Are we in Bargain Britain for Overseas Property Investors?

UK flag map united kingdom
Are we in Bargain Britain for Overseas Property Investors? Aspen Woolf

Is now the best time for overseas buyers to invest in the UK property market?


Political upheaval thanks to Brexit has triggered a chain reaction that makes the UK a hotspot for overseas investors. The value of the pound is around the lowest it has been since the vote was taken to leave the European Union in 2016, and this alone means investors are getting more value for their money than any other time in recent memory. Pair these bargain prices with enticing mortgage deals and low house prices, and it’s natural to wonder if this might be the best time ever for overseas investors to enter the UK property market.

Data published in the Daily Telegraph that compiled mortgage enquiries found most overseas mortgage requests came from nations whose currencies are pegged to the dollar – UAE, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar all fall within the top ten.

To get an idea of just how low the pound is against the Dollar, let’s look at the two currencies in 2014 compared to this year, 2019.

April 2014 – £1 = $1.68
April 2019 – £1 = $1.3


That’s a huge difference of $0.38. Let’s say for example that in 2014 you wanted to buy a property for £150,000, your investment would have an equivalent value of $252,000. With the condition of today’s currencies, a £150,000 property would be equal to only $195,000. That’s enormous difference of $57,000.

The current low value of the Pound Sterling and the correspondingly higher value for a purchase compared with previous, pre-referendum, prices is clearly enticing overseas investment. But the deal would be made even sweeter if the Pound were to reclaim its prior dollar value of $1.68. So, will the pound rise in the post-Brexit economy?

Of course it is somewhat difficult to say, but there are those who are optimistic about the strength of the pound. Throughout much of the chaos over the last couple of years the Pound has made several gains against the Euro and the US Dollar which does signify a certain degree of strength. The factors that will have the most impact on the Pound Sterling are the UK’s economic strength after Brexit and policy decisions made by the Bank of England, both of which are difficult to forecast.

But, we should remember that property is a long term investment and Britain is in unprecedented difficulty at the moment as the Brexit saga continues. Given time, stability and a new understanding of Britain’s place in European and world trade, it seems perfectly reasonable that the pound will once again retain higher values.

Here at Aspen Woolf, we have seen an interest from overseas buyers in all parts of the UK, but with a particular focus on the emerging and comparatively lower priced areas in Northern England. Overseas investors are able to score a triple whammy with their investment package: not only will they make the most of the low value of the Pound and the low house prices in the UK, but they will also be able to save even more if they buy with an off-plan discount.

Whether you’re from home or abroad, you can have a look at our investment options here.

What are the HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail Initiatives?

Over the last few years politicians have been throwing around terms like HS2, Crossrail North, and Northern Powerhouse Rail. It doesn’t help anyone that the details as well as the names of these projects seem to fluctuate. We’re writing this article to bring you the latest news about the upcoming rail projects in Northern England, and we’re also going to tell you what these projects mean for the local economies and investment in those areas.
The first thing to make clear is the distinction between the two major transport projects: HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

What are the HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail Initiatives? Aspen Woolf

HS2 – A huge overhaul of British rail services

What is HS2?

High Speed Rail 2, or HS2, is quite possibly the largest project to overhaul the UK’s Rail infrastructure since the railways were first built it the 1870s. This initiative aims to become a backbone of transport in Britain. In short, HS2 is planned to introduce 345 miles of new high-speed track to connect many of the UK’s major centres. Additionally, HS2 trains will be able to serve further areas in northern England and Scotland because they will be cross-compatible between the old and new tracks.

HS2 is scheduled to connect eight of the UK’s largest cities; Birmingham, London, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and will serve 25 stations along the way. It is expected that 15,000 people will be able to travel between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds every hour.

