International Finance
coverstory Magazine Real Estate

The ever-adapting face of UK real estate

IFM_ UK real estate
In recent years, sustainable real estate in the UK has become a crucial factor, reflecting a growing awareness of social and environmental responsibility

The real estate sector has always been centred in the United Kingdom. The UK real estate market is as varied and vibrant as the nation. The UK property sector has something to offer everyone, from cosy cottages in the countryside to luxurious contemporary apartments in the heart of London. We examine current trends, market tendencies, and significant insights that characterize this expanding sector in this cover story.

COVID-19 impact and post-pandemic era

The COVID-19 pandemic irreparably altered the UK real estate market, producing upheavals and redefining industry norms. Property sales were momentarily halted by lockdowns and social restrictions, which left the market uneasy. Potential buyers and investors were less eager to enter into real estate deals as a result of the economic consequences.

But there were also major changes in demand on the market. Due to a demand for more roomy and private accommodations brought on by the expansion of remote work, there was an increase in interest in rural and suburban homes. On the other hand, as individuals sought out homes with more outside space, urban centres, particularly London, experienced a decline in the market for city apartments.

The UK government took action to reduce the economic effects of the pandemic by enacting policies like the stamp duty holiday to encourage home buying. As companies reevaluated their space needs, concerns about the future of office space emerged in the commercial real estate market.

While this was going on, lockdowns and the rise of online shopping presented difficulties for high-street shops and shopping malls. Lockdowns and supply chain issues caused construction projects to be delayed, which had an impact on the supply of new homes and perhaps affected home prices.

Despite the difficulties the pandemic brought, the UK real estate market has demonstrated adaptability and endurance in the post-pandemic age, particularly in the previous 12 months.

The dynamic UK rental market

The UK rental market is a diverse industry that is essential to the country’s housing landscape. It serves a broad spectrum of tenants, including young professionals, families, students, and seniors. The rental market in the UK is characterized by a number of significant trends and traits.

First of all, there is still a strong demand for rental apartments. Renting has been a popular choice due to issues with house affordability, changing lifestyles, and mobility. Particularly young professionals frequently decide to rent in urban areas in order to access work possibilities and active social scenes.

In the UK rental market, build-to-rent (BTR) has become a substantial trend. BTR complexes are specially designed rental homes that frequently include cutting-edge facilities and qualified management. These buildings provide a hassle-free living for their occupants, and they have grown in popularity because of their practicality and neighbourly amenities.

Another significant element of the UK rental industry is student housing. The top colleges in the country draw both domestic and foreign students, fueling a constant need for purpose-built student accommodations (PBSAs). These residences offer students secure, up-to-date living quarters that meet both their needs for academic and personal needs.

Rent affordability is still a serious challenge, particularly in big cities like London. