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.




The property market is booming in early 2020

Statistics from two of the most important portals in UK property, Rightmove and OnTheMarket show that the property market is exceptionally buoyant at the moment.

In January visits to Rightmove surpassed 150 million, the most ever recorded in a January – a 7% increase on January 2019. Also notable is that the time spent by potential buyers was up 4% with a total of 1.17 billion minutes being send on the site.

The latest figures, from Rightmove’s February House Price Index, show that average asking prices in the UK inflated by 2.9% compared to last year, with an average asking price of £309,399.

This market momentum is expected to increase even more ahead of the spring moving season, suggesting there will be even more records seen as we move forwards.

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst said: “There is a boom in buyer activity outstripping the rise in the number of new sellers, which we expect to lead to a series of new price records starting next month.”

“… Spring buyers are likely to be faced with the highest average asking prices ever seen in Britain. Buyers who had been hesitating and waiting for the greater political certainty following the election outcome may be paying a higher price, but they can now jump into the spring market with renewed confidence.”

“After three and a half years of Brexit uncertainty, dither, and delay, many now seem to have the 2020 vision that this is the year to satisfy their pent-up housing needs.”

Lucian Cook, head of Savills residential research, said: “Since the election we’ve certainly seen a significant uptick in new buyer demand in the prime market which creates a real opportunity for sellers while stock for sale remains relatively low. Increased confidence is translating into increased activity, both in the prime market and across the wider market as a whole.”

Similarly, traffic to property portal OnTheMarket exceeded 30 million visits in January 2020, a new monthly record, and an increase of more than 28% compared with January 2019, and 11% more than the previous record of 27.2 million in September 2019.

Of course, some of this increase could be down to OnTheMarket’s increased market share as a property portal and a strong marketing drive; but there’s little doubt they are benefitting from increased confidence in the market.


Aspen Woolf is a leading property consultancy, focused on presenting the best performing investment opportunities to our clients. We search across the UK to find high growth, high yielding investments, and our particular strength in northern England represents the quality of investment that can be found in the growing cities of Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester. Have a look at what we have to offer.

Bradford is the UK’s most improved city!

A recent 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.

Have a look at the Top 10 most improved cities according to the PWC report:

1. Bradford
2. Liverpool
3. Norwich
4. Newcastle
5. Cardiff
6. Swansea
7. Wolverhampton & Warsall
8. Brighton
9. Hull
10. Manchester

You will notice that not only does Bradford top the list but it outranks some big hitters, like Liverpool, Newcastle and Liverpool. 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.

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…


HS2 to Go Ahead in Full

Earlier this week (beginning February 10th) Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that HS2 will go ahead in full. This is big news for a multi-billion pound project that only a couple of weeks earlier looked destined for a write off. Albeit at an almost unreal cost (estimated at £307m per mile), HS2 is due to transform connectivity in the UK. Joining up with a separate project called Northern Powerhouse Rail, together these two infrastructure projects are set to revolutionise transport in the UK, especially in the north of England.

The ‘HS2 Effect’ is a term thrown around property investment circles referring to house price rises in those areas where HS2 is planned to pass through. For example, Birmingham saw a 14% house price rise in just two years according to Knight Frank. We’re expecting to see similar growth acceleration in other areas, particularly Leeds which is already set to benefit from projected 21.6% regional growth.

With that said, we’ve put together some essential information on the HS2 project in general.

So, what is HS2? Following the success of HS1 (better known as the Channel Tunnel rail link), HS2 (High Speed 2) is an ambitious and exciting project that will vastly improve connectivity throughout England. Rail-users will be able to traverse the country at speeds of up to 250mph, resulting in reduced travel times and more convenient routes. The first stage will see a direct service built between London and Birmingham, a journey that will drop from 1 hour 24 minutes to approximately 50 minutes, with estimated completion in 2026. This means that there is still time for property investors to get ahead of the market if they haven’t already, or become an early adopter for better returns.

After completion of phase one, the line will be extended further to reach Manchester (reducing the journey time from London to 1 hour and 8 minutes – a saving of one hour) and Leeds (with a new journey time of 1 hour 22 minutes from London – saving the traveler 50 minutes). This is planned to finish in 2032-33 and will link up with existing lines and railway improvements to spread its reach even further, including to Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland. The proposed Northern Powerhouse rail will run between Liverpool and Hull, and the Midlands Engine proposals will go between Coventry and Bristol. By the time that the whole project is done, it is expected that almost half of the UK population will have access to HS2 services.

This improved access is expected to stimulate mobility across the country, taking the focus away from the South and helping to distribute the wealth away from the capital. With the cost of property and general living costs being inflated in the current commuter belt, people working in London are having to move further out to areas that they can afford and enduring daily commutes of two hours each way are not unusual. When the high-speed railway is up and running, this will drastically expand the number of desirable areas for working people and it will give people more choice about the places in which they live and work. There will be an increased demand for accommodation in the towns and cities along the route and young professionals make ideal tenants. Having easy access to more job markets could also serve to discourage people from getting on the property ladder, instead preferring to stick with the flexibility that renting brings. It is not uncommon to spend a few years in a place whilst deciding whether or not to put down more permanent roots, and when that happens there will be other tenants waiting to take their place.

Train travel should improve on the whole, even on lines that aren’t directly affected, since the new high speed tracks will relieve the pressure on some of the busiest routes. Despite projections of the railway removing 9 million journeys off the roads each year, it is still expected that the trains will be less crowded and more comfortable for passengers. This may prompt people to begin commuting when they have previously lived and worked locally, thus increasing the pool of potential renters.

Although they will make up the bulk of users, commuters are not the only reason the HS2 is good news for investors. The communities directly affected by the development are also experiencing a boost. It is estimated that there will be a total of 500,000 extra jobs created, including the construction workforce of 10,000 that are currently working across 250 locations to complete the first stage. Of this, there are approximately 2000 apprentices that are learning a valuable trade and the works have so far been delivered with involvement from 2000 businesses – 99% of which are UK based.  There will be a further 20,000 employed in the build and 3000 staff members to keep it running smoothly once it opens. The extra wealth created by the increased employment will benefit the local economy further; more good news for investors in the area.

It is estimated that every £1 that goes in to the HS2 project will see a return of £2.30. There are already vast regeneration schemes planned or underway in HS2 cities, with local councils intent on making the most of the opportunities that HS2 will bring. Projections state that 90,000 new homes will be built, with Leeds alone planning on doubling the size of their city centre through a mixture of residential, commercial and leisure. Not only are cities working on improving the more tired areas, they are also investing in the protection and enhancement of their cultural gems – such as the famous Liverpool docks which are facing exciting protective redevelopment. Many of these projects are anchored to the HS2 growth and have been attracting impressive levels of foreign investment. So whilst the HS2 may attract new residents, the ongoing improvements will ensure that those residents stay and make their homes there.

As demand is building, now is the ideal time for potential new investors to take the leap and be ready to cash in when the time comes. If you are an established property investor who already has a presence then you are well placed to reap the benefits so now is the time to sit back and let your investments do the work for you. Either way, property investors are set to cash in on the HS2 developments.