Construction is to be carried out in three phases:

• Phase 1: Connects London to the West Midlands
• Phase 2a: Connects the West Midlands and Crewe
• Phase 2b: Connects Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to York and Leeds

The final completion date is 2033, but phase 1 is scheduled to be complete in 2026 and Phase 2a in 2027.

How much does HS2 cost?

If you’ve read about HS2 in the news it’s most likely to be in relation to the somewhat controversial costs. The stated costs are claimed to be in the region of £56bn. However the Financial Times reported that costs could rise by £30bn.

What are are the benefits of HS2?

Not only will HS2 bridge the gap between the northern and southern regions in the UK, it will also slash journey times:
• Birmingham-London reduces from 1hr 21min to 49min
• Manchester-London reduces from 2hr 8min to 1hr 8min
• Birmingham-Leeds reduces from 2hr to 57min
• London-Edinburgh and Glasgow reduced from 4hr 30min to 3hr 30min

The injections to the local economies placed on the HS2 line must not be underestimated. Virtually every town and region reached by HS2 will receive a boost to their economies. You can read a full breakdown by area here, but we’re going to have a brief look at the growth plan for Leeds.

Leeds – A case study of growth

Leeds council has compiled its own detailed growth strategy for how to manage upcoming changes to the local area and make the best of what is an incredible event in Leeds’ history.

Leeds region predicts that HS2 will lead to about 40,000 new jobs and a £54 billion boost to the regional economy by 2050.
HS2 is going to be used as a catalyst for growth. The Leeds South Bank development is one of the biggest regeneration projects in Europe. It is targeting an increase of economic output valued at double the current product. As well as the boom in job numbers already mentioned. 8,000 new homes will be created and educational facilities constructed for over 10,000 students.

Cleary HS2 is a revolutionary opportunity for Leeds.

What is Northern Powerhouse Rail?

What are the HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail Initiatives? Aspen Woolf

Northern Powerhouse Rail – Connecting the northern regions

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) is another major initiative designed to create better connectivity between cities, this time exclusively focusing on key Northern areas.

The Strategic Outline Business Case was approved in February 2019, and outlines how this project will increase the capacity, speed and reliability of northern England’s rail network.

This is the biggest transport overhaul in the northern regions since the industrial revolution. It will provide passengers with quicker and more reliable journeys between the North’s economies.

Here is a breakdown of the project:

Upgrade lines running from:

• Manchester to Sheffield
• Sheffield to Doncaster and Selby
• Leeds to Hull
• York to Darlington
• The TransPennine Express running from Manchester to Leeds

Build new lines running from:

• Liverpool to Manchester, passing through Crewe
• Manchester to Leeds, passing through Bradford

How much will the Northern Powerhouse Rail cost?

Although coming in at substantially cheaper than HS2 the costs are still a hefty £39bn.

What will the benefits of the Northern Power House Rail project be?

Northern Powerhouse Rail will increase services across northern England and cut journey times:

• Newcastle to Leeds time to reduce by 30-37 minutes, with 1 further service
• Leeds to Hull time to reduce by 19 minutes, with 1 further service
• Sheffield to Leeds to reduce by 11-14 minutes, with 3 further services
• Sheffield to Hull to reduce by 30-36 minutes, with 1 further service
• Manchester to Sheffield to reduce by 9-17 minutes, with 2 further services
• Leeds to Manchester to reduce by 21-32 minutes, with 2 further services
• Liverpool to Manchester to reduce by 11-31 minutes, with 2 further services

Bradford – A case study of growth

Bradford’s economy is worth £10.5 billion and the city is home to around 500,000 people. However, in recent times Bradford has not been well connected and has therefore not been able to unlock its full potential. Thankfully this is all set to change thanks to the introduction of the Northern Powerhouse project and the scheduled arrival of HS2 in nearby Leeds (which is accessible by the Northern Powerhouse Rail). These two major projects mean that Bradford is estimated to receive a massive boost of £15 billion by 2060.

