Welcome to “the Future”

2nd February 2020

Whilst reflecting on the new year ahead, a conversation with my 10-year-old daughter got me thinking. According to the ONS life expectancy calculator, statistically there is a very good chance that my children’s generation will still be around in the year 2100.

That took me straight back to my own childhood and wondering what life would be like in the year 2000, my young imagination running overdrive over living in “the future” – travelling by flying car and the domestic chores done by robot. The reality is that we are now 20 years beyond the millennium and despite being a ‘space date’, life in 2020 does feel remarkably similar (including having to unload the dishwasher) to an observer from 40 years ago.

However, events towards the end of the last decade precipitated some market changes to the point where they are now a reality for our region, our business and our clients.

Commercial property wise, we have seen an uneven trend to the flow of high street bank valuations during the Brexit epoch. There is a significant amount of alternative investment being placed, including joint ventures and use of private equity, to deliver some great projects across the region.

We are starting to see some output from the strategic planning and investment by the Combined Authorities and Mayoral posts. Our commercial property team have recently been appointed as property managers for the commercial property at Teesside International Airport, under the progressive alliance between the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Stobart Group, one of a number of exciting initiatives driving commercial development and job creation in the north east.

The development land market has proved stable and we saw a number of completions of significant residential development sites over the past year. We secured planning consent and sold land for 200 units at Killingworth to Avant Homes, as well as completions to Bellway and Barratt Homes. We are seeing Housing Associations being an increasingly active contributor in the market.

On the planning front, we are helping a number of clients ready themselves for future Local Plan reviews. The timing of reviews is interesting, with three combined Authorities now on-line and with ambitious growth plans. Our combined offering of planning and valuation expertise alongside market knowledge and experience of setting up delivery partnerships is in strong demand to demonstrate deliverability.

Regional house builders and self–build plots still feature importantly in the north east market. Figures from the Federation of Master Builder’s House Builders’ 2019 Survey indicated that over 30% of SME builders still report availability of finance as a significant constraint. On the back of confidence in stability of north east markets (and with markets in the south suffering), alongside low interest rates we are seeing successful private investment models and specialist funding starting to scale up to larger sites.

Our Northumberland estate agency team continues to fly, with sales prime locations selling very strongly and performance up a further 20% year on year. Quality property continues to be a strong draw for re-investment of north-east business wealth.

Technology is changing the way we interact with each other and our clients. However, all of the successful trends we are seeing in the region are as a result of human interaction and initiative.

As a business we continue to adapt and respond to opportunities, using technology to build on client relationships rather than replace them. Whilst we may be living in “the future”, most business is still done through face to face meetings and with a cup of coffee (even if we don’t yet have a robot to wash the cup). The same will apply in 2100.

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