Overseas investors can still get in ahead of the rise in pound sterling

Investors are becoming more confident in the prospects of the pound sterling, thanks to the likelihood of a conservative victory in the General Election and a corresponding delivery of Brexit. This comes somewhat in spite of a recent Labour surge in popularity, slightly closing the gap in the most recent polls.

What does this mean for the value of pound sterling? It means there is a likelihood of a pickup in 2020, as evidenced by a number of investment management firms endorsing the pound as a top trade for 2020, including Goldman Sachs and Blackrock – that is somewhat on the condition that the conservatives can get a Brexit deal delivered.

Uncertainty around Brexit caused the pound to fall to its lowest value this September since the referendum back in 2016. However, over the last three months the pound has gained 8%, one of the sharpest gains in a short time frame since before 2016. As for the future, several analysts are expecting the pound to reach $1.30$1.39 by the end of 2020, which would see a return to Q1/Q2 2018 levels.

The outcome of all this is that the UK represents a buying opportunity for overseas investors thanks to the end of the Brexit saga and political/fiscal stability. The long and short of it for property investors from outside the UK is that the immediate future presents itself as a good time to make use of the pound’s predicted gains in order to maximise the benefits of your investment.

We have already written about how Britain presents a real bargain for overseas property investment, especially for those nations whose currency is pegged to the dollar – you can read about that here. The mean takeaway is that there is still time to capitalise on the low pound, and make use of future gains. Of course, as we have discussed, there are certain qualifiers that mainly come  in the form of political stability and a successful and quick exit from the European Union. Either way, the future of the pound seems bright, meaning that great savings on the current weakness of sterling will not be around for ever.

At Aspen Woolf, we have property investment opportunities in the best performing locations in the UK. We regularly deal with overseas investors and have served clients from over 60 nations. Why not take a look at our wide range of investments opportunities.

New Film Studios are Coming to Leeds!

A little while ago we wrote an article about how Channel 4 are moving a huge segment of their operations to Leeds, by transforming the Majestic Building into their new HQ by early 2020.

Now we’re excited to report a further development in Leeds’ expanding film and TV industry: Leeds City Council has agreed to lease the Whitehall Road site of the old Polestar Petty Printworks as a new premises to be called the Leeds Studios.

The initiative to turn the old printworks, once damaged by fire, is costing the developer, Versa, £1.6 million, payable as a loan from the Leeds City Council. Six new studios will be created in a total space of around 70,000 sq ft.

Channel 4’s move to Leeds has sparked a demand for studio space as it is anticipated that content will be created in Leeds itself. In fact, Channel 4 has already announced plans to film a new daily show in the city, and Leeds is expected to continue to grow in popularity as a location for TV and Film production.

Channel 4 might be the highest profile new entrant to Leeds’ TV industry, but it doesn’t stop there. The National Film and Television School have also announced it will be creating a new base in Yorkshire, due to open in 2020 and which will be home to 150 students.

It’s incredibly exciting for Leeds that this industry is seeing a boost in the local area, and will certainly contribute to the booming local economy. By working closely with the National Film and Television School, as well as other partners such as Screen Yorkshire and regional production companies, local talent can be nurtured to meet the demands of Leeds as a creative powerhouse.

The new Versa studio site will be operated by Prime Studios, a company who has supported the production of The ABC Murders for the BBC, which stared Hollywood actor John Malkovich and Hope Gap staring Bill Nighy.

The Yorkshire Evening Post quotes Ben Hepworth, Managing Director of Prime Studios as saying, “This is an incredible era for the screen industries in the UK, with film and TV spend reaching over £3.1 billion last year and the creative industries as a whole growing at twice the rate of the UK’s economy. The film and TV industries in Yorkshire have been invigorated in recent years.”

The Versa studios site will be located in the South West of Leeds city centre, just outside of the Holbeck Urban Village area. At Aspen Woolf we specialise in providing high return investment options to our clients. Leeds, and especially the South Bank area is a prime investment location. Have a look at what we have to offer.

Bradford is the UK’s most improved city!

A new study by top accountancy firm PWC and leading cross party think tank Demos, have named Bradford as the most improved city in the UK.

PWC’s Good Growth for Cities report aims to create an index for good growth in the UK by taking into account a range of factors considered important to the general public, including jobs, income, skills and health were most important factors in the eyes of the public, alongside housing, transport, income distribution, work-life balance, business start-ups and the environment.

Now covering over a decade of data, the Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities Index measures the performance of a range of the largest UK cities, as well as Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas and Combined Authorities in England, against a basket of ten indicators based on what the public find most important when they think about the ‘work and money’ side of their lives

Of the 42 cities listed in the index, Bradford comes top when ranked in terms of most improved, with an index improvement of 0.14. This is especially impressive considering that this year’s report has seen a higher number of cities’ scores decline when compared to previous years.

