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PROPERTY 33
BRICKLAYER
‘Crane-spotting’ is a familiar term to those of us
who remember the early nineties. And, in today’s
market, perhaps should have been used again as
a simple early warning system by some developers
and funds.
What does it involve? No more or less than counting the tower
One of our clients, property advisor Hammond Philips, sums up the
cranes on the horizon when walking across Waterloo Bridge in
commercial property market. Their view is that considerably less
London. Or driving down the M4 where, even with T5 now
than 30% of business is being done in a market which is now over
complete, too many cranes dot the horizon. By the middle of last
70% down but Barry Hammond of Hammond Phillips also adds,
year it was clear that a forest of cranes in London and other town
“There’s still a lot of money around although investors are sitting tight
centres meant only one thing; an overheated market.
and waiting – who knows when the market is going to bottom out?
In the absence of property changing hands the big factor is active
Our response, as a communications agency specialising in property,
asset management and getting the rents and service charges in!”
was to establish a foothold in the buoyant property market of the
Middle East market, where we opened a branch office in Abu Dhabi
Whether active asset management or amending existing planning
earlier this year. An easy decision if you are looking for an active and
consents are the answer only time will tell. Creativity and
cash-rich market, but patience and tenacity are still required.
determination to make things happen are the vital ingredients to
‘out of the box’ thinking. Or perhaps it’s simply being opportunistic
So, with UK construction costs still rising, rents falling and yields
and recognising that as one door closes another will always open?
heading in the wrong direction, what can landowners in the south
However far this market falls, forcing property values lower in every
east do to protect or even enhance value? sector, there will always be the real entrepreneurs making their
assets sweat.
‘Sweating the assets’ is a term which was also commonplace in the
early nineties. Today there are no buyers or sellers, as nobody can Survival of the fittest or the luckiest? It’s irrelevant in my view. We all
yet call the bottom of the market. And, with no liquidity in the know that the market is flat but activity will return. Depressing facts
financial or property sector, stagnation creates exasperation. But and figures are endlessly quoted by industry “experts” in every
start thinking ‘outside of the box’. corner of the property press and all tell us what we already know.
Times are hard and may get harder. Live with it but think outside the
Managing assets where values are falling is undoubtedly a challenge. box. And next time count the cranes.
Or perhaps an opportunity? Growth and investors can still be found,
even in a downturn, as shown by the low-cost supermarkets Aldi and Source:
Lidl. They both need land to expand their UK businesses and are said ‘Bricklayer’ is written by Martin Winch of M&N Communications
to be snapping up residential sites which have fallen in value. www.mncommunications.co.uk
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