Why pandemic effects on property are expected to be short-term

We think it’s high time for a little reassurance in light of the current global situation.

The present COVID-19 pandemic has seen economies across the world grind to a halt. This is obviously concerning for a wide range of people across many industries. Property is no different, as businesses across the property spectrum struggle with uncertainty. Buyers are hesitating, transactions are slowing and lettings are difficult. However, it’s well worth noting why this is happening. At least in the UK, the economy has slowed, not because everyone, or comparatively many people (at the time of writing) have become ill, but because measures are being taken to keep COVID-19 at bay. This just means what everybody knows, that this situation is temporary, and activity in the markets will resume.

In fact, if you’re a buyer you could be in a good position. Although there could be fewer properties available, there will be people who need to sell fast and will be more inclined to accept low offers than say two weeks ago.

But what about house prices? Industry experts Savills have published an excellent once over, with the key message: they stand by their original forecasts, published a few months prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, back in November.

These forecasts present excellent predicted growth especially in Northern England. It is a relief to hear that that they are sticking to their guns on this, and it really come from what we have already said – this is a temporary glitch in the market that will re-emerge. Unfortunately when we will see an uplift is somewhat up for grabs.

Savills explain the three fundamental effects of the pandemic on the market are on 1. sentiment – making buyers cautious in the short term. 2. The practical impact it has on transactions. 3. The impact on the economy and the traditional drivers of affordability.

The report states,

“The emergency cut in the bank base rate, economic stimulus from government spending pledges and the willingness of mortgage lenders to take a considerate view of short-term mortgage arrears, are designed to mitigate the impact.  Meanwhile, the perceived security of a bricks-and-mortar investment in times of uncertainty should help to underpin values.”

Essentially, this points to a temporary hiatus through this period of economic suspended-animation. But, thanks to the long lasting, and firmly held, belief that bricks and mortar stand for stability, we will see activity returns before. As with all matters at this time, it’s about patience.

Having said that, if you are a buyer from overseas and your currency happens to be pegged to the dollar, you can buy at extremely reduced rates, thanks to the value of the pound dropping against the dollar of around 10% over the last week and a half. For those wanting to capitalise on this, now may be the best time.


Here at Aspen Woolf, we offer our clients the best in UK property investment. Our focus is currently on Northern England where high capital growth combines with strong rental yields. Have a look at what we have to offer.




Masterplan Makes Bolton Booming For Property Investors

Bolton Property Investment Booming Fireworks

In 2017, 88% of readers of the Bolton News voted that Bolton was in need of a town centre transformation. The Masterplan that is currently underway will not disappoint them. Stretched across five main sites, the planners truly have thought of everything and managed to come up with something for everyone. With a growing university, a wealth of cultural and historical offerings and being well positioned to benefit from the under-construction HS2 railway, Bolton has a serious amount of untapped potential that is about to be addressed, and investors looking for the next big thing should consider property investment in Bolton

The Masterplan hopes to attract families, professionals and students to the area and has provided a number of zones geared towards each demographic, but with an impressive focus on connectivity making it easy for people to move around within the town. Let’s take a look at the main areas of development:

Trinity Quarter

The jewel in the crown of the masterplan is the Trinity Quarter development. Being touted as the new gateway to the city, this will see the creation of three distinct zones arranged in squares and linked together for easy navigation. 

Creating 30,000sq ft of office space aims to attract new and existing businesses to the commercial zone. The residential zone will house 150 new apartments, providing a perfect spot for accommodation for young professionals and commuters seeking to take advantage of the brilliant transport interchange. The mixed use zone will include a multi-storey car park and provide a direct link to the services offered by the new travel interchange that is already open and serving locals and visitors. Within the interchange people can access the train, bus facilities and take advantage of a substantial amount of bike storage. 

£45million has been set aside for this element of the regeneration project and the initial drawings look like it will be worth every penny.

Cheadle Square

Cheadle Square is the home of many cultural and historical attractions, in the heart of Bolton city centre. It will encompass the Town Hall, Bolton Museum, the Civic Centre and other architectural delights that are loved by visitors and residents alike. The site of the former bus station will be utilised, there will be new office and retail spaces and a new residential area will be sympathetically built to fit in and complement the existing buildings. 

The accommodation being built will include high-end housing and student accommodation for those studying at the nearby university. The University of Bolton aims to have 20,000 students on campus this year, adding to the vibrant local population and bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and ideas. There is a real focus within the university to produce highly skilled and employable graduates who can go on to contribute greatly to the local community and economy.