Why has Bradford improved so much compared to other UK cities? Data from the report indicates that the West Yorkshire city has experienced a significant reduction in its unemployment rate, measured at 4.1% in 2018 compared to 10.0% in 2015 – representing the largest improvement in the jobs score of any city in the index over this period.

This positive finding from PWC and Demos, paired with Bradford’s bid to become UK city of culture in 2025 really goes to show how forward thinking this once neglected city has become.

Here at Aspen Woolf, we have identified Bradford as a prime investment location thanks to excellent prices, high yields and strong growth potential. Have a look at our range of investment options.

How is Leeds becoming a 21st century city?

A growing population and a focus on major industries has set aside Leeds as an unofficial capital city of the North. Regeneration is now propelling Leeds into the future with a number of projects designed to firmly establish the city as a major player in the UK’s economy.

Statistics published last year by the Centre for Cities shows how Leeds has the 3rd quickest growing city centre in the UK between 2002 and 2015. This is a clear mark of how the city is has improved as an urban centre in the last decade. It’s an encouraging statistic too, because it suggests the brain drain phenomenon – where local talent moves away – is not affecting this city. Leeds is a place for families and generations to grow.

Leeds also has one of the youngest populations in the UK, thanks in part to a large student population, but also as a hotbed of employment opportunities for ambitious young professionals. Financial and business services account for 38% of the total Leeds’ output and other key sectors include retail, leisure and the visitor economy, as well as construction, manufacturing and the creative and digital industries – this latter one being a big attraction for the younger generation of workers.

What is it that young professionals like In the 21st century,? A vibrant and stylish urban environment with plenty of opportunity to enjoy time outside of the 9-5. The Yorkshire Post recently published an article indicating Leeds’ ambition, and need, to become a “24-hour economy” in order to retain a thriving city centre. The key to this is a combination of ambitious city centre residential developments combined with high quality jobs in the service sector. This will drive further investment and regeneration into the area and help to cement Leeds as a prime example of urban living.

One of the best examples of regeneration in Leeds, in fact in Europe currently, is the South Bank project – worth over £350 million and introducing 8,000 new homes and 35,000 new jobs. We’ve written about this incredibly ambitious before – you can have a look at our article here – but the main takeaway is that this project is set to double the economic output to the city centre and will perhaps be the largest contribution to creating a modern urban lifestyle in Leeds.

Here are 5 of our top picks, demonstrating how Leeds is changing for modern times:

 

1. The Holbeck Urban Village

A site of former industrial buildings on the South Bank has undergone an impressive regeneration, modernizing the area yet retaining a sense of past by protecting Listed Buildings. Today, Holbeck hosts about 400 businesses, mainly in the creative and digital sector, and is home to a population of between 600 and 1,000 people in its 15 hectare area.

 
2. Leeds Bradford Airport Upgrades

A new £12 million terminal building is set to add more facilities, space, retail and food and beverage options to the airport. The changes to boost efficiency and cut delay times, while bringing the airport in line with the city’s broader regeneration, and supporting overall economic growth.

The plans are part of the ‘Route to 2030 Strategic Development Plan’, aiming to increase passenger numbers from four million to seven million by 2030.

 
3. Innovation at Leeds’ University

A new centre for innovation at Leeds University has opened at a cost of £40 million. Business, health, engineering, data and environmental disciplines are now brought together in the new 6,684 square metre Nexus building, including 60 spacious offices, 12 purpose-built laboratories, 11 meeting rooms and a 120-seat lecture theatre all spread across 6 floors. A £13.5 million fitness and wellbeing centre offers a welcome break from intense research and study.

 
4. Refurbishment of the Leeds Playhouse

Who doesn’t like a play? The Leeds Playhouse, formerly known as the West Yorkshire Playhouse, has recently undergone a £15.8 million development. Many major changes have been made including redisgning the whole façade to orientate the theatre towards the city, providing better access to the 750 seat Quarry theatre. The new Playhouse also includes a third studio space – the Bramall Rock Void – as well as a new restaurant, café and bar, and improved public spaces.

 

5. A new icon on the skyline

As an example of prime real estate near the South Bank development, we’ve chosen the fantastic Springwell Gardens development, the next residential project to rival the likes of Candle House and become a part of the ever growing cityscape emerging in Leeds. With a sail like façade and terraced roof gardens, this development of luxury apartments is the renters dream. Strategically located on the important Whitehall Road, home to the new Government Hub, Yorkshire Post, NHS Digital and the HMRC, Springwell Gardens’ location makes it close to many amenities. Leeds Train Station, the city centre and the new £350 million CEG Holbeck urban village Southbank development are just 10 minutes’ walk away.

What is South Bank Leeds?

