1 REAL ESTATE PERSPECTIVE FEBRUARY 2015 Stephen Rees Head of Real Estate Advisory Inside this issue: Review of 2014: good returns for residential property 2015 outlook: good prospects in UK regions Tax changes are driving relative market movements Development opportunities in 2015 Welcome to our first Coutts Real Estate Perspective of As a whole, 2014 was another year of good gains for residential real estate, but that conceals sharp changes in sentiment as well as some more significant and longer-term shifts started with media stories of property bubbles, but these predictions faded into a flat summer in the face of expected interest rate rises and political worries over the Scottish referendum. Demand returned in the final quarter, as fears of interest rate rises were postponed. Another factor affecting the market towards the end of the year was the change in Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) from a slab system to an incremental system, which came as a surprise. The changes to stamp duty should free up more cash for purchases of houses priced below 500,000. We don t see changes at the other end of the spectrum super-prime houses in the over 10m bracket having much impact: the increased stamp duty will probably be absorbed in transactions and prices over time, while in the short run we expect it will be split between buyers and sellers. For properties at around 2m it s more interesting - there will be concerns in the short term as SDLT starts to increase considerably, and this area is still perceived by many as the battle ground for any post-election mansion tax or reform of council tax rates. In my view, the spectre of a mansion tax or higher council taxes is still looming, which might cause the 2m market to cool. Middleton Advisors, one of the firms on our panel of buying agents, recently noted that after the shock of SDLT rising to 12 above 1.5m in the Chancellor s Autumn Statement, many expected it to stall the market. In fact, it really just resulted in the withdrawal of many properties from the market. Given that there remains a surplus on the market in central London anyway, the impact of stamp duty increases was less significant. The undercurrent of weaker demand has resulted in the market turning back in the buyer s favour, and we expect this to remain the case for much of In numbers Our predictions for 2015 house price growth: Prime Central London Greater London The rest of the UK All UK house price growth 6-7
2 Looking at global economic factors, the fall in oil prices will inevitably have an effect on the UK property market and, more specifically, the profile of international buyers. Most countries and consumers benefit at least marginally from a falling oil price, with the negative oil wealth effect focused on oil-exporting nations. Some of the cash windfall to those benefiting from the slump in oil prices may find its way into real estate assets, which generally speaking, have been inflation proof and which have historically provided better income returns than UK government bonds. At the same time, those disadvantaged from the drop in oil prices may look to the UK property market as a safe-haven, or surrogate reserve currency. In the short term, global uncertainties will probably act to boost demand for prime assets. The sharp downturn in the value of the Russian rouble means that UK property investments will have doubled in rouble terms what investors wanting the relative stability of major currencies are looking for, though it does pose an affordability problem for new investors. In the short term, global uncertainties will probably act to boost demand for prime assets that are perceived to be safer than non-prime property, but we believe prices in the Prime London market are likely to stagnate in 2015 overall. Sentiment toward sterling and UK markets in general may be vulnerable to heightened political uncertainty surrounding the UK general election in May and the prospect of a referendum on EU membership. However, overall we see the UK economic recovery maintaining pace in 2015, as a result of real income growth and further strength in investment. Of course, lower energy costs and a revival in productivity will help keep inflation below target, enabling the Bank of England to raise interest rates only gradually any interest rate rise is unlikely before the election. The market has expected rates to rise for quite some time now, but these expectations have been pushed back to a single hike of about a quarter point by year end. We don t see a base rate rise until 2016, and then only see rates going up gradually from there. What is interesting is that data from the Bank of England shows that two-year fixed and five-year fixed mortgage rates have fallen sharply over the last two decades and have continued their downtrend through 2014 and into Mortgage Rates RATE Dec 08 Dec 09 Dec 10 two-year year fixed mortgage 75 LTV five-year year fixed mortgage 75 LTV Dec 11 2 yr fixed mortgage 75 LTV 5 yr fixed mortgage 75 LTV DATE Dec 12 Dec 13 Dec 14 In recent weeks analysts have been suggesting the pace of growth in UK house prices will slow down this year. Consensus forecasts suggest around 4 growth in 2015, down from 7.2 in 2014 according to Nationwide (we predicted 6-7 at the start of 2014). But we think these estimates overstate an expected drag from properties in Prime Central London, as the most likely area to suffer from recent changes to stamp duty. We believe analysts are over-emphasising the weighting in London and the slowdown in Prime Central London. We see Prime Central London remaining flat this year, with Greater London house prices rising 4 and the rest of the UK up 8, as the latter is helped by changes to stamp duty, as well as a strong economy. In our view, many forecasts fail to take into account the dominance of the other regions in the overall UK housing market, and these will be the main driver of price-rises this year for the UK as a whole. This leads us to predict all-uk house-price growth of 6-7 for Focusing on the UK regions, Savills recently reported the following forecasts: Index Heading Inner Commute Outer Commute Wider South of England Northern/ Midlands Scotland Index Coverage year Amersham, Beaconsfield, Chelmsford, Guildford, Harpenden, Reigate, Sevenoaks, Sunningdale, Tunbridge Wells and Windsor. Bishops Stortford, Cambridge, Cranbrook, Farnham, Haywards Heath, Henley, Newbury, Oxford and Winchester. Banbury, Ipswich, Norwich, Salisbury, Bath, Bristol, Canford Cliffs, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Exeter, Truro and Wimborne. Chester, Lincoln, Nottingham, Telford, Wilmslow and York. Represents the standard government region of Scotland. Forecasts are not a reliable indication of future performance Source: Bank of England