Masterplan Makes Bolton Booming For Property Investors Aspen Woolf

Crompton Place

Crompton Place is a shopping centre that will be receiving some well-needed attention to bring it up to the same high standard as the rest of the town. This particular part of the Masterplan project has caught the eye of many outside investors, with £250million already agreed in principle. There are plans to breathe life into the currently unused spaces by encouraging workshops and other community-centred uses, so that the existing buildings can be maximised where possible. 

The shopping centre was purchased by the council for £14.8m in June 2018 and its regeneration will be the first phase of the Bolton development overhaul. Following the running theme of connectivity and accessibility between the city centre spaces, Crompton Place will be linked to other key sites to increase footfall and drive success.

Church Wharf – riverside neighbourhood

The river Croal will be gaining a £150m new neighbourhood along its banks. The Church Wharf intervention site is currently underused and squandering its potential, making the plans for creating a buzzing new community even more exciting. It will be a residential-lead development with the potential for a variety of food and leisure offerings in a historical riverside location. 

Croal Valley

Church Wharf isn’t the only development happening along the river Croal; Croal Valley will see riverside apartments and townhouses overlooking stunning green spaces. Low density housing will populate the area to the west near Queen’s Park, building up to the water’s edge where the focus will be on apartments with an urban feel. It is set to offer a dynamic contribution to the masterplan’s 2000+ new homes. 

In addition to these major development areas, there are a number of other projects occurring on the periphery. In the town centre, the Octagon theatre is going to be revamped and improved. Currently bringing in over 70,000 visitors per year, the new plans will make it even more accessible and improve the amount of time and space available for community groups. When completed, the Octagon will help drive tourism in Bolton and be an on-going source of world-class arts and entertainment. The University also has plans to invest £35bn in improving their facilities so they can continue to compete for the attendance of talented young people. As a result of the current plans, there are now additional plans being created in other areas of Bolton.

The regeneration plans started with a £100m promise from the local authority and high hopes that it would attract £1bn of private investment. They have already surpassed this goal and are currently working with pledged figures of around £1.5bn, which may still rise. It was initially projected that Bolton Council’s spending plans would result in a boost of around £4.6bn and with investment pouring in it looks like they could also surpass this prediction. 

This series of projects will completely revolutionise the Bolton town centre experience, enticing more visitors to the region and creating a myriad of opportunities for residents and investors. If you’re looking to build a portfolio in an up-and-coming town then this could be the place for you – plans are set, the money is there, work is now getting underway. Thanks to this Masterplan, Bolton is booming. 

Taking a Look at UK Rental Rates

The Office for National Statistics’ latest release of the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices names Yorkshire and the Humber as one of the highest growth regions for rental rates in the last year. Rates increased 1.9% over the twelve months up to December 2019. That puts rental rates in the region above that of London (1.2%) and England’s national average of 1.4%.

London was also home to the most volatile rental market over the 12 months up to last December, whereas Yorkshire was one of the most stable. Have a look at the below charts from the ONS:

Taking a Look at UK Rental Rates Aspen Woolf

Source: ONS 2019

It is usually understood that rental rates are fairly closely coupled to inflation rates. Once again, according to the ONS, inflation in the UK up to the year end December 2019 was 1.5 percent, making Yorkshire rental growth 0.4% above the inflation rate. Yorkshire is one of the very few regions to possess a rental growth rate above that of inflation.

But what does the future hold? The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), in their December Residential Market Survey, expect rents to rise in general across the UK as a @consequence of the imbalance between rising demand and falling supply”. The survey report goes on to claim that projections indicate an estimated 2% rental growth over the next 12 months, with an uplift to 3 percent per annum over the next 5 years.

The last residential forecasts supplied by industry experts JLL for Northern England, in February 2018 marked out northern regions as the highest forecast rental growth areas in the UK, with the cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds to perform far above the national average over 5 years.

All in all forecasts for the northern regions look strong for rental growth in the UK. Here at Aspen Woolf we specialize in in offering high yielding, high growth investment opportunities all over the UK, but especially in Northern England. Have a look at what we have to offer…


Why invest in Preston Property in 2020?

Why invest in Preston Buy-to-Let Property: Growth and Economy

Preston is a historic town located in the north western county of Lancashire, about 35 miles from both Liverpool and Manchester. Lancashire is one of the largest local economies in the North of England, currently generating over £23 billion in GVA per annum and supporting nearly 620,000 jobs.