South Bank Leeds is a massive regeneration project aiming to double the size of Leeds city centre by transforming the ex-industrial area south of the River Aire. This 253 hectare space is the size of 350 football pitches, and will be transformed into a ‘globally distinctive’ destination for living, learning, creativity, leisure and investment. 8,000 new homes and 35,000 new jobs are due to be created as part of this effort to make Leeds a standout city in the UK

What’s Happening on the South Bank?

South Bank Leeds has been a home for major companies from ASDA Walmart’s European headquarters and to SKY, for many years. Currently, there are 3,000 people living on the South Bank, alongside over 250 businesses. Thanks to over £500m of announced investment in what is one of Europe’s biggest ever regeneration projects, Leeds is set to become even more prosperous. Here’s a breakdown of some of the key initiatives:

• The acquisition of the Holbeck Portfolio Sites by the Commercial Estate Group, along with major proposals for a mixed-use development at this key strategic location
• Work to repair Hunslet Mill and Victoria Works progressing on site
• Vastint’s mixed use development proposals for the 22 acre Tetley Brewery Site including a City Park, their second investment in the UK and the first outside London
• Planning permission granted for over 1,000 new homes at Tower Works, Iron Works and Dandara with an increase in applications for 3 bedroom plus units
• City’s proposals for a £125m Climate Innovation District
• A further phase of development for Leeds College of Building in the area.
• The new HS2 station will be combined with Leeds train station and is set to welcome more passengers than Gatwick airport.

Among many unique elements of the South Bank is the commitment to retain elements of the area’s industrial past and historic sense of community, particularly in the Holbeck area. The South Bank Leeds project aims to reconnect these historic suburbs with Leeds City Centre once again, adapting historic buildings and giving them a new life in the 21st century.

At the heart of the development, a brand-new skyscraper will transform the city’s skyline. Forty storeys high and 142 metres tall, it will take the mantel of tallest building in Leeds from Bridgewater Place.

Plans have also been submitted to build 928 new residential properties in a sub-project called X1. The houses will be built on the old Evans Halshaw site off the A61, at a cost of more than £200 million. Comprising five separate buildings, each equipped with individual gyms and gardens, the development will also boast cafes, restaurants, offices and shops.

City living will be more in demand than ever, thanks to various developments within the South Bank Leeds area. For example, Arthur’s Fold boasts 101 brand-new apartments, with a mix of high-spec one and two bedroom units. It also has the added extras that are a prerequisite for urban living – a gym, lounge and cinema for residents. Prices for the apartments start at £122,500, a clear indication of the sheer value for money investors can expect.

High Speed Rail 2 and transport

Special mention should be given to the High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) initiatives, alongside the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail, which are due to transform connectivity in the Northern Regions and between the North, Midlands and the South.

Leeds trains station is already the busiest in the North of England, but the above projects are forecasted to increase growth by a massive 143% growth. A particular regeneration focus is therefore earmarked around the station area to transform it into a thoroughly modern and thriving transport hub.
There are enormous benefits to the planned investment in rail will, including bringing people together; bringing new markets within reach; enabling innovation; bringing new talent to employers and, for new jobs to be within reach of people.

The 10 key areas

You can find out very detailed information from the informative South Bank Leeds Regeneration Framework. One key section of the framework is the focus on 10 key ‘areas of movement’ – the main aspects of the overarching South Bank initiative. We’ll break them down here so you can get a sense of the whole picture.

1. Connecting the green & blue network

Making the River Aire, and areas close to it, world-class leisure space in the very centre of the city centre, creating places for people of all ages to enjoy using best practice in sustainable design.

2. A legible & accessible public transport network

Public transport needs to be prioritised and able to provide access to all areas of the city, supported by a safe, comfortable and attractive pedestrian core spanning the river, and which will complement the existing Public Transport Box.

3. Create a rationalised & distributed road hierarchy

Traffic will be encouraged to move around the city centre rather than through it. The Inner Ring Road will have the greatest volume of traffic, while a proposed City Boulevard will accommodate slower moving vehicles, prioritising pedestrians and cyclists in a pleasant and safe environment.

4. Improve access beyond the Inner Ring Road

Improved links across the Inner Ring Road between South Bank and the neighbourhoods of Holbeck, Beeston, Hunslet, Cross Green and Saxton Gardens will allow greater freedom of movement, better social and cultural integration, and improved access to services and amenities.

5. Implement a sustainable public transport and parking strategy

Increase the use of sustainable forms of transport through appropriate infrastructure and use of demand management to ensure development takes place in locations that are easily accessible by a variety of sustainable transport modes.

6. Activate the waterfront

Recaptures its role as a focus of activity, with quality public space and new attractions. It is connected to surrounding neighbourhoods by the strategic green network.

7. Adapt heritage & link existing assets

There is an opportunity to strengthen the identity of the South Bank through the adaptation and reuse of heritage buildings together with the integration of adjacent assets.

