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Savills: Investment in Scottish real estate to reach record high

SCOTLAND has attracted more than £500 million of international capital in the first half of 2019, according to Savills.

The latest research by the international real estate advisor shows that 2019 is now on track to become the best ever recorded year for inward investment in commercial real estate in the country.

Some £575 million of international capital was invested in Scottish commercial property in the first half of 2019, accounting for 49% of all investment in the period and representing the largest share of inward capital since 2016.

Investors from Asia accounted for the largest proportion, channelling more than £240m into Scotland in 2019, surpassing the £180m invested in the whole of 2018. South Korean investors spent more than £200m, investing in some of the largest deals in Scotland. Leonardo Innovation Hub was sold to South Korean investors for £100m, with a 5.9% yield.

European investors also continued to spend heavily on Scottish commercial real estate, with almost £200m invested in the first half of 2019. The largest deal this year was to German investors, who bought 4-8 St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh for £120m, representing a yield of 4.45%.

Head of Savills Scotland Nick Penny said the country’s attractiveness to investors is likely to increase further. “2019 is shaping up to be a record year for inward investment into Scotland,” he said. “Investors are attracted by the strong performance of the economy, record employment and more attractive yields on offer relative to other regional cities in the south east.”

“Recent plans set out by the Government to position Scotland as a forward-looking digital nation by embracing 5G has the potential to enhance Scotland’s global competitiveness and continue to drive inward investment. We are already experiencing a growth in the tech sector, particularly in Edinburgh, and with digital becoming more engrained in business processes and procedures, having a fast and reliable digital infrastructure will become increasingly vital for businesses.”

Overseas investors accounted for more than three quarters (79%) of investment, according to the latest data from Savills. The second quarter was particularly active as more than £400m of deals were completed, four times the amount in the first quarter.

Offices proved to be the most popular sector in the first half of the year with £494m transacted.

Overall, Edinburgh witnessed the highest level of investment in Scotland. A total of £316m in investment was generated through six deals, compared with five in the first half of 2018.

Glasgow and Aberdeen achieved £128m and £50m of office investment respectively. Key deals during H1 included 110 St Vincent Street, Glasgow. Savills sold the site for £48m, reflecting a 5.4% yield. Meanwhile, AB1 on Huntly Street, Aberdeen, was purchased for £13.5m, with an 8% yield, also advised by Savills.

Penny, concluded: “The fundamentals of the office market remain strong. Edinburgh is proving particularly popular due to the combination of a robust occupational market and restricted supply of high quality office space which has led to rental growth in the city. This environment is creating significant demand for office buildings with international investors that want to secure long-term income at attractive yields.”

Source: The National

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Further rule changes would damage BTL market

Regulation in the mortgage market is helpful but any more interference may create problems for brokers and their clients, delegates at the FTAdviser Financial Advice Forum in London were told.

In a panel session entitled “Buy-to-let: how professional landlords can overcome tax and legislative hurdles”, Andrew Montlake, director of Coreco, and Martin Stewart, director of London Money, said the current regulatory environment was generally positive for clients.

Mr Stewart said: “Regulation is nothing for people to be afraid of. A good broker with a good moral compass will always do a decent job for their clients. I don’t mind regulation per se.”

Mr Montlake agreed, saying: “Regulation has created an environment where good brokers can demonstrate their professionalism. This shows the public you are responsible and generally I think we are in a good position.”

But he cautioned: “I don’t want more regulation for the sake of it. If it does get rid of the amateur landlords, the charlatans, the so-called ‘dinner party property investors’, then I am all for regulation that helps make buy-to-let a more professional market.

“What I fear is there may be more changes ahead, that makes things more complicated and doesn’t really focus on what the client really wants and needs.”

Both men agreed there had been a change in the mortgage market, largely driven by government tinkering with stamp duty and tighter controls to weed out bad landlords.

This was visible in a slowdown in new buy-to-let enquiries for London Money and some delegates in the room.

Mr Stewart said he was pleased to see more “amateurs” leave the market and free up housing for first-time buyers but he felt regulation could do more to raise standards further.

However, while there has not so far been a glut of housing dumped back on the market by disgruntled buy-to-let investors, a “perfect storm” could be caused due to Brexit uncertainty, new governments and unknown elements that might see more of an exodus in 2021.

