On the national stage and following the increase in the Bank of England’s base rate the quarterly report shows Construction output growth had eased with uncertainty about economic prospects was reported to be slowing decision‑making around building projects. Within the sector, housebuilding was showing the strongest growth. A survey pointed to continued modest growth in investment over the coming year, at a similar rate to that seen over the past twelve months.

Investment plans were being boosted by companies’ desire to increase their efficiency and to meet expected increases in demand, but expectations about the United Kingdom’s future trading relationships were dragging on spending. Expectations of investment growth in the following two years were weaker. Most companies reported that finance was readily available, particularly for larger corporates. Some large companies were refinancing or extending loans to benefit from the low rates currently available. Outside London, investor demand for commercial real estate had been modestly greater than available supply. Housing market demand had strengthened overall. Contacts reported a divergence in regional conditions, with signs of excess supply in London and the South, but excess demand for commercial property and investments in most other parts of the United Kingdom

In Stourbridge busy activity on the development front with The Old Library fully coming to the market shortly as a prestige apartment conversion where 6 of the 23 apartments are already reserved. This adds to the residential conversion activity in the town with The Old Police Station being sold with formal offers requested at the beginning of November with strong interest from developers and investors in what is likely to be a major residential conversion adding to the burgeoning apartments market in the town and bringing much needed living space and people back in to the town.

This all adds to the improving offer of leisure and eating establishments the opening of The Cock and Bull a few weeks ago to be joined shortly by one of Walton & Hipkiss’s new lettings, a specialist restaurant in the old McDonalds building in the High Street, now fitting out and joining the very successful Ronnie’s Pizza Restaurant next door. Rumours abound that a further food outlet is coming to town with the proposed development of Burger King in Birmingham Street. All of this being welcomed to a busier and livelier town centre – all ready for Christmas.

Just down the road in Lye the new Aldi store is finally under construction with the groundworks well underway.

Another reminder for those who own and let commercial property from April 2018 (only 5 months away) a new legal standard for minimum energy efficiency will apply to rented commercial buildings. The new standard brings threats and opportunities for landlords, freehold investors, developers and lenders.

The minimum energy efficiency standard (MEES) was introduced in March 2015 by the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015. The MEES Regulations originate from the Energy Act 2011 which contained the previous coalition government’s package of energy efficiency policies including the Green Deal.

At the moment commercial buildings have an energy efficiency rating that goes from A to G. F and G being the worst performing. What the new law will do is introduce a minimum standard of E and that means that buildings cannot be rented out unless they meet that standard.

So from 1 April 2018, landlords of buildings within the scope of the MEES Regulations must not renew existing tenancies or grant new tenancies if the building has less than the minimum energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E unless the landlord registers an exemption. After 1 April 2023, landlords must not continue to let any buildings which have an EPC rating of less than E unless again the landlord registers an exemption.

Previous EPC scores done 5 or so years ago if reassessed now would almost always drop 2 places due the tighter regulations so beware as this may take the property below the legal threshold so take advice. EPC’s currently last for 10 years.

So that’s it for 2017 – festive greetings for Christmas and a very happy and prosperous 2018 to us all.

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