In the 19th century Preston transformed from a small market town into an industrial centre for cotton milling, interestingly becoming the first town outside of London to be lit by gas.

Like many such ex-industrial northern towns, Preston has witnessed a resurgence over the last two decades and officially became a city in 2002. Nowadays the city continues to focus on manufacturing and engineering, being home to major technical manufacturers including BAE Systems. Perhaps not known to many people is that the Nuclear power industry is a major part of the local economy, with energy company EDF operating two nuclear power stations in the area while another private company, Westinghouse Springfield, manufactures the nuclear fuel for the plants.

As well as numerous other important manufacturers, Fox’s Biscuits and Warburton’s to name just two, there are also various public sector employers in the area including, NHS establishments, one major university (plus several other campuses) and the Lancashire Constabulary.

Preston was named as the UK’s most improved city in 2018 by thinktank Demos, which uses a range of measures to assess factors beyond mere economic output – including employment, workers’ pay, house prices, transport, the environment, work-life-balance and inequality. On an index of 42 UK cities, Preston was seen to have improved the most.

Unemployment decreased 3.1% in 2018 year compared with 6.5% in 2014, and improvements above the national average have been felt in health, transport, the work-life balance of its residents, and for the skills among both the youth and adult populations.

Following an economic model borrowed from the US rust-belt city of Cleveland, Preston has used a range of ‘ultra-localist’ policies to boost the economy, including encouraging local procurement by the city’s big players and the development of worker owned cooperatives, all believed to have factored in to the first place ranking.


Why invest in Preston Buy-to-Let Property: Regeneration

Preston is part of a tremendous £435 million investment process to improve the city’s infrastructure development. The initiative, called the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, will allow Preston and Lancashire to take forward 4 new road schemes, enabling over 17,000 new homes to be built, freeing up land for new development, and creating more than 20,000 jobs. The plan is expected to add £1bn to the local economy in the next decade.

Another major regeneration initiative is the Stoneygate Framework, a masterplan to regenerate the 25 hectare Stoneygate area of the city centre into an ‘Urban Village’. The Masterplan for the Stoneygate area represents an ambitious programme which, if substantially implemented, will radically transform this part of Preston. The area has the potential to deliver 1600 new homes as well as commercial and other floorspace.

Why invest in Preston Property in 2020? Aspen Woolf

Why invest in Preston Buy-to-Let Property: Property and Rental Growth

Preston is actually the third largest City in the North West and offers a number of options to suit all investors. For those interested in the BTL market, figures from Zoopla state that over the last 5 years prices have increased by a substantially healthy 13.14% over the last five years.

But what next? In their Residential Property Forecast, industry experts Savills predict the North West to be the number one highest growth region in the UK, rising by 24% over the next five years. With the aforementioned regeneration initiatives and the growing economies belonging to Manchester and Liverpool encapsulating other areas of the region, not to mention attracting commuters, Preston has the longevity and growth potential that UK property investors look for.

Of course, capital growth is only one side of the investor’s coin. Rental yields in the centre of Preston are well above the UK average, in excess of 7%.

Why invest in Preston Buy-to-Let Property: Solid Student Population and University Employers

There are three Universities in and around Preston, including UCLan, Lancaster University and Edge Hill. UCLan is located in the centre of Preston, and employs 3,000 staff and is home to over 30,000 students. Graduate retention is a focus of northern cities as they fight to retain the talent that their local universities have nurtured. Figures from 2014/15 suggest that Preston’s graduate retention rate is 22%.

With nearby Liverpool and Manchester also highly popular amongst young people and retaining more and more of their university’s students, more demand is created amongst affordable commuter locations.

 Why invest in Preston Buy-to-Let Property: Summing Up

The North West is officially the top location for property capital growth forecasts over the next 5 years. Preston is certainly going to benefit from this enormous growth, thanks to huge regeneration and infrastructure projects. Now is the time to invest before prices shoot up.

Keep an eye out for our upcoming Preston development, offering luxury city centre apartments.

7 Reasons To Invest In Bradford Buy To Let

Invest In Bradford Buy To Let Aspen Woolf

When deciding to purchase buy to let properties, Bradford may not be one of the first locations that springs to mind. However it is a city on the rise that holds a lot of potential for investors. Here are the top 7 reasons why buy to let in Bradford is a good idea.