Most buy-to-let lenders are regulated by the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

In 2017, among other regulatory changes that endeavoured to take some of the heat out of the buy-to-let market, the PRA implemented rules on how much can be lent to potential buy-to-let investors, based on how much rent was being charged.

The rule is that when making a loan, the rent must cover at least 145 per cent of the mortgage payment when the interest rate is at least 5.5 per cent.

This followed the government’s reform of the rules governing BTL, which included a 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge for second homes and cuts to landlord tax relief.

As some delegates in the room commented, higher taxes and a lack of upward movement on rents – especially in London – have meant some landlords with smaller portfolios are not making enough of a profit to continue as a buy-to-let investor.

When asked what their clients are doing, some said their clients were selling, going outside of London, creating limited partnerships or getting their residential property exposure through property funds.

“We are certainly having to be much more holistic now as brokers”, said Mr Montlake. “Professionals can really add value to clients.”

By Simoney Kyriakou

Source: FT Adviser

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No-deal Brexit to accelerate London house price drop

London house prices could sink up to seven per cent next year if no Brexit deal is reached by the 31 October deadline date, according to the latest research.

If the UK exits the European Union with a deal London house prices will fall by a smaller 4.7 per cent, continuing the trend of declining property prices in the capital.

Research by accountancy firm KPMG published this morning shows that the average property in the capital would cost £453,000 in 2020 following a smooth exit. However, after a no-deal Brexit the average London house price would drop to £422,000.

A no-deal Brexit would trigger a drop in house prices in every region of the UK, with the sharpest fall of 7.5 per cent seen in Northern Ireland.

The latest research shows that a drop of 10 to 20 per cent is “not out of the question” if markets react “stronger than anticipated”.

KPMG chief economist Yael Selfin said: “The housing market has been stuck in the slow lane since 2016 – with the changes to stamp duty and the uncertainties of Brexit putting the market on the back foot.

“As our forecasts show, a no-deal Brexit will see house prices decline significantly across the UK in 2020 by an average of 6.2 per cent, with more severe falls of around 10 to 20 per cent also possible if we look at historic precedents.”

Last month the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee (MPC) said that if the UK’s departure from the EU is smooth and some recovery in global growth is seen it could raise interest rates “at a gradual pace and to a limited extent, as it unanimously chose to hold the main interest rate at 0.75 per cent, where it has stood since August last year.

The committee said under no deal, the “interest rate decision would need to balance the upward pressure on inflation, from the likely fall in sterling and any reduction in supply capacity, with the downward pressure from any reduction in demand”.

In July, MPC member Gertjan Vlieghe said the bank might have to slash interest rates to nearly zero in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

By Jessica Clark

Source: City AM

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Brexit prep has cut productivity of UK business, says Bank of England

The Brexit process has cut the productivity of UK companies by between two and five per cent, research by the Bank of England has found.

Much of this drop since the vote to leave the European Union in 2016 is due to falls in businesses’ productivity as managers dedicate several hours per week to Brexit planning, researchers said.

“But we also find evidence for a smaller negative between-firm effect too as more productive internationally exposed firms have shrunk relative to less productive domestic firms,” they added.

The anticipation of Brexit has also “gradually reduced” investment by 11 per cent since the referendum, with the vote generating “a large, broad and long-lasting increase in uncertainty.”

This fall investment was gradual, taking three years to materialise, researchers said. This slow fall contrasted with predictions that it would “fall sharply” in the year after the referendum “and then recover”.

“This delay suggests firms may not respond as rapidly to large shocks that cause persistent uncertainty rather than short-term uncertainty, possibly because uncertainty leads firms to act cautiously,” the researchers said.

The scale and duration of the uncertainty generated by the decision to leave the EU marked it out as unique, the report said.

“Compared to previous uncertainty shocks Brexit is notable for its persistently high level of uncertainty, which sets it apart from other measures of uncertainty which capture immediate responses to shocks that quickly die away.”

By Anna Menin

Source: City AM

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UK mortgage approvals hit two-year high in July as market stabilises – BoE

British lenders approved the greatest number of mortgages in two years during July, adding to signs the housing market has stabilised from its pre-Brexit slowdown, official data showed on Friday.

The Bank of England said lenders approved 67,306 mortgages, up from 66,506 in June and more than any economist predicted in a Reuters poll that had pointed to 66,167 approvals for July.

Britain’s housing market has sagged since the 2016 Brexit referendum – especially in London and neighbouring areas – but has shown signs of a tentative recovery in recent months.