3 1 Billion Luxury residential potential DEVELOPMENT Some sophisticated investors are re-evaluating their approach to risk and we are now seeing increased appetite for development opportunities. With the outlook for the UK economy remaining positive, some of our clients are now looking to enter the development market through joint ventures or as direct investments. Despite the speculation around the house price peak, there is still a fundamental demand for residential property in most sectors across London. The Metropolitan Police recently sold New Scotland Yard for 370m, 120m over the asking price, as the new owner looks to capitalise on the residential developments in Victoria, West London. The site has the potential for a 1bn luxury residential scheme. Obbard, one of the buying agents on our panel who have been developing in the prime boroughs of London for more than 20 years, recently commented on London s competitive advantage over other major international cities: despite the SDLT changes, property taxes and transaction costs in the UK are now more in line with the global average. However what is abundantly clear is the position London still holds in the world and its pan-global appeal for property ownership. In the recognised prime locations, London remains a fundamentally undersupplied market where planning restrictions prevent any material increase in supply. In a more challenging market, developers can still make healthy profits as long as their properties stand out. Picking the best locations is always key, understanding all costs and timeframes fundamental, pulling together the right team essential and above all offering a product that is set apart from the norm. Among commercial property development opportunities in certain locations, there is a clear lack of good-quality stock. Savills recently reported on demand for large warehouse space outstripping supply with the market increasingly in need of more speculative development. The Savills Big Shed Report showed the take-up of large warehouses shot up 50 in 2014 to 28.5 million sq ft which is the highest volume since Million Asking price Million Over asking price Sale of New Scotland Yard 2014 We often hear about the lack of good quality office stock around areas such as Southbank and Waterloo as well as Westminster. These areas have seen a surge in residential conversions or development over the past decade. However, their councils are now looking at solutions to find a balance between residential and commercial. Some of the major listed property companies in the UK have recently said that they plan to be net developers in 2015 (rather than net buyers or net sellers) but they have also said that to prosper in the long run, they will not overleverage (take on too much debt) as property remains one that is sensitive to economic cycles. Steve Walder, Director, Commercial Real Estate at Coutts comments our clients operating in the residential development arena have an urgent requirement for viable land. Given the current low interest rate environment and government incentives there is a race to deliver product to the mainstream market. Some of our London developer clients are looking beyond prime markets for raw material into Zones 3 and beyond into the commuter belt. Office to residential conversion under permitted development is an attractive opportunity in many cases and the margins for such schemes are also viable in areas outside the M25 carrying obsolete office space. Sites close to the Crossrail route are also understandably sought after. In this environment a long-standing relationship with a property banker who can move at a fast pace and deliver a tailor-made debt package when opportunities arise is critical. For more information on any of our lending products please speak to your Private Banker. If you are new to Coutts please speak to Business Development on
4 COMMERCIAL PROPERTY 12 Residential land or property SDLT rates and thresholds Non-residential land or property SDLT rates and thresholds Up to 125,000 Over 125,000 to 250,000 Over 250,000 to 925,000 Over 925,000 to 1.5 million Over 1.5 million Up to 150,000 - annual rent is under 1,000 Up to 150,000 - annual rent is 1000 or more Over 150,000 to 250,000 Over 150,000 to 250,000 Over 500, Source: HMRC With IPD UK All-Property index initial yields (annualised rents expressed as a percentage of property value) now below 5.5 (at the time of writing), the question is What happens next? History suggests that we are near the end of the yield compression cycle (the time it typically takes for yields to reach bottom). However, in the context of an extended period of low interest rates, investors searching for yield will almost certainly consider real estate assets as an option. With that as a backdrop, who can say that initial yields won t move lower still? We believe it would be more realistic to expect rental growth to play a bigger part than initial yields in determining total returns. As a consequence, asset selection will be even more important in Although offering a very different risk profile, when comparing residential versus commercial property as an asset class, commercial property presents some favourable features. Granted commercial property generally requires higher amounts of capital, can be more illiquid (harder to buy and sell) and less stable (for both rental and capital values), take longer to let (as well as incurring materially higher holding costs when