Low costs, high yields

First and foremost, investment in Bradford comes at a fraction of the cost of many other UK towns and cities. According to data from Zoopla, the average cost of a flat in Bradford is £109,841 and £102,856 for a terraced house. Compared to the UK average of £297,053 and £254,347 respectively, Bradford offers great value for money.

Once the property is filled there is the potential for returns of over 10% – some of the best in the UK. The next six reasons will explain why. 

The demographic

Bradford has the youngest UK population, with 30% of residents being under the age of 20. This is a huge advantage to investors; the young demographic will consist of people who are yet to get their feet on the property ladder so are in need of rental accommodation. It also means that student accommodation is highly sought after for the local university and colleges, including for the growing number of international students who are choosing the city.

A university city

Bradford University is good news for investors, since it frequently appears in the ‘top 10’ lists for places to study in the UK and attracts people to the area. In 2018-2019 there were a total of 8564 students enrolled, with a mixture of undergraduate, postgraduate and international students included in that number. The University is also a big employer, with 1499 members of staff employed across the various departments last academic year and the level of skill acquired by residents is rising, resulting in a diverse population of young professionals creating demand for property.

The annual influx of students is good news for buy-to-let investors as it means there is a constant stream of potential renters to fill your properties with. As is the case with Bradford, university towns offer great returns thanks to the myriad of other investment opportunities that they attract.

Business growth

Business is booming in Bradford. In 2017, it won the title of the best city in the UK for business start ups, based on a range of measures including infrastructure, commercial rents, business survival rate and net migration to the city. However it isn’t just small or new businesses that benefit from what Bradford has to offer. Morrison’s supermarkets, Hallmark Cards UK and Yorkshire Building Society are amongst the many names that have their headquarters in the city and large retailers such as Next and Marks and Spencer have got a significant warehouse presence. Big, established employers such as those mentioned are good for encouraging economic migration.

7 Reasons To Invest In Bradford Buy To Let Aspen Woolf

Great transport links

Thanks to a great infrastructure network in the surrounding area, property in Bradford is of great interest to commuters. Leeds is twenty-four minutes away by train and Manchester is reachable in around an hour, both lines accessible from the Bradford Interchange. There are also a variety of coach and bus services available from the same place, making connectivity a problem of the past. And for those wanting to travel further afield, flights leaving from nearby Leeds Bradford Airport can take you all over Europe. The pool of potential tenants is far wider than you may first think.

History and culture

Bradford has an interesting history, that is reflected in the diverse range of architecture throughout the city. The Townscape Heritage Scheme is spending £2million on the restoration and protection of historic buildings, which should encourage further investment in the area. This will raise the desirability of property in the area, which is always a good thing for investors. 

In celebration of the diversity and multicultural population, Bradford has launched a bid to become the 2025 UK City of Culture. This comes amidst a £1.4million cultural investment that will improve cultural engagement and promote the positives of a diverse demographic. Bradford has already had the honour of being the first UNESCO City of Film, in recognition of a rich media heritage. Bradford is regularly used as a filming location for film and television and there is a vast program of events and festivals to engage the public, creating many new jobs whilst shining a spotlight on the city. 

Regeneration plans

Bradford is undergoing a huge program of regeneration that has attracted a wealth of local authority and external investment. 

By 2021 the One City Park development will be providing a vast amount of high-quality office space. Facing the historic Town Hall and surrounded by hospitality establishments, it will sit perfectly at the centre of the new Business Quarter. Plans for a new Public Services Hub will bring a variety of services under one roof, accommodating up to 3500 members of staff and making it easier for local residents to access services. 

Moving out of the city centre, the Odsal Retail Development will create a retail and leisure gateway space in close proximity to the rugby stadium. The proposed site of 16.8 acres will make it a significant addition to the region’s retail profile. The M62 Corridor development includes nine separate sites with great potential for manufacturing and logistics usage that will see the creation of an impressive number of employment opportunities.

Exciting new proposals and expanding opportunities will welcome a fresh cohort of potential tenants to the area, whilst encouraging local residents to stick around and enjoy what Bradford has to offer. With ongoing growth and more on the horizon, Bradford is the ideal place to grow a buy to let portfolio. Contact the team at Aspen Woolf to see what opportunities we have available in Bradford or elsewhere, whether you are building your portfolio or investing in property for the first time.


University Cities Offer The Best Returns for Property Investors

Every year thousands of people flock to university towns in search of opportunities, but it isn’t just the students that can benefit from what a university city has to offer. Development and growth provides a wealth of investment possibilities for the surrounding areas; and it just so happens that the best rental yields on offer tend to be within easy reach of a university. This post will take a look at our top picks for university cities offering the best returns.