Earlier on Friday mortgage lender Nationwide said house price growth in annual terms inched up to a three-month high in August, although remained weak by recent standards.

The BoE said net mortgage lending rose by 4.611 billion pounds in July, the biggest increase since March 2016, while consumer lending increased by 0.897 billion pounds compared with a forecast rise of 1.0 billion pounds on the month.

Lending to businesses fell by 4.218 billion pounds last month, the sharpest fall since August 2017. While the series is volatile, the severity of the fall could be another sign of nerves in British companies as the Brexit crisis escalates.

Earlier on Friday Lloyds Bank said business confidence fell in August to its lowest level since late 2011.

Source: UK Reuters

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UK house price growth ground to a halt in August

House price growth ground to a halt in August across the UK amid signs of a “slowdown” in activity in the property market, according to the latest figures from Nationwide.

Average prices were unchanged between July and August when analysts factored out seasonal variation in the latest house price index from the building society.

The average home in Britain sold for just over £216,000 ($263,000) in August, no higher than a month earlier but up 0.6% on a year earlier.

It marks the ninth month in a row of muted price growth below 1% or even declines on an annual basis.

Marc von Grundherr, director of London estate agent Benham & Reeves, said prices were “climbing at a snail’s pace.”

“While the UK property market may have ground to a halt on a month on month basis, it is an admirable show of defiance to at least register some annual growth, given the seasonalities at play and the addition of political turbulence that continues to plague home seller sentiment,” said von Grundherr.

He said price growth could continue to stall over the next few months as prime minister Boris Johnson takes Britain closer to a no-deal Brexit, but predicted a “consistent and strong uplift” later this year or next.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “Surveyors report that new buyer enquiries have increased a little, though key consumer confidence indicators remain subdued.

“Data on the number of property transactions points to a slowdown in activity, though the number of mortgages approved for house purchase has remained broadly stable.

“Housing market trends will remain heavily dependent on developments in the broader economy. In the near term, healthy labour market conditions and low borrowing costs will provide underlying support, though uncertainty is likely to continue to exert a drag on sentiment and activity.”

By Tom Belger

Source: Yahoo Finance UK

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Londoners pay highest UK house price premium to live closer to a station

London home buyers are willing to pay almost 10 per cent more on a house in order to live closer to a station, according to Nationwide.

The building society found Londoners are willing to pay a whopping 9.4 per cent premium for a house located 500 metres away from a station.

That amounts to approximately £42,900 based on averages London house prices.

Data shows that – naturally – this premium falls the further away from a station a house is located.

A property located 1,250 metres away commands only a 1.9 per cent premium. At 1,000 metres this increases to 4.1 per cent and at 750 metres the premium rises again to 6.6 per cent.

London homebuyers are willing to pay much more to live closer to their nearest train station – particularly in comparison with inhabitants of Greater Manchester and Glasgow.

Nationwide suggests that “this probably reflects the greater reliance on public transport in the capital, with residents less likely to drive”.

In comparison to London’s 9.4 per cent, a premium for a property 500 metres from a station in Manchester stands at 7.8 per cent, or £12,600.

This falls to 3.8 per cent, or £5,700, for properties 500 metres from a station in Glasgow.

Average London house prices on every Tube line

While Londoners are willing to pay a premium on a home closer to a station, their average house price differs greatly depending on what Tube line they use.

Average house prices in London are most expensive where the nearest station is the Circle line, where the average cost of house is £801,000.

TfL rail serves the least costly homes, at an average cost price of £359,000.

Of the London Underground lines, average house prices are least expensive where the nearest station is on the Metropolitan line, at a £439,000 average.

Nationwide suggests that “this probably reflects that the line stretches towards the outer suburbs, with only a short section in central London.”

London house prices on every Tube line:

LineAverage House Price
Circle£801,000
Bakerloo£624,000
Victoria£573,000
Northern£563,000
Jubilee£553,000
Hammersmith and City£524,000
Docklands Light Railway£505,000
Overground£490,000
Piccadilly£485,000
District£478,000
Central£450,000
Metropolitan£439,000
TfL Rail£359,000

By Emma Tyrrell

Source: City AM

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Worries mount for UK businesses and consumers as Brexit crisis builds – surveys

Confidence drained away from UK businesses and consumers in August as the Brexit crisis deepened, according to surveys that suggested the political ructions were taking an increasing toll on the economy.

