Lawrence Williams’ regular review of what’s going on in Barbican property sales and lettings
I suppose Barbican residential owners could have been anticipating a pick-up in property prices once the Covid-19 pandemic started to fall out of the pricing equation, and those that did are not wrong. Contrary to many expert forecasts it looks like prices may already be back on an upwards track after a very brief hiatus. The Barbican micro-market seems to be remaining strong and, in some cases, properties are seeing sale completions occurring much more quickly than pre-pandemic. Strong sales prices are being achieved, while the rental market is looking very positive for landlords too.
The latest government figures on UK residential property prices suggest that they rose overall by around 10% in the year to November; although admittedly London prices probably rose by less, they are still seen to have increased. The local agents specialising in Barbican properties do seem to be seeing an increase in interest after a fairly flat period. Viewings are reportedly on the increase, and now with a push from government for office workers to return to their workplaces, rather than continuing to work from home, renewed demand seems likely to accelerate.
Indeed at least one of our local agencies reports a major pick-up in sales and lettings interest already this year for pieds a terre and properties in general, no doubt enhanced by the latest government advice. They describe the lettings market as being the busiest and most fruitful for over a decade and the sales market, after ‘treading on eggshells’ in the first couple of weeks of the year, as really beginning to take off now and predicting that 2022 will be an ‘exciting year.
This is all borne out by the latest Nationwide Building Society figures which suggest January has been the best month for property sales around the country as a whole in the past decade. Although there are obviously regional differences, London prices are seen to be rising too and the Barbican’s locational advantages will be standing it in good stead. The Halifax house price index, also just released, is perhaps not quite as positive as that from Nationwide, but does show that property prices did increase in January, but only by 0.3%.
The initial signs of the seemingly improving market are probably seen more clearly in the lettings market, with Barbican properties back in strong demand given their excellent location in the City as well as good public transport links. Indeed the strength in this sector is hugely apparent from the reports from virtually all our local estate agents – see comments below.
The partial Northern Line closure between Moorgate and Kennington, already in place and not due to end until mid-May while Bank station is upgraded, could be taking a temporary toll. But to set against this, Crossrail’s partial opening between Paddington and Abbey Wood, including stops at both the east and west ends of the Barbican, is now due in the first half of the current year. With the full length of the line, which runs from Reading to Shenfield with spurs to Heathrow and Abbey Wood via Canary Wharf, now in sight this is likely to even further enhance the Barbican location in the eyes of potential buyers.
The Barbican estate is already probably one of the best served residential locations in London transport-wise with north-south and east-west underground lines, mainline termini and a myriad of bus routes within easy reach. Crossrail will just serve to make this location ever more attractive. Furthermore the Barbican’s construction standards are generally more solid and likely to remain in good order, longer than many new builds. Relatively benevolent property management by the City of London will also be beneficial in the eyes of potential residents, as will having the Arts Centre cinemas, theatres, concert hall and library on their doorstep.
David Salvi of local Estate Agent Hurford Salvi Carr, notes in his annual review of the London property sales market, that in the central city area, even when overseas buyers had retreated and domestic investors all but disappeared at the height of the pandemic, prices did not drop significantly. This was because buyers had little choice due to the small volume of stock on the market which still attracted competition. While house prices in the suburbs and across the UK boomed in 2021, with some regions experiencing price increases of as much as 20%, central London, which also saw rises, but perhaps not quite so high, now may offer an increasingly affordable option when compared to many popular locations in the home counties and along the south coast within relatively decent commuting range.
See below what our local Barbican specialist estate agents are saying about the current state of sales and lettings situations relevant to Barbican properties:
LOCAL ESTATE AGENTS’ COMMENTS
Glen Cook of Hamilton Brooks: We very much welcome 2022 and with the directive of ‘return to work’ we have already seen an upturn in enquiries, as we expected the exodus to Coastal & Country property has left certain buyers with a hefty commute, but we think this was all part of a masterplan to then buy in the City when the time came to go back to the office desk. That time has come. We expect serious buyers are now taking positive steps to buy unlike 2020 and 2021. www.hamiltonbrooks.co.uk
Nick Scott at Scott City: The sales market has improved considerably in the last month. The return to work having helped confidence in the City and especially the Barbican property market. There is a shortage of supply and we are seeing an upward increase in values something we haven’t experienced for two years. The opening of Crossrail in June will create more demand for City living so I expect the market to continue on an upward trajectory for the rest of this year. www.scottcity.co.uk
Marco Fugaccia at Hurford Salvi Carr: 2022 has certainly started on a very positive note and the sales market, which in early January seemed to be walking on eggshells, has seen an increase in volume. As the working population is slowly returning to their offices, the pied a terre and homeowner market has re-awoken. 2022 is certainly looking to be an exciting year. www.hurford-salvi-carr.co.uk
Nicola Lee at Nicola Lee Ltd.: The New Year began positively as we predicted in the last issue. We have sold or have under offer all our properties; some did not even come on to the market. As we move into Spring, demand will increase and the lack of stock means prices remain strong. As well as registering on our website, purchasers are arranging to meet with us to chat about the different types of property that would be suitable for their price range and how they can get ahead. www.nicolalee.co.uk
Tina Evans at Frank Harris: January and February have been two terrifically busy months on sales, we particularly have a shortage of tower flats with good proceedable buyers waiting for the right flat. The City in general is busier, i believe we will see an uplift in prices this year. www.frankharris.co.uk
Glen Cook: After the chaos of 2020 and 2021, we are now in a market where all lettings are in high demand, rental values have increased substantially. Landlords should be looking at rent agreed in 2020/2021 and take advice as rents are bound to have increased as much as 20/30%.
Eli Logavatu at Scott City: The rental market is exceptionally good, we are achieving rents in excess of pre-Covid prices. We recently put on the market four Barbican rental flats and all were let within a week. Back to work has increased our demand to a level we hadn’t experienced before. We require new instructions for many waiting clients.
Marco Fugaccia: As we head into Spring, Hurford Salvi Carr are experiencing the busiest and most fruitful rental market in over a decade. Professional and corporate tenants are back and willing to pay premium prices for quality Barbican apartments.
Lindsay Lee at Nicola Lee Ltd.: No stock available! We have a number of tenants looking to let – as soon as we have a property available, it lets immediately. Tenants are registering on our website, then calling to try to get ahead of the game as they can see all our properties are let. Winter is a quiet time historically, but that’s not the case so far this year.