Manchester hailed as new property hotspot

 
Manchester hailed as new property hotspot (iStock)

Property investors who have concentrated heavily on London in recent years might be tempted to stick with what they know, despite the recent downturn in the capital. However, those who are looking for a boom town with which to diversify their portfolio might wish to look 180 miles north. 

Manchester is displaying all the signs of being an emerging property hotspot. At the start of this year, the Deloitte Crane Survey labelled it "one of Europe's fastest-growing cities" and any visitor cannot fail to be struck by the sight of myriad cranes, with several new skyscrapers transforming its skyline. 

Indeed, one of them - Tower A at Deansgate Square - has already become the tallest in the city and is not finished yet. It, like most of the other new tall buildings, will be residential, as thousands of new apartments are being built in the city centre. 

All this is having a clear impact on prices. Select Property Group, which has an office in the city, has noted that Manchester, along with Edinburgh, has the fastest-rising prices of any city in the UK. This contrasts with London, which is seeing its lowest price increases since 2009.

The average property price in Manchester is still way below that of London at £163,300, but this very affordability may add to the city's appeal. A report by Hometrack suggested that Manchester may have a three-year window to close the gap, comparable with the 2002-05 period when prices rose faster in cities outside London. 

Insight director at Hometrack Richard Donnell said: "The level of house price inflation seen in large regional cities during the last peak, between 2000 and 2003, gives a good indication of how much prices may rise this time around.

"If history is to repeat itself and these cities are to get back to where they were, then prices could increase by as much as 20-25 per cent."

All this suggests that investors may find a wise strategy is to look to Manchester and possibly other cities like Edinburgh for now, to diversify their portfolio, and then return to a focus on London three years hence. By then, with Brexit done and dusted, some of the current uncertainty over London's future as a global economic and financial hub may have dissipated. 

Those who do invest in Manchester may want to look closely at what they invest in and where. The city centre and areas adjacent to it - including central Salford across the River Irwell - are the focus of numerous residential projects featuring many high-value apartment developments, hotels and build-to-rent schemes. Because the value of these properties is much higher than housing elsewhere in Manchester, they would raise the average price even if there were no increases elsewhere. 

However, it should be noted that there are many more developments in other areas of the city, which may be more modest in scale and appearance than all the new skyscrapers, but reflect the fact that the population is rising rapidly. 

This is a long-term trend, as the City of Manchester recorded a 19 per cent increase in population to 503,000 in the decade to the 2011 census and population estimates suggest this figure has now swollen to 530,000. The city centre accounts for some of this increase, but far from all. 

Moreover, neighbouring M postcode areas in Salford and Trafford have also seen substantial growth. With increasing demand for properties as the area becomes more popular to live in, the upward pressure on prices is likely to continue.