The Lloyds Bank Business Barometer slid to 1% from 13% in July, its lowest level since December 2011, when Britain was struggling to recover from the global financial crisis.

Separately, a survey of consumer confidence from market research company GfK was its joint weakest since mid-2013, driven lower by deepening pessimism about the economy.

The signs of a wilting economy – similar to elsewhere in Europe – raise the stakes for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

If his gambit of suspending parliament to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 fails, he may have to fight a national election while the world’s fifth-biggest economy falls deeper into malaise.

“(The surveys) do seem to indicate that the rebound in the third quarter that many of us anticipated on the back of a weak second quarter might be somewhat muted,” Peter Dixon said.

Britain’s economy shrank in the second quarter, a hangover from the stockpiling boom in advance of the original March Brexit deadline. Another contraction in the current quarter would officially herald a recession.

“It’s a fairly weakish environment, what with global problems and of course our own domestic issues to worry about,” Dixon added.

Business confidence declined in every region of the United Kingdom, Lloyds said, although the fall was steepest in the manufacturing-heavy East Midlands region of England.

British manufacturers, who account for about 10% of the economy, are facing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit which is likely to hurt their supply chains, plus a slowdown in the global economy.

CONSUMER CONSTERNATION
Separate data added to signs the housing market, which slowed sharply after the 2016 Brexit vote, is stabilising.

British banks approved the greatest number of mortgages in two years during July, the Bank of England said, while mortgage lender Nationwide reported house prices increased at the fastest annual pace in three months.

At -14, the GfK survey was the weakest since January, before which it had been lower only in mid-2013. All the survey’s components, including the outlook for personal finances and the economy, declined in August.

“Until Brexit leaves the front pages – whenever that will be – consumers can be forgiven for feeling nervous not just about the wider economy but also about their financial situation,” Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, said.

Another poll of consumers from U.S. bank Citi and pollsters YouGov showed inflation expectations among consumers for year ahead rose to their highest level since 2013.

“The increase could be driven by rising chances of a rupture with the EU on Oct. 31, which could lead to higher consumer prices via tariffs, supply disruptions and weaker sterling,” Citi economists said in a note.

By Andy Bruce

Source: UK Reuters

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UK house prices remain stagnant as no-deal Brexit looms

UK house prices grew at less than one per cent for the ninth month in a row in August, Nationwide figures revealed today, prompting calls for Boris Johnson to slash stamp duty.

The value of homes did not grow between July and August, Nationwide’s House Price Index found.

But they did grow 0.6 per cent on an annual basis and 0.3 per cent over the last three months.

However, UK house prices slipped to an average price of £216,096 in August, down from July’s £217,663.

Nationwide warned that Brexit uncertainty is weighing the market down despite healthy economic signals.

“While house price growth has remained fairly stable, there have been mixed signals from the property market in recent months,” Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said.

No-deal Brexit threat weighs down UK house prices
While mortgage approvals have been stable and new buyer enquiries have improved, UK consumer confidence slumped in August as a no-deal Brexit looms.

The threat of Brexit uncertainty will continue to cloud the UK housing market, Gardner added.

“Housing market trends will remain heavily dependent on developments in the broader economy,” he said.

“In the near term, healthy labour market conditions and low borrowing costs will provide underlying support, though uncertainty is likely to continue to exert a drag on sentiment and activity.”

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, added: “With the economy struggling and the outlook currently highly uncertain, we suspect that house prices will remain soft despite the recent pick-up in housing market activity – which could well prove temporary.”

Could Boris Johnson cut stamp duty?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is yet to announce his domestic agenda since he took power in July, but he is reportedly considering slashing stamp duty to boost UK house prices.

This couldn’t come soon enough, according to experts, who believe it would help lift housing stock supply and boost house price value as Johnson takes the UK closer to a no-deal Brexit.

Guy Harrington, chief executive of property lender Glenhawk, said: “The need for more stock is as urgent as ever and the government would be foolish not to address stamp duty relief as a priority.”

Archer added: “Housing market activity – and possibly to a lesser extent prices – could be given a lift in 2020 if the government cuts stamp duty significantly in the Budget later this year.”

Kevin Roberts, director of the Legal & General Mortgage Club, added: “The critical issue is that there are simply not enough homes to meet the demand from consumers, whether people buying their first property or those who want to downsize.”

By Joe Curtis

Source: City AM