Caxtons was pleased to assist in providing the research and analysis for the newly released second Ashford Property Market Report.

The Report is produced by Ashford Borough Council, and Caxtons uses research from the Kent Property Market Report (2019), combined with new research and in-depth analysis, to bring together an overview of how the local market is performing.

The report gives a valuable insight for both professionals and inward investors whose focus is property – as well as other businesses interested in areas of growth.

This year’s report highlights that even with Covid-19 in the equation, prime office rents have grown 33% during the past five years. Ashford also leads the county with above average prime industrial rent, and retail rents increased by 5% when measured across 3-years (to Q3 ’19), although this figure is likely to be one of the casualties of the pandemic and lockdown. Residential values are, on average, up 22% over the last five years.

Neil Chatterton, Managing Director of Caxtons, said: “Last year’s Report was welcomed by the sector as providing a useful tool and insight into the trends pertaining to the Ashford property market. We were pleased to work with Ashford Borough Council once again and to provide the research for the 2019/2020 Property Market Report.

“The report shows that, in general, Ashford performed better than many other areas across Kent. Ashford Borough Council has been proactive, intervening and shaping their own destiny in a number of ways, including the purchase and management of the Park Mall shopping

centre and early involvement with the Connect 38 development, which have seen positive results. It has also promoted the town to a wider audience encouraging new residents, developers and investors.”

Leader of Ashford Borough Council, Cllr Gerry Clarkson said: “The property landscape is very different from when we launched the first Ashford Property Market Report at Connect 38 last year, but the findings of this year’s report are equally important.

“Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Ashford is still very much leading the way for inward investment and regeneration. In the past year alone, we have seen the opening of the state-of-the-art Curious Brewery, the completion of the £90 million Ashford Designer Outlet expansion and launch of the much-needed co-working and event space at the Coachworks, to name a few.

“There’s certainly some really positive findings to come out of this year’s report, but more importantly it’s about generating a conversation among stakeholders about what the future holds for the Ashford property market. I think the future is very promising indeed."

Ashford is geographically well placed with High Speed-1 journeys to London taking 38-minutes and the new M20 junction 10a, which opened in October 2019 and make the area attractive to developers and investors alike. And with Covid still on the agenda, Ashford is surrounded by some of the most beautiful green spaces at the heart of the Garden of England.

To view the Ashford Property Market Report (2019/20) page-turner document click here or download a pdf here.

Ashford PMR 2020 front page

“Following disastrous ‘lockdown’, single property buy-to-let landlord seeks managing agent with expertise in residential property letting regulations.”

No - not a lonely-hearts ad, but the result of Covid-19 and time-limited and radical emergency measures introduced in the private rental sector (PRS) during lockdown, together with the plethora of regulations that landlords face.

In recent weeks this has brought about a reported 20+% increase in landlords seeking managing agents.

Firstly, new and existing landlords are taking advantage of the stamp duty land tax holiday introduced by the Chancellor to boost the housing market, which had ground to a halt because of lockdown. Savings of 2% duty on property priced between £125,000 - £250,000 and 5% on the portion between £250,000 and £500,000 were attractive for many new and existing landlords who bought at a time when most of the nation was holed up not daring to move. These astute investors made savings to a maximum £3,750 in stamp duty.

In addition, the constant stream of new rules and regulation introduced by successive governments and relating directly to the buy-to-let market may have proved overwhelming for some ‘self-manage’ landlords.

On 1st April, in the middle of lockdown, a new mandatory electrical installation inspection came in to effect for all new tenancies (starting on or after 1st July 2020) in England. This compels landlords or their agents to have all electrical installations in rental property inspected and tested by a suitably qualified electrical technician at least once every five-years.

Another emergency measure introduced during lockdown was temporarily abolishing evictions. This may have

made landlords nervous, and motivated them to seek out reputable managing agents who would understand what to do and how to handle such a delicate situation.

Some tenants did, and do face reduced income at best or losing their jobs at worst. Because of this, rent arrears has been a very present issue for landlords and tenants alike.

At Caxtons, the residential lettings and management team advised both tenants and landlords to talk before any major problems arose.

Debbie Pennell, Regional Head of Residential Lettings & Property Management said: “The sooner landlords and their tenants were able to arrive at an arrangement to tide them over until a clearer picture of the future emerged, the better. This gave everyone breathing space to find solutions, rather than make issues worse.

“We have steered our landlord clients through some pretty difficult problems, whilst all the time ensuring that maintenance and regular checks were dealt with efficiently and paying heed to social distancing and Covid-19 health & safety and security measures.

“Whenever we have visited a tenanted property we have adhered to the strict rules pertaining to the virus.

“Ensuring that all our landlords have peace of mind, and that both their valuable asset and their tenants are kept safe has been our priority and – no doubt – the priority of every good managing agent.

“I am not at all surprised that the number of landlords seeking good managing agents has increased over the past 5-months. Letting a property is a heavily responsible and burdensome task for anyone not employed in the business and the penalties for getting it wrong are stringent.

“My advice would be to ensure that any landlord looking to appoint a managing agent – whether they have one or multiple properties – looks long and hard for a reputable and regulated agent to handle the work on their behalf. To protect themselves and be confident that they are in safe hands they should look for agents who are members of, and regulated by:

  • The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA Propertymark)
  • The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)
  • The National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS)
  • The UK Landlord Accreditation Partnership

“There are still too many rogue agents out there”

Debbie Pennell

There are many questions arising out of Covid-19, and the state of the commercial property market is one that has rumbled throughout the sector.

As with most disasters, there are silver linings to be found amongst the chaos.

Surprisingly to some, people have been working effectively from home during lockdown and office blocks across the country have stood relatively empty, causing many company bosses to scratch their heads and wonder whether to abandon floor space and save on overheads. Behind the scenes discussions are taking place on how any resulting voids might be rescued and/or repurposed, possibly with thoughts of improving services, more accommodating leases or Permitted Development Rights (PDR) high on many landlords’ lists.

‘Rent arrears’ is an ever present danger for commercial landlords and their managing agents, and is more prevalent now.

Numerous SMEs and larger corporations closed during the lockdown, some for good – and of those who survive, some are struggling to maintain income to cover overheads, let alone make profit.

High street names are falling, with the likes of Debenhams and John Lewis announcing store closures across the country.

Research by Santander reports up to one fifth of SMEs are seeking smaller premises. The surprise for many landlords is that their tenants are doing their best to pay or at least pay as much as they can, and where they cannot pay, to come to amicable arrangements.*

Conversely, and in a bid to service customers across the country, large online distribution organisations are snapping up sizeable re-sale industrial, warehouse and logistic units as soon as they come to market. New development sites for units are also in high demand, although there are far fewer available, especially across the south east where they are, arguably, needed most.

According to Savills, commercial property sales increased month on month in June ‘20, although they are still considerably down year on year (by -54% on June 2019) and hopes that the coronavirus impact may have flattened. But ever ready to provide balance, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts a fall in the value of commercial property during 2020/21 with a small rise in 2021/22, resulting in a slow but steady upwards trajectory to 2024/25.

Overseas investors are still interested in prime commercial property with proof, if needed, in the recent

sale of a Canary Wharf office block, acquired by a Hong-Kong based property firm for £380m.

As with most things these days, the commercial property picture changes from minute to minute. However, property has never been a short term investment, and for those who are prepared to sit-tight it may be a better option than the FTSI 100!

* Click here for article: Commercial property management in a time of Covid-19.

Commercial office block