Much like Leeds and the HS2 project, Bradford will be using its greater connectivity as a springboard for regeneration and wealth creation.
The city has its own plan to focus on areas of development to encourage the economy to become the fastest growing in the UK. Four initiatives around education, culture, business and connection are aiming to increase the value of the local economy by £4 billion, moving 20,000 more people into work and improving the skills of 48,000 residents.

What does all this mean?

There are some plans afoot to revolutionise the transport infrastructure in the UK. HS2 will benefit the economies of many cities on its route, but if you’re living in northern England or thinking of buying or investing in property in the region, you can take away from all this a sense that big things are happening. It looks like the key to northern England’s growth potential is finally going to be handed to regions that have waited too long to enjoy prosperity.

Of course, with economic wealth comes an increase in house prices. As we are currently in the early stages of investment in areas such as Leeds and Bradford, now may very well be a good time to consider claiming your own piece of northern prosperity.

Have a look at our properties in Leeds and Bradford – two cities waiting to make the most of these exciting times.

What is Bolton’s Regeneration Masterplan?

A more Powerful Northern England than Ever Before

You’ve probably heard the term ‘Nothern Powerhouse’ being thrown around by Politicians and the media in the last few years. Broadly speaking this is an initiative to boost Northern England’s local economy by investing in people, skills, innovation transport and culture.

This huge project is all about redressing the balance between the Northern regions and the South East of the UK, launching the post-industrial Northern towns into the future with a combination of devolved government and financial investment. As such, the Northern Powerhouse initiative is divided into location specific projects; the Masterplan being Bolton’s overarching plan for regeneration.


The UK’s biggest town gets even bigger

The Bolton Masterplan focuses on the town centre by injecting investment into a number of sectors: retail, leisure, employment, education, residential and transport, and across a number of specified districts.

Worth an enormous £1.2 billion, the Masterplan’s vision is to re build the town centre through a series of developments and projects that will result in more than 2000 new homes being built and 7,400 jobs being created; together boosting the local economy by £4.6 billion.

The last 5 years has seen an increase of around 30% in house values for apartments across Bolton, owing to the demands of the rental market. The investment potential of Bolton is greatly helped out by its proximity to the city of Manchester (only 20 minutes away), which means there is a constant demand of young people and professionals who see Bolton as a commutable location. The University of Bolton is expected to double its numbers over the next 15 years which undoubtedly creates even more demand for homes.

All of this is why an increase in town centre residential development is considered key to the long-term success of Bolton. It’s important to remember that the focus on residential development will be accompanied by new projects for recreation and entertainment, include parks, bars and café’s.


Key areas for development

The Masterplan’s framework specifies 5 key areas of development within the town centre.


Trinity Quarter


What is Bolton’s Regeneration Masterplan? Aspen Woolf

Bolton’s Masterplan – Living/office space in Trinity Quarter


Bolton’s Trinity Quarter is a highly accessible location that will see development in both work and living space. Currently comprised of former industrial buildings, this area is planned to be redeveloped through a mix of new buildings and up-cycling of already existing sites. The northeast section of Trinity Quarter will be the focus of residential developments, offering a mixture of housing types with communal space ideal for a range of residents.

The total number of new homes in Trinity Quarter is expected to reach 500, accommodating 1,000 new residents, with £137 million in property sales values.


Cheadle Square


What is Bolton’s Regeneration Masterplan? Aspen Woolf

Bolton’s Masterplan – Living space in Cheadle Square


This is Bolton’s main academic and cultural area and comprises of a number of development sites, including the former bus station on Black Horse Street, Cheadle Square, Le Mans Square and Great Moor Street Car Park.

The now unused bus station site provides an opportunity for the creation of 63 apartments and 246 student rooms, with grand floor space of 5,293 sq meters for food, beverage and retail. Other areas of Cheadle square will together provide a further 340 homes.