According to data collated by TotallyMoney, six of the twenty top rental yield earning postcodes were in Liverpool last year. The world famous docks are being revamped whilst protecting the Docks’ World Heritage status, there is residential development springing up as part of the new Paddington Village, and the development of a new Creativity District will house some of the many vibrant and successful creative businesses that Liverpool boasts.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport saw 5 million passengers in 2018 and has been increasing the numbers of flights and routes available. The coach park is expanding to encourage more domestic tourism and London is reachable in just over 2 hours by train. There are even plans to build a new cruise terminal! The University of Liverpool attracts 35,000 students, including 8000 from around the world, many of whom will choose to make Liverpool their home post-graduation.


Leeds is a growing city that is seeing an increased interest. Channel 4 have recently moved their headquarters there, and there are plans to bring some of the more historic buildings into media usage. The Tetley contemporary art centre receives regular funding from the Arts Council and has had 600,000 visitors in the past five years. The South Bank regeneration project will see Leeds city centre double in size and two state-of-the-art hospitals are being built to provide for the city’s inhabitants.

Leeds is already home to the busiest train station in the North, with 30,000 daily commuters passing through, and it is set to capitalise on the improved links to London that will come with the HS2 railway. Improved cycling and pedestrian routes will make it easier for the students from the four universities and the newly opened Construction College to get around whilst also making the city more user-friendly for visitors. Leeds is thriving, and with rental yields of up to 7.92% it could really boost your buy-to-let portfolio.


Another city set to benefit from the HS2 route is Sheffield. The fourth largest city in Britain, Sheffield has two universities and has an enviable music scene. It is also the greenest city in Europe, which could be why it attracts such a large number of graduates and is seeing increasing numbers of international students enrolling each year. The population is growing; there is a predicted increase of almost 15% in the next 15 years. As new residents arrive and regeneration projects complete, the current rental yields of up to 7.63% could skyrocket.

The historic Parkwood ski village is facing a revamp, with plans to develop it into a sports and leisure space to complement the range of outdoor activities that the Peak District provides just half an hour drive away. The redevelopment of retail areas is also attracting vast amounts of investment, for example the Moors Markets host over 90 independent businesses as well as established chains and restaurants.


Bolton may not be the first city you think of when considering bustling university cities but you can expect high rental yields, and that’s even before they’ve completed the billion-pound regeneration of the city centre. The night-life is thriving, transport links to major cities like Liverpool and Manchester are quick and convenient and the cost of living is relatively low. The university currently has around 11,000 students on campus who consistently rate it highly for student satisfaction, which will no doubt help them in meeting their aim of 20,000 students in Bolton for the 2020 intake. After all, they’ll need new students to populate the new bioscience learning spaces and to utilise the Bolton One health, leisure and research centre. As a city it is very much up-and-coming, making it a great site for property investment.


Bradford boasts a young and multicultural population. It is a UNESCO city of film thanks to its rich heritage, and is relaunching it’s famous film festival next year. The Townscape Heritage Scheme is investing millions in protecting and restoring historical buildings and there are several commercial developments appearing as part of the M62 corridor. As well as being well-connected by road, Bradford has two airports within an hours distance and the Bradford interchange houses coach, rail and bus facilities. With so many people building their lives in Bradford there is a sustained demand for rental property.


Manchester has the largest student population in the UK, with 40,000 students and almost every country of the world represented. As such, it attracts a significant amount of foreign investment and has a number of confirmed large-scale developments planned. They include a new creative space called The Factory – a city centre home for opera, art, music and community – that will attract up to 850,000 people per year, as well as laying new tracks and completing a huge overhaul of the railway. With so much more to come, Manchester looks set to remain a firm favourite for tenants and investors alike.


Sunderland is another hidden gem. The university has several campuses and has recently seen the arrival of a brand new School of Medicine. It is renowned for providing opportunities for under-represented students to study and has a proven track record for graduate employment. With miles of beautiful beaches, a Metro system servicing the Tyne and Wear region and a huge commitment to the regeneration of the Riverside district, Sunderland will continue to offer great returns for buy-to-let investors.

There are many great reasons to build a buy-to-let portfolio in university cities but these six locations tick all of the boxes with their great transport links, thriving communities and drastic plans for improvement and growth. These desirable cities will have no shortage of potential tenants in the years to come, making them ideal investments for those looking to buy, let, and then reap the returns.