Property is a great investment vehicle for several reasons. It can bring diversification to an existing investment portfolio, give you a stable income in an unstable world and help protect your money against inflation. However, choosing to invest in property is just the beginning.
Once you have made the decision to put some of your investment pot into property, you’ll find that quite a few other questions will follow, not least of which will be, ‘Where in the UK should my property investments be made?’. While many investors opt for their local area, savvy property tycoons recognise the importance of checking out all of the options available to them, which brings us nicely to this guide.
Today, we are going to explore a part of the United Kingdom that deserves more attention from investors than it often receives – Bradford.
Bradford at a glance
Situated in the foothills of the Pennines, Bradford is part of the United Kingdom’s fourth largest urban area – West Yorkshire Urban Area – and has a population of just over 500,000. The city enjoys a great location just 16 miles from Leeds and has extremely good links to the rest of the major northern cities that surround it, as well as easy access to the M1 motorway which links Northern and Southern England together.
Steeped in heritage and culture, Bradford is a surprising city for many reasons. Architectural delights abound in Little Germany and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire gives visitors the opportunity to experience a Victorian village in all its glory. Furthermore, Bradford is also the first ever UNESCO City of Film in the world, proving that this is a city that not only has a cultural past, but a cultural future, too.
That being said, it isn’t all about the city. Many people relocate to Bradford simply because it is so easy to escape the heart of the city and head for some of the most spectacular countryside that Britain has to offer. The northern tip of the world famous Peak District National Park is only a 40 minute drive away and the Yorkshire Dales National Park can be reached in around about the same time, too.
Then there is the modern side to Bradford, which is often referred to as the Curry Capital of Britain. The city’s multicultural nature makes Bradford a vibrant place to live, work and play. More and more people are ignoring the uneducated stereotypes that the city has been labelled with over the last few decades, and they’re discovering that Bradford is, in fact, a fabulous part of the United Kingdom in which they can set up home and business.
The economy of Bradford
Bradford’s economy is one of the strongest in the region and it is expected to top £9 billion in 2016. As many of you will already be aware, the de-industrialisation of the north hit the region hard, and Bradford did not escape the changes that were made. However, with time and lots of hard work, the city is now bouncing back to take its place as one of the major players in what many have dubbed the Northern Powerhouse.
The city, like so many others across the North of England, was once a hive of industry, with textiles being the main product that was manufactured here. This industrial heritage has been in decline for many years, but other forms of employment have emerged to take its place and the city now contributes around 8.4 per cent to the region’s overall output. This figure puts Bradford up there with the likes of Sheffield and Leeds as one of the largest economies in the Yorkshire and Humber district.
One of the key drivers in this change in fortune is the city’s growing appeal to financial companies such as Santander UK, Yorkshire Building Society and Provident Financial, with the latter being one of Bradford’s biggest employers. However, unlike other cities in the UK, it would be unfair to label Bradford as being purely devoted to one sector, as the different types of businesses that call the city home are extremely wide and varied.
Household names such as the supermarket giant Morrisons and the region’s water utility company Yorkshire Water have head offices here, while other companies that will be familiar to British citizens such as Hallmark Cards and Seabrook Potato Crisps also call the city home. In total, there are over 15,200 companies in Bradford that are employing in excess of 192,000 people, 15 per cent of the total employment figures for the whole of the Leeds City Region.
Thanks to being recognised by UNESCO twice and its ever growing mark on the British cultural landscape, Bradford’s economy also benefits tremendously from the tourist industry. Around 9.2 million people come to Bradford each year, and as the city’s reputation grows, so too will the visitor numbers and the city’s tourist economy. At present, 91 per cent of all visitors are domestic, but this figure could change as the city’s reputation spreads across the wider world.
All in all, Bradford’s economy is in fine shape, but investors will also be pleased to hear that there is still room for improvement. As we will see in the upcoming sections of this guide, Bradford is attracting investment from both the public and private sectors, delivering a raft of wealth generating projects that will undoubtedly help push the city further forward over the coming months and years.
Regeneration and investment in Bradford
Bradford is currently undergoing some major regeneration projects that will certainly bring more prosperity to the region and cement the city as one of the key players in the North of England. One of the most talked about areas of investment is a part of the city centre itself which has been aptly named The City Centre Growth Zone. Around £35 million has been invested into the project that aims to support both new and existing businesses as they grow and become part of Bradford’s overall economy.
The targeted Business Growth Priority Streets Scheme spans a huge portion of the city centre and takes in Darley Street, Rawson Square, Rawson Place, Kirkgate and Ivegate. Companies situated within the scheme’s boundaries will be encouraged to grow their businesses and create new job opportunities that will help support local people and attract further investment into the city. Importantly, the scheme will also offer assistance to those that qualify with expenses such as property improvements, the purchase of equipment or machinery and offer a business rate rebate, dependent upon job creation.