A new Market Square will provide an open area that gives more scope to the activities that are currently held in Victoria Square. Queen Street will become a key destination featuring up-market restaurants and cafes which themselves border a historic public space.

300 new residents will be brought into this new area, living in properties that generate £37 million of sales.

Crompton Place


What is Bolton’s Regeneration Masterplan? Aspen Woolf

Bolton’s Masterplan – Improved retail in Crompton Place


This is the shopping precinct at the centre of Bolton’s civic identity. The Masterplan’s blueprint for this area is to modernise the retail experience by introducing a range of up-market restaurants while updating accessibility to the neighboring areas and redesigning the main façade of the building. Some large spaces are likely to be used for workshops and teaching, providing an altogether new sense of community to Bolton’s Crompton Place.


Croal Valley / St Helena / Central Street


What is Bolton’s Regeneration Masterplan? Aspen Woolf

Bolton’s Masterplan – Flats and townhouses in Croal Valley and the surrounding area


Currently Bolton’s Croal Valley and surrounding area is used mainly for parking and open space, and does not make a significant contribution to the town centre. That is certainly due to change with the area facilitating a mix of uses, whether retail, residential or more broadly for the community. Large vacant spaces provide ample opportunity for development and will contribute to the area’s 350 flats and 50 townhouses generating £117 million in sales revenues. 500 new jobs will be created here.


Church Wharf


What is Bolton’s Regeneration Masterplan? Aspen Woolf

Bolton’s Masterplan – A new neighbourhood Church Wharf


Primarily made up of derelict and demolished warehouses and factory buildings, Bolton’s Church Wharf development will create an entirely new neighbourhood north west of the town centre. There is strong demand for 1-2 bed flats in Central Bolton and the development will reflect this while introducing waterfront housing and town houses.

With a mainly residential focus, 400-500 new homes will be built in Church Wharf, though the area will retain a strong element of green public space. £60 million of house sales will be generated here.


What does this mean?

Clearly Bolton’s Masterplan is a gigantic change for what is already the biggest town in the UK. Up to now Bolton has been a fairly unassuming town in the northwest. The Masterplan is set to change all of that by injecting a huge amount of resources in the town centre, completely revolutionizing its identity and creating a new community for thousands of new residents.

All this means that Bolton is a prime opportunity for property investment, capable of generating high yields for owners.

Why not have a look at our investment opportunities in Bolton.

Top reasons to invest in Bolton 2019

Why should you invest in Bolton?


You probably aren’t aware of it, but the unassuming commuter town of Bolton represents one of the best opportunities for investment in the UK. We’ve put together this list of the top reasons why you should invest in Bolton so you can learn about what makes the biggest town in the UK such an exciting proposition.


The Bolton Masterplan


Top reasons to invest in Bolton 2019 Aspen Woolf

Why invest in Bolton? The Bolton Masterplan


Let’s get straight to the bread and butter of why Bolton is set to be a winner for investors. The Bolton Town Centre Masterplan is a £1.2 Billion regeneration project aimed at transforming the current retail focused centre into a residential area, introducing over 2,000 new homes.

Although retail space will be reduced, the plans incorporate a strategy to retain a small number of popular stores including Primark, Marks and Spencer and Boots. There will also be an increased number of leisure and catering options for the influx of new residents.

We’ll post another article soon going into the specific details of this incredible project. The main thing to take away here is that Bolton is undergoing a radical transformation, changing the nature of the city centre itself. This new investment is added to an already existing £260m investment in Bolton’s public and private sectors, including a £48m rebuilding of the Interchange Transport Hub.

Bolton’s population currently stands at around 280,000 and is projected to exceed 300,000 by 2025. Clearly, it’s all about growth in Bolton.

Why not have a look at an example of a modern city living apartment development that we’re offering?



