A new north-south divide in rental property?

A new north-south divide in rental property? (iStock)

For decades, people have talked about a north-south divide, with London and the south-east being established as the engine room of the UK economy and the Midlands and north suffering a decline as old industries slipped away. Inevitably, such trends have impacted in the property sector. 

This may appear to be particularly true after the publication of the latest Hamptons International Monthly Lettings Index, which has shown that although rents have risen by 1.9 per cent on average across the UK, there is significant regional variation; in the north they were down by 0.3 per cent and in Scotland they plunged by 5.3 per cent. 

By contrast, London, the south-east and south-west, the Midlands and Wales all saw increases, while the East of England witnessed the largest rise at 3.6 per cent. London's 2.7 per cent increase represented a recovery from last year's two per cent fall. 

All this might suggest that the south remains the main place for rental investors to go and most of the north - bar, perhaps, local hotspots such as central Manchester - is best avoided. 

However, that is not the view of Hamptons International. Research analyst at the firm Aneisha Beveridge noted that the lack of supply in the south is driving rent up and landlords have sold 88,000 more properties than they have bought since April 2016, when the second home stamp duty surcharge was introduced.

Indeed, Hamptons noted that since then, the number of homes available for rent in the southern regions has fallen by 16 per cent. 

However, over the same period it has climbed by 19 per cent in the north. Ms Beveridge commented: "Landlords are finding new ways to maximise their returns by purchasing properties elsewhere, particularly further north in search of lower stamp duty bills and higher yields."

All this suggests there are two distinctive approaches to property investment. In high-demand areas such as London the focus will be on capitalising on high demand to produce good rental returns. In the north the property is mostly cheaper and the opportunities to turn in a tidy profit come from slightly different sources.