In total, over £500 million has been invested in the city centre over the last year, with an additional £200 million being ploughed into other parts of the wider district. The last 12 months has also seen the opening of the new Westfield shopping and leisure complex, The Broadway. Eighty-two new stores fill the 570,000 sq ft of retail space and over 2,000 jobs have been created in the process.
Bradford’s transportation links
Bradford has all of the standard transportation links that one would expect from a city of its size and enjoys good connections with all of the other major northern cities in the region. Neighbouring Leeds provides Bradford with the closest international airport (just six miles to the east), and Manchester Airport is only an hour’s drive away, which gives residents easy access to the country’s third largest airport.
Bradford is also well served by the road network with the M606 spur connecting to the M62. This means that entry on to the M1 is straightforward and provides those who wish to travel either south or north an easy way to do so. The M62 itself, which runs to the south of Bradford, links the city to Hull and Leeds in the east and Liverpool and Manchester in the west. Bradford is also served by a number of trunk roads, giving access to local towns and cities such as Queensbury, Wakefield, Halifax, Harrogate, Leeds and Keighley.
The city has two main railway stations, namely The Bradford Interchange and Bradford Forster Square. Bradford Interchange combines rail, bus and coach services and has a passenger footfall just short of 3 million people per annum. The station operates regular services locally and also links the city to London’s King’s Cross station. Bradford Forster Square – a mere 10-minute walk away from the Interchange – also connects with London’s King’s Cross.
As with the majority of British towns and cities, Bradford is served by several different bus companies, including First Group and Arriva.
Local life in Bradford
As we have already seen in our guide, Bradford has plenty going for it in terms of culture, countryside and connectivity. Here we’ll explore the local environment in a little more depth.
Bradford forms part of one of Lonely Planet’s top regions in the world. Yorkshire was named in the travel giant’s Best in Travel Guide 2014, and it’s easy to see why the county received such an accolade once you visit. Bradford was cited as being one of the key reasons why Yorkshire was placed in the top three spots in the guide, and its UNESCO City of Film status further cements the city’s reputation as a must-visit region of the British Isles.
The city has a long and rich history and the local architecture reflects this in certain areas, especially the ever popular Little Germany. This part of Bradford is full of wonderful Victorian buildings and named after the German merchants who came to the city in the late 1850s. Another UNESCO recognised part of Bradford is Saltaire, a World Heritage Site model village that also boasts incredible architecture and a wealth of independent restaurants and shops. Salt Mills also sits within the site, home to one of the greatest collections of work by the artist David Hockney.
Those who enjoy a little retail therapy are spoilt for choice in Bradford, especially now that the brand-new Westfield Broadway shopping centre has opened its doors to the public. The £260 million mall brings a whole host of retailers to the city and it adds to the already existing Kirkgate Centre, Oastler Shopping Centre and Forster Square Shopping Park. The city also has one of the grandest book stores you will ever see. Bradford’s Waterstones is located inside the old Victorian Gothic Wool Exchange building and is well worth a visit even if you have no intention of buying yourself a paperback or two.
Food and drink offerings are as plentiful as the shopping experiences you can have in the city. Dubbed the Curry Capital of Britain, Bradford naturally has a wealth of Asian eateries, but the range of cuisines on offer doesn’t stop there. Everything is catered for here, and the local craft beer scene is blossoming into something that could well become an attraction in its own right.
Bradford also has an excellent array of nocturnal pleasures for the night owls amongst you. Live music can be found at places such as The Live Room and Disco Joe’s. As with any other British city, pubs and clubs are easily found and there are also plenty of upmarket bars on offer too. Naturally, for a UNESCO City of Film, cinema features heavily here and theatre, too, is well represented.
Bradford is a lively, vibrant city with lots to see and do, making it the perfect place for young professionals looking to set up home in what is surely one of the most picturesque regions in the whole of the UK.
Why invest in Bradford
We believe that Bradford is one of the most upcoming areas in the United Kingdom, and the work that is being done by both the local government and outside investors reflects our sentiments. We have already gone over the regeneration projects in operation throughout the city and believe that all of these initiatives will stand Bradford in good stead as we move towards 2020.
Property prices are attractive in the city, with averages working out to be around a third of what one would expect to pay in London. This presents investors with a unique opportunity to take advantage of some extraordinarily good deals in the area. For example, property in the centre of town (postcode BD1) were recently reported to be providing buy-to-let investors with yields of over 9 per cent each year, the joint second highest in the country along with Glasgow’s G21.
The city’s close proximity to Leeds is also of benefit to anyone looking to invest in property, as Bradford is now being viewed as a viable alternative for those who need to commute into the neighbouring city’s fast expanding financial district. These young professionals will also take heart from the fact that Bradford has some great schools and an abundance of amazing countryside right on their doorstep.
So, if you are looking to move into the property market, we strongly advise you to do nothing until you have explored all that Bradford has to offer. This is a British city that is still offering fantastic value to anyone who wishes to either begin or expand their own property portfolio.
If you’re ready to start your property investment journey, contact us today.