Top reasons to invest in Bolton 2019 Aspen Woolf

Why invest in Bolton? Economic Growth


Bolton would never have become what it is today if it were not for Flemish textile weavers settling in the area thanks to the ideal climate conditions. The town went on to become a major player in the textile industry and branched out into a number of other industries during the Industrial Revolution. Even to this day Bolton retains much of its heritage by continuing to serve a number of industries including steel, construction, paper, and textiles. But that doesn’t mean Bolton has failed to modernise – many businesses working in IT and technology have moved into the town, and a recent £15 million project has connected Bolton to the world with high-performing Broadband internet.

The Logistics industry deserves a special mention here as Bolton is home to Logistics North, the biggest development of its kind in Northern England, serving international names including MBDA, Aldi, Lidl, Amazon and Whistl.

One key fact to consider when discussing the local economy is that Bolton is situated in Greater Manchester, the largest economy in the UK outside of London. By adding its own £4.6bn to Greater Manchester’s economic output, Bolton plays a major part in the regions success.

Proximity to Manchester

Top reasons to invest in Bolton 2019 Aspen Woolf

Why invest in Bolton? Proximity to Manchester


Another reason why investors consider Bolton is because of its Geographical proximity to Manchester; only a 20 minute journey away. This means that Bolton is a perfect commuter town for those working in Manchester but who choose to avoid increasing costs. Many professionals working in Manchester will be looking to capitalise on Bolton’s local investment we mentioned earlier by moving into the new residential developments currently under construction.

Of course, being near to Manchester also means residents are able to sample some of the best Culture in the North West…


Local Culture

Top reasons to invest in Bolton 2019 Aspen Woolf

Why invest in Bolton? Local Culture


Manchester is perhaps the biggest cultural hub outside of London, with a huge number of listed building, museums, galleries and theatres. Post-industrial wealth means it has been possible to convert industrial buildings into centres of cultural interest, from The Quays – now home to MediaCityUK, the largest media hub in Europe, to The Lowry, Manchester’s biggest cultural complex.

Greater Manchester has launched its own Cultural Strategy, running from April 2019 to March 2024, bringing together the shared interests of all its ten districts. This focus on culture is a great sign that the area will go from strength to strength as it develops over the forthcoming years.



Top reasons to invest in Bolton 2019 Aspen Woolf

Why invest in Bolton? Education


Bolton has 97 primary schools, 18 secondary schools, 6 special schools, 3 further education colleges, 9 independent schools and 1 university in its catchment area.

Around 14,000 students attend the University of Bolton, and Bolton One is a new £31 million purpose-built campus housing a new sports complex as well as health, science and sports teaching and research facilities.

Manchester’s excellent University educates around 40,000 students at any one time, and is only a short commute away.



Top reasons to invest in Bolton 2019 Aspen Woolf

Why invest in Bolton? Transport connections


Bolton is well connected by all means of transport, being only 20 miles from Manchester Airport, offering a connection to 190 destinations across the world.

The West Coast Mainline, First TransPennine Express and Northern Trains serve Bolton by rail.

The M6, M60 and M61 roads mean Bolton is easily accessible by car.


Final words

With more than a Billion pounds worth of investment pouring into the town over the next few years, combined with an excellent location in Greater Manchester, Bolton represents an excellent chance for investment. If you aren’t convinced by the above points, consider that Bolton’s house prices are 27% under the national average* and have risen 25% over the last 5 years.**

Have a look at our investment opportunities in Bolton.





Landlords want new PM to be more positive towards private rented sector

Sheffield is popular with students, meaning high rental demand

Landlords want the candidates to lead the Conservative Party and be the next British Prime Minister to adopt a more positive approach to the private rented sector.

In a letter sent to Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson the Residential Landlords Association warns that the interests of tenants are not being well served by policies which are reducing the supply of homes to rent.

According to Government data, 10% of landlords representing 18% of all tenancies in the sector plan to reduce the number of properties they rent out whilst 5% of landlords representing 5% of tenancies plan to leave the sector altogether.

