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Searchlight Seeking the truth behind the headlines and casting a cynical eye over the market

Residential Investor

What the journals are saying

Knowledge is power, or so the cliché goes. But knowledge is much more than that, it is influence, it is authority, it is credibility. Property journals are a great source of information, by having the latest industry knowledge you can talk at length to clients, customers and anyone who is remotely interested about all sectors of the real estate industry. 

What I enjoy more though is reading the articles and deciding whether it correlates to what I see happening on the ground. So often it is just not the case. If you look closely, many ‘journalists’ are doing little more that changing the font on a press released. Much of what you read is advertorial in disguise rather than quality editorial. 

To take an example, Dealmakerz tells us that proptech start up with £37m worth of investment is having a break out year in 2018 and is projected to treble turnover by 230% next year. Why then are their employees looking to leave and customers using the service finding themselves manipulated by buyers who have spotted a loop hole in the business plan? 

I’m not crying foul and saying this is fake news, I am giving an example of how I like to use my real time knowledge of the market place and the gossip within it to dissect and unravel the carefully orchestrated press release we are fed.

One of the big stories this summer has been the improvement in PCL prices. There have been several articles highlighting particular deals and how they are proof of an upward trend. But one (or two) swallow does not a summer make. With transaction levels painfully low, and falling, it only takes one fortuitous sale to an UHNWI and the average for that price bracket can be dragged up. 

London Central Portfolio produce highly credible data analysis and are always willing to expose the truth, though their buying arm does give them a motive to talk prices down.

Ultimately, there are properties that have sold well whilst others have sat on the market. Agents start talking about how “best in class” properties will always sell well and there is some truth in that. However, for a property to truly shine that class needs to be very small – which neatly brings me to a more focused look at the new build market.

The broken rung of the ladder

When I first started in agency my argument for London property being a safe haven and a fool proof asset class was that everything boils down to supply and demand. London would always be a global city, most of it had been built on and unlike other international locations there were strict laws on the height of buildings. Then Ken Livingston approved the St George’s Wharf Tower and Boris Johnson decided a fleet of bicycles wasn’t enough of a legacy so set about ruining the London skyline. Is anyone else disappointed The Gherkin is now only visible from the East?

I digress. Not only has the skyline been transformed but my old mantra of demand always outstripping supply and therefore property never losing value has been torpedoed. Why pay ludicrous premiums for luxury lateral flats in prime locations when there are now numerous developments that produce the same product, side-by-side, with only slightly differing door handles. One premium developer with over 300 units available to sell has allegedly sold only one in 2018.

This issue is not restricted to premium properties, the damage done by too many penthouses is in fact the equivalent of a slow puncture. The more critical problem is found at the large 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom apartments (TATBAs?), which make up the vast majority of new build stock. Previously this was hoovered up by international investors buying them by the floor – demand was meeting supply, everyone was happy. Then in 2016 the 3% SDLT charge came in, landlords lost their tax relief on mortgage repayments and the demand for such properties dried up. 

Residential Investor

About Searchlight Post

The Searchlight is controlled and written by a senior property professional still involved in the thick of the market . The aim is to be insightful and analytical without being too presumptive and hypocritical. Enjoy the musings. @FPDSearchlight

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