8. Create and revitalise centres

Creation of a pedestrian core spanning the river (complementing the existing Public Transport Box) which is served by high quality public transport to connect to both the HS2 station and South Bank to the rest of the city centre and surrounding neighbourhoods.

9. Improve resilience & sustainability

Innovative ideas to mitigate the potential implications of floods, including potential flood channels.

10. Utilise culture to help placemaking

Culture to be celebrated and an integral part of the approach to placemaking in the South Bank.

Wrapping up

South Bank Leeds it a staggering regeneration project; it is a truly unique project to revolutionise such a large segment of a city.

This year the ambition of the South Bank project has been recognised by being shortlisted for the 2020 Urbanism ‘The Great Neighbourhood’ Award, celebrating the best neighbourhood environments in Europe. We think that this is one of Europe’s most significant regeneration projects and is a clear winner. There’s no doubt that Leeds’ identity is being reimagined for the 21st century, but we’re also excited that the industrial heritage of the city is being retained throughout these changes.

Doubling the economic impact of Leeds city-centre will further cement the city as a major player in the UK’s economy.

At Aspen Woolf we have a number of developments in Leeds – the number 1 forecast city in the UK for house price and rental growth. You can see our projects here.

There Are An Estimated 1.1m Female Landlords in the UK

female landlord

When it comes to business, there are more women turning hard work into success than ever before. In decades gone by, women didn’t have the same financial goals as men nor did they have the opportunity but that is all changing. For example, research carried out just a few years ago found that over half of the UK’s entrepreneur business owners under the age of 35 were female. A shift had occurred and things had clearly changed. 

This is a promising shift in the right direction and proves that women have what it takes to be just as successful as men and in many cases, more successful. However, what is the landscape like for those women who are choosing to invest their money in property?

In the UK, property investment is one of the most popular forms of investment. In many cases, the risk is lower when compared to the likes of stocks or bonds. So, for those who have chosen to invest in the property market, they can benefit from superb yields, especially if they have chosen the right property in the right area. Cities such as Liverpool or Manchester is where some of the best investment opportunities can be found. Here potential female investors  can find a range of properties where they can see a return of as much as 8% on their investment. What’s more, there is a high demand for property while the areas appeal to a varied marker such as young professionals and students.

So, with these opportunities available, more women have shown an interest in investing in property. As it currently stands, it is estimated that around 1.1 million landlords in the UK are women. Therefore, there are now more women in the property industry than ever before. Not only are women investing but more and more are showing an interest in investing in property. This number has increased year on year and there are no signs that this is going to slow down any time soon. Why are so many women choosing to move into property investment?

The reality of the situation is that women are now more focused on finances than previous generations. Women are now given the opportunity to forge meaningful careers where they earn high wages and manage their money better. This greater control over their finances affords them better financial independence and that means that investment is a way of boosting their finances.

There Are An Estimated 1.1m Female Landlords in the UK Aspen Woolf

In some cases, women also see investing in property as a way of closing the gap between the wages of men and women. In the UK, there is still an issue surrounding the gender pay gap with 78% of companies in the UK paying men more than women. Therefore, investing could be a serious option when it comes to plugging the gap. If they do this right, with the right research and understanding, property investment can become a full-time career. Perhaps women who are seeking a change in career could find that becoming a landlord full-time will give them the freedom and the financial stability that they would not get in any other job. To add to this, buy-to-let investments also require a number of skills and women might see this as a chance to improve on current skills or learn new ones. This can include financial planning, research and communication.

As far as investing goes, there are also several generational factors that have influenced the change in attitudes. Those women who were born in the 80s and the early 90s are now working more and earning more than previous generations. This has meant that there has been an increase in enquiries from those aged between 25 and 34. However, it is not just confined to women from the UK as more women from overseas are showing an interest. This includes countries such as China, The United Arab Emirates and many other countries. Now women all over the world are proving how they have the ability to invest and change the opinions of those who invest in property.

Even female investors who have been investing in the property market for decades are noticing a change. They have confirmed that there has been a shift in attitudes and now more women are showing an interest in investing in property. They are now choosing to take control of their future and increase their financial stability. More women are showing how savvy they can be when it comes to financial freedom and independence.

Women are now taking advantage of the potential of the property market. This is particularly true when it comes to buy-to-let investments in the UK, with cities such as Manchester and Liverpool proving to be an attractive prospect for investors. Many of these investments can prove to be a lucrative opportunity with impressive yields. There is also a high demand that is making it possible for them to make the right investments in the right areas where they can also benefit from capital growth. 

If you are looking to make an investment in property, whether you are male or female, our team are happy to guide you through the process. As a firm believer in equal opportunities, Aspen Woolf’s customer service is unparalleled and inclusive.