Indeed, recent RLA research suggests that 46 per cent of landlords are planning to sell some or all of their properties and the organisation points out that this comes following a raft of Conservative policies aimed at dampening investment in the market, including an extra 3% stamp duty on landlord investment in new homes to rent.

It adds that most recently the Government has proposed limiting the ability of landlords to repossess properties when they need to and as a result of the fall-off in investment, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has warned that expectations for increasing rents are now at their highest point for three years.

The RLA is calling on the leadership candidates to back its five point plan for the sector which calls for pro-growth taxation to ensure enough homes to rent to meet growing demand.

It also includes a call for a fair system for repossessing properties that protects tenants from unfair evictions whilst retaining the confidence of landlords to regain possession of their property where there is a legitimate need. The RLA says this needs to be coupled with a dedicated, housing court to settle disputes swifter and easier.

The plan says there should be support for vulnerable tenants which could be done by ending the Local Housing Allowance cap, stronger action against rogue landlords by providing councils with more resources to better use the powers they already have and a commitment to rejecting all forms of rent controls which serve only to dry up the supply of homes to rent, reducing choice for tenants and thereby increasing rents overall.

‘The new Conservative Prime Minister needs to reconsider the approach to the private rented sector. Otherwise the situation for tenants will just get worse as they face less choice and higher rents because of a growing shortage of properties,’ said David Smith, policy director at the RLA.

‘We need a raft of changes that will encourage more investment in high standard homes rather than efforts to scapegoat landlords for failures by successive governments to build enough homes,’ he added.

(c) Property Wire, July 2019

Investment in Build to Rent sector reaches a record high

Parliament Square Liverpool

Investment into the Build to Rent (BTR) sector in the UK reached a record high in 2018 with almost £4 billion of new funds allocated to a new analysis.

The research by Bidwells found almost two fifths of these transactions were forward funded as investors seek scale in key investment locations and the firm has indicated that the total funds committed over the past two years will reach up to £6 billion.

With the focus of investment in the year in the London market, accounting up to £1.6 billion of total funds committed, the South East and Eastern regions have revealed a further £417 million had been invested in the area.

When it comes to the residential market, the annual house price growth rose marginally in April to 0.9% from 0.7% in March, driven by the largest monthly increase in values since November 2018.

However, price growth remains weak despite a continued shortage of stock as both buyers and sellers choose to sit out the current political and economic uncertainty. This said, first time buyer activity continues to rise, assisted by Help to Buy, low mortgage rates and improved affordability.

Across the Oxbridge Growth Corridor, the report says that capital values for apartments in city centre locations generally remained stable in 2018. Highly accessible locations with quality city centre environments continue to record premiums. Recent evidence in the analysis underlines the positive impact of an improved town centre offer and the delivery of quality residential stock.

In all locations, values slip back sharply away from the city core, although this discount is particularly marked in Oxford and Cambridge. In the latter city, capital values are around £550 per square foot in the city fringe offering greater BTR opportunities for investors.

With the recently announced introduction of the East West Rail Route, it says that this presents long term opportunities in the Growth Corridor, providing locations along the route easy access to Cambridge, helping to address business concerns concerning the availability and affordability of housing.

Bedford, for example, will be within a half hour commute of the science and tech hub of Cambridge. However, new home capital values in the town currently stand less than half that those of the central Cambridge, while rents are amongst the most affordable across the Growth Corridor region at just 24% of average net incomes.

As always with new infrastructure, the investment impact takes time, but the commercial opportunity across the Growth Corridor region will quickly focus minds on future opportunity locations, it adds.

‘Given accelerating demand for globally mobile talent by knowledge based industries across the Oxbridge Growth Arc, we have seen growing investor demand across the region. Higher yield locations such as Bedford, with good access to the region’s universities and science parks, offer opportunities to investors, particularly given forthcoming transport infrastructure improvements,’ said Colin Summers, capital markets partner at Bidwells.