Stourbridge News: Alan K Knight FRICS, Head Of Commercial, Walton & Hipkiss, Stourbridge. Alan Knight, Head of Commercial at Walton and Hipkiss, Stourbridge.

Smile and a steady hand

4:30pm Wednesday 30th May 2012

The regeneration of Stourbridge Town Centre keeps a pace with size of the project there for all to see – a very large hole in our town centre. The weather is on the turn and we are all looking forward to a summer of sport and celebration and a reason to smile. The property market also shows a sense of relief too. Although the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) UK Commercial Market Survey for the first quarter of 2012 shows “there was little change in overall activity during the first quarter. As such, there was a small improvement in the rental outlook; rent expectations remain negative, but less so than in the previous quarter. Surveyors in many parts of the country are continuing to suggest that occupiers are remaining cautious with regards to new letting activity.”

This is a view on the national stage but local conditions are somewhat different we are seeing good activity in office lettings and workshop / industrial demand is holding up, particularly from freehold purchasers. Retail is still cautious; although we are now receiving more offers on available stock both sales and lettings. Despite falls in commercial property rents and available Grade A space, this region has still managed to be 25 per cent ahead of a five year average in terms of take-up. Sale of smaller workshops and retail premises to end users/owner/occupiers continues to for all intents and purposes to sustain the West Midlands commercial property market.

Analyzing our own internet based traffic over the past few months has shown us a massive increase in activity in users looking for commercial properties and land – we are now working with our providers to establish applications for mobile devices and this is proving very successful with an average of 15,000 hits per property and far more time spent on individual properties. Let us hope this transmits into more lettings and sales – we have already seen a marked increase in both viewings and offers with Vendors showing a more realistic view on values.

Activity in the housing market continued to rise. This is due to a number of factors: a rise in the availability of mortgages at high loan-to-values; passage of time having allowed some would-be buyers to save up for a deposit; and the growing prevalence of financial assistance from family members. Buy-to-let demand also continued to strengthen, although the supply of rental property was now catching up with demand in some areas. Vendors were also thought to have become more realistic about selling prices – so maybe time to look at your property and look what is out there. Developers are sharpening their pencils and the encouraging increase in activity in the early part of the year continues with three and shortly to be four of our clients on site and building both houses and apartments – a far cry from this time last year.

Activity levels in the West Midlands construction sector edged upwards in the first three months of the year according to the latest RICS Construction Market Survey (10 May 2012).

This is a notable improvement of the negative reading seen towards the end of 2011. More significantly, predictions for future construction activity in the region saw a marked improvement in the first quarter of the year. 22 percent more respondents expect workloads to rise over the coming twelve months, the most positive reading since the third quarter of 2009.

So as suspected since last month’s editorial and a surge in enquiries we have concluded a number of commercial sales in and around the Town Centre. So a time to celebrate and a time to smile - we are all very good at talking gloom and doom in the marketplace and although we are still in difficult times lets look at the positives and improve our outlook and make things happen – don’t talk it down!



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