More than 250 people from across the property and business sectors attended this year's launch of the Kent Property Market Report, which was researched and compiled by Caxtons and produced in conjunction with Kent County Council and Locate in Kent.
The breakfast event, held at the Great Danes Hotel near Maidstone on 2nd November, revealed some surprisingly upbeat statistics that bucked the trend of lacklustre results for the property and construction sector in other parts of the country.
Straddling major routes from the continent to the capital and beyond, makes Kent and Medway strategically pivotal in the south east. In addition, the cost of property and land has made Kent and Medway attractive for business and industry alike.
Growth continues in the office, business park and industrial sectors, and activity in the housing market is buoyant with developments such as the new Ebbsfleet Garden City well under way.
Increased exports have provided short-term gains in the industrial and distribution sector due, in part, to the Brexit vote and resulting fall in the pound. Also, the lack of development during the recession years has resulted in an increase in the average prime rent in Kent and Medway of 9.4% during over past twelve months.
Rents on business parks have remained largely stable and there has been expansion in the Life Sciences with the launch of the North Kent Enterprise Zone.
Average vacancy rates across the retail sector are down from 9.9% to 8.9%, which exceeds the national average and prime retail rent is increasing faster than in the previous 10 years.
House prices continued to grow and outpaced London during the year to August 2017. HS1 was providing new opportunities to live outside the capital and commute in,
Inward investment to the county continued apace and in the twelve-month period under scrutiny, Locate in Kent assisted 56 companies to find property occupying in excess of 700,000 ft2, an increase of 200,000 ft2 on the previous year.
Chairman of Caxtons, Ron Roser, said that the firm was delighted to be presenting such a strong picture of the sector in what had been a difficult year post the Brexit vote. "In our fifth year as main sponsor and contributor to the Kent Property Market Report it shows more than ever how investment in infrastructure, regeneration and business space is translating into occupier demand and improved investment prospects.
"This year's report reflects positivity across the property sector in the county and we look forward to a very busy year ahead."
Caxtons is one of the largest independent property practices in the south east. Operating from offices across Kent, Caxtons offers a range of consultancy, management and surveying services in the commercial and residential sectors, managing around 7,000 properties in the region.
For six out of the past seven years, Caxtons has been awarded the prestigious 'EGi Deals Winner Kent'. Based on commercial property lettings and sales achieved in the previous twelve-months, Caxtons has consistently performed well, with results showing year on year increases throughout the period.
Caxtons has researched and compiled information for the Kent Property Market Report, and publishes the information in tandem with Kent County Council and Locate in Kent.
Latest analysis from Caxtons Chartered Surveyors points to how business change is raising demand for office space in many of Kent's town centre office markets. This is having a knock-on impact on capital values in the county.
Caxtons reports the prime town centre office yield in Kent fell sharply during 2016 to 6% by the end of the year, the lowest level since the financial crisis. This 200 basis points decline since 2015 has bolstered capital value growth for investors in the county's town centre office markets.
Kent prime office yield
Business change is a key driver of rental growth that is underpinning much of the upward pressure on values. Quality town centres with good accessibility to London have a growing appeal to companies, including those that may have wholly or partly relocated from London. Companies remain cost conscious and are increasingly seeking to reduce overheads. For example, office rents in what was affordable Shoreditch now stand at £60 per square foot. This compares to £26 per square foot in Sevenoaks and £25 per square foot in Tunbridge Wells, both offering a short commute for meetings.
Furthermore, staff are increasingly seeking to work nearer home, for greater flexibility. This is reflected in a growth in flexible working practices as well as the number of freelancers providing high value services to companies in London or further afield. This is generating demand in Kent's town centres for both traditional office space as well as co-working space.
The upturn in demand has depleted available office space, which has fallen across quality town centre locations in the South East.
The loss of stock as a result of large scale office to residential conversion of older, more obsolete buildings
The success of Kent's town centre office market has served to bolster investor demand, also placing pressure on prices. A wide range of investor groups are seeking to increase exposure to quality locations. These include a growing number of local councils, who, with the benefit of low cost debt, are joining the bidding for assets that do come to market. This has placed further pressure on values.
During 2017 Caxtons expects to see continued strong occupier demand for quality town centre locations across Kent. This will put further upward pressure on rents in some towns. Sevenoaks for example is expected to reach close to £30 per square foot this year. However, Caxtons also anticipates yields will stabilise for office assets this year.
Charlotte Bland BSc (Hons) MSc MRICS has been appointed a full board director at Caxtons, one of the largest independent firms of general practice chartered surveyors and property consultants in the South East.
Born, raised and living in Kent, Charlotte graduated from the London South Bank University with a Distinction in MSc Real Estate Appraisal. Her first job was with a small, independent firm of surveyors in Hertfordshire, working mostly on landlord & tenant and corporate real estate matters. Charlotte joined Caxtons in 2011 and now heads up the Commercial Management and Investment department. She specialises in acquiring and disposing of property investments for a variety of clients.
Neil Chatterton, Managing Director of the award winning firm said "It has taken Charlotte less than six years to become a director of the company, which was founded in 1990 and is a busy regional practice.
"Charlotte's experience, knowledge and passion ensure that clients benefit from her advice. She is a great advocate for all who enter the sector, which is seeing more women taking on influential and powerful roles across the property and construction industry.
"We are delighted that Charlotte is taking on the role and I and my fellow directors welcome her considerable expertise to the Board."
Charlotte was pragmatic about her appointment saying that when she began her career in property she knew that it was for her: "I always needed a career that I would enjoy every day - a career for life – and I found it in property. I am serious about the sector and ensuring that it flourishes. I have learnt so much since qualifying and I endeavour to use that knowledge and expertise to my clients' advantage, whatever the project in hand."
Charlotte took up her post on 1st July 2017.