vacant for example, empty rates) and suffer greater levels of obsolescence (decline in the competitiveness, usefulness or value of property). However, there are a number of factors that may cause clients to favour commercial property investments over residential property investments. The lease between landlord and tenant varies significantly between the commercial and the residential markets. Commercial lease lengths are typically much longer than residential leases; the average commercial lease is now 6.8 years (five years to first break) versus an average of one year which may lead to a higher level of voids with residential property because of the shorter lease length Commercial property leases have traditionally contained clauses dictating that rent reviews are upward only or linked to an inflation index The legislation surrounding landlord and tenant relationships is different for commercial and residential leases. In commercial properties tenants are typically responsible for repairs and maintenance costs by means of a fully repairing and insuring (FRI) lease, while in residential properties landlords are typically responsible Residential property is also likely to require more management time (and/or cost) than commercial property. This is because of smaller unit sizes, shorter lease lengths, and a greater obligation for maintenance and repairs. Rents for commercial property are typically collected every quarter as opposed to monthly for residential property Stamp Duty Land Tax on commercial property versus residential property varies significantly for transactions over 1.5m. In our previous publications we commented on the commercial property market outside London. Not least because we see value to capitalise on, but also because many of our clients are looking outside London for higher yields. We are already seeing the effect of this. The sale of 4 Hardman Square in the Spinningfields business district in Manchester set the record low of 4.9 for a post-recession yield in the regions after it was bought. As UK economic growth spreads, we expect to see prime office rents rise across regional city centres in Overall, prime headline rents in Manchester are expected to reach record highs of 34 per square foot ( 366 per square metre) by the end of 2015, representing a 10 increase over the year. In our view, a lack of supply at the prime end of the market will add further upward pressure on rental growth. The hotel sector is an area that some of our clients are focusing on. Transaction volumes in the UK hotel market reached 6.1bn last year, an increase of 55 on 2013 and the highest level since 2006, according to Savills. Martin Jessop, Director, Hotels, Coutts, recently commented on hotels in the Paddington area in London: hotel assets even in secondary London locations such as Paddington, provided they are well maintained, will always serve the tourist market well and values can be maintained due to potential residential element conversion.
5 TAX INSIGHT Dominic O Connell Head of Tax, Trust & Estate Planning As discussed elsewhere in this edition, the Autumn Statement finally announced the end of the so-called slab system of Stamp Duty for residential properties (and we also now have some more detail about the new Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax due to be implemented from 1st April). Although the elimination of cliff edge increases has been broadly welcomed a key question is what next for residential property taxation? Unfortunately this is still a very difficult question to answer particularly as we will not know the make-up of the next Government until 8 May at the earliest. However, some believe that in the UK property is relatively under taxed and a number of political parties are still advocating a mansion tax. There have also been suggestions around possibly increasing the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) rate for higher earners which could of course affect those who own properties not covered by the CGT Principal Private Residence (PPR) exemption. Although this exemption is being tightened it is still usually very generous and, coupled with the tax-free uplift for CGT purposes upon death, means that main residences are often not subject to CGT. However, the significant growth in property values in recent years and the freezing of the Inheritance Tax (IHT) Nil Rate Band, has meant more estates becoming subject to IHT. Although the make-up and policies of the next Government might be hard to predict many commentators feel it unlikely that the next parliament will see any major changes to the IHT regime. While significantly increasing the IHT threshold is an aspiration for some, it remains to be seen whether this will actually happen during the next few years. Finally, we already know about a few specific changes scheduled to come in to effect from 6 April 2015, including: Non-UK residents potentially becoming liable to UK CGT in relation to UK residential property disposals (ie, any gain accruing after 5 April 2015 could be subject to a UK CGT charge on disposal). This change brings the UK into line with most other countries who charge non-residents in relation to immovable property located in their country The Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED) applying to high-value residential properties owned by non-natural persons (such as certain corporate entities) and now taking in properties valued at over 1m, down from the current threshold of properties valued at over 2m. (From April 2016, a further drop in the ATED threshold will capture properties worth 500,000 or more.) If you require further advice regarding the residential and commercial real estate services we offer, please contact: Stephen Rees: Katherine O Shea: katherine.o If you would like to know more about our Tax, Trust & Estate Planning Services please contact your Private Banker or Wealth Manager. We want to hear from our clients. Please tell us what you would like to read about in future versions of our Real Estate Perspective. Please send us your suggestions to:
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