A happy new year to all filled with a feeling of eager anticipation for an interesting and exciting year ahead. On the world stage a new President in the US, in Europe we start the road of Brexit and within the UK a stronger economy heightened commercial activity and a lack of supply of good commercial property together with demand outstripping supply in the residential market …. what a cocktail.

Despite all this uncertainty, property remains a fundamentally safe asset class, giving strong income returns and in any cases is a refuge for capital preservation in the longer term, its appeal remaining resolute. In the lead up to the EU referendum, markets were strong, the drop in transactional volumes primarily down to lack of liquidity as opposed to waning investor appetite.

The seismic shock of the Brexit vote brought transactional activity in many cases to a juddering halt, a pause at least to reconsider pricing as opposed to pulling out of deals. The much heralded run on the retail funds was headline news for several months, but after the shock, the realisation that “life in the property world goes on”, with all the retail funds now re-opened and trading. Nationally, the markets continue to appear robust in all sectors, although there remains some hesitation on what Brexit will mean in the financial markets. The sterling devaluation has made UK property very attractive for international investors and now more than ever important to seek expert opinions.

Last year ended on a high for Walton and Hipkiss with a record level of commercial and land transactions and some very good opportunities ahead for the coming year. On the land side of the business unprecedented demand for building plots both single and multiple. At the end of 2016 we had agreed sales on land with potential for over 50 new homes in our area, with good competition from developers.

An important event for businesses next year is the overhaul of the business rating system. From 30 September 2016 anyone in England and Wales who pays business rates can go online to check their new draft rateable value. From this they can get an estimate of what their business rates will be from April 2017

The RICS quarterly market report for the end of 2016 reported On the investment side of the market, enquiries retraced part of the steep fall seen last quarter. At the headline level, a net balance of +9% of respondents noted an increase in investment enquiries (up from -16% in Q2). The industrial sector was once again the strongest performer while the picture remains subdued across the other two sectors we monitor.

In terms of the occupier market, national tenant demand returned to growth at the all-property level having stagnated in the Q2. However, the sector breakdown reveals the industrial sector was the only area of the market in which occupier demand increased, with the retail and office sectors displaying little change. Alongside this, availability continued to decline most markedly in the industrial sector, with a net balance of 27% more respondents reporting a decline in supply (as opposed to a rise). Meanwhile, headline availability declined marginally in the office sector and remained broadly unchanged across retail space. When viewed at a regional level, occupier demand increased and availability fell across most parts of the UK.

Capital value expectations recovered noticeably at the three and twelve month horizons. For the next twelve months, a net balance of 24% more respondents expect capital values to increase, rather than decline. Contributors are most optimistic toward the prospects for capital value growth in the prime industrial and office markets. At the other end of the spectrum, secondary retail continues to exhibit the weakest expectations. With the exception of Scotland (where projections are flat) all other areas/countries across the UK are anticipated to post headline capital value gains over the year ahead.

In our local area strong demand to buy small to medium sized industrial/warehouse units continues apace. The office market is still a little sluggish but freehold doing well. Improved demand for mixed use retail/residential premises.

The Bank of England latest national summary of business sets out investor demand for UK commercial property had edged higher from a low base, following sharp falls after the EU referendum. Capital values were generally reported to be stabilising or increasing modestly.

Activity in the housing market had recovered following a period of weakness after the EU referendum. Purchases had remained concentrated in lower‑price brackets and in the new‑build market. But transactions were muted for property values above £1 million. Investment activity in the buy‑to‑let market overall had recovered a little, though some smaller landlords had exited the market by selling their properties. Low numbers of properties available for sale were supporting modest price inflation overall. Strong competition was reported between mortgage lenders. Most lending to first‑time buyers was reported to be at loan to value ratios below 90%. These buyers were often using large deposits from savings made over many years, or had help from older relatives.

So the reports support a good year ahead as long as we have no national or international catastrophes.

Hard work, good advice and keep confidence is the motto for 2017.

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