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.
On a crisp Sunday morning on 17th September a team of eight Caxtons' employees set off at the crack of dawn to ride from Clapham Common to Brighton seafront, in the London to Brighton Charity Bike Ride, in support of Demelza Hospice, the company's chosen charity of the year.
Demelza cares for life-limited and life-threatened children providing support for them and their families and so far a massive £2,176 has been raised – beating the team's target of £2000.
All riders did extremely well to get through the day, with just two water breaks at miles 17 and 40 and a lunch break in between at mile 29 – overall riding the 54 miles to the finish line at Brighton Seafront, with some very undulating terrain and the dreaded Ditchling Beacon, the third-highest point on the South Downs at 248m high.
Despite Tom and Ed forging ahead of the pack for the majority of the race, unfortunately they were miss-directed by a marshal overseeing a nearby Triathlon at the last mile – who then accidentally sent them on a further 3-4 mile trip where they ended up finishing a completely
Overall the day was a long, hard slog, but a great team effort assisted in raising a significant amount for an extremely worthy cause!
Team members final times recorded were as follows:-
Well done to everyone who took part and a big thank you to all those who sponsored us and helped us reach our target!
A recent story in the Daily Telegraph raised the question of whether the 'student housing bubble' was about to burst. Duncan Reeves, Associate Director and head of Student Lettings in the Caxtons' Canterbury office responded to some of the messages promoted.
The journalist's position was that the student sector had seen an upsurge in the availability of expensive, luxurious alternatives to traditional accommodation. It is true that developers large and small have invested in purpose built student accommodation (PBSA), whether converting existing buildings or building off plan. It is also true that students are now spoilt for choice and the oversupply is affecting all areas of the student accommodation market.
Duncan agreed that a key point raised, relating to a drop in demand from students, does resonate.
"With the big PBSA providers now firmly established in Canterbury, it will be interesting to see what effect this will have long term on the existing student accommodation."
The first wave of PBSA in Canterbury, which began over 10 years ago, are located on the outskirts of the city – not as convenient for study or socialising. These properties may begin to suffer as students gravitate to the newer blocks in the city centre. There is also a murmur amongst agents that communal house living is still in demand as hard-up students look to save money, so some of the studio apartments that are favoured by developers may not be such a hit with the students.
Duncan continues "I don't believe that student property in Kent is very different from other university towns and with less than a week until terms starts, we have half-a-dozen studios on our books and landlords are accepting discounted rents to attract tenants.
"A large proportion of tenants who have rented purpose built studios are overseas students and money is less of an issue than for UK students. Even so, with the increased competition it has put pressure on some of the developments on the outskirts of the city."
So - have we reached saturation point with the number of student studios in Canterbury?
Duncan's opinion was "Where there are still sites available within walking distance of the University of Kent, or in the city centre, it may make out-lying student properties more challenging to let - as evidenced with the new CRM block at the moment."
An alternative view is that the continued development of PBSA may free up much needed housing stock as landlords of traditional HMO's are forced to sell up. This does not appear to be the case so far this year and Caxtons increased their stock of traditional HMOs, which have let well.
Whilst there has been a desire – even a necessity - for PBSA in recent years, for the majority of UK based students, the pressure of increased tuition fees has meant they are looking for better value over outright exclusivity and facilities. Whilst it is possible that HMOs, just like PBSA, located on the outskirts of town or cities or in poor locations will struggle and may be sold on, there is still strong demand for this traditional student property in Kent. The argument that first time buyers or families would be interested in buying this high turnover letting stock is definitely not guaranteed.