – budget time and the end of the first quarter with an avalanche of reports and statistics to digest – the Bank of England’s summary of business conditions, which we contribute too, shows confirmed continued growth in Consumer demand and further signs of improvement in the housing market. Manufacturing and the industrial sector are improving, we are experiencing an increase in enquiries for industrial and commercial property and for the first time in a few years we are looking for new accommodation for manufacturing / workshops including new build or design and build opportunities. These are in our area and a clear sign of companies looking to expand and consolidate their property requirements.

The RICS Housing Market Survey February 2012 provides further evidence that the price trend for residential property at the national level appears to be stabilising although from a regional perspective, the London market continues to stand out as being particularly buoyant. The better tone to the activity and confidence data remains intact, although anecdotal evidence from surveyors suggests this is being driven in part by temporary factors, i.e. the expiry of the first-time buyer stamp duty exemption on 24 March (for homes costing less than £250,000). This has helped to support a pick-up in demand as new households seek to beat the deadline.

However, the fact that near term expectations have not receded and longer term price expectations are improving suggests other, more fundamental factors are also beginning to play a role in influencing the market, most notably a perception that the downside risk to the economy may have lessened. And there had been some increase in the range of mortgages on offer, although many first-time buyers continued to find it difficult to save a deposit, having to rent instead. Buy-to-let investment had risen further, attracted by high rental yields, although some contacts reported that the pace of increase in rents had slowed as more supply had become available.

The retail and offices sectors are also improving too – we have clients currently looking to acquire new offices in the Stourbridge area and in Stourport at the recently announced new multi million pound James Brindley Wharf development we are in advance discussions with a number of High Street retailers and leisure / food operators to take representation in the town for the first time. There too Tesco are about to start construction and a major housing development has recently achieved planning consent – so we will be seeing tower cranes in both Stourbridge and Stourport soon a sure and rare sign of positive activity and a much needed boost to both jobs and the construction industry.

Speculation on the effect of the redevelopment of the Crown Centre and the entry of Tesco still abounds – although with our various consultations in the Town Centre there is an eye to looking at opportunities for new business and hopefully some refurbishment. Business who may be affected by the redevelopment must “up their game” to compete – surely this is a good time to look at the way your business and premises are run and seize the time to invest in the future.

This all being said as I write this I am eagerly waiting to hear what George Osborne has in stall for us all – lets hope nothing which will be to the detriment of our fragile but steady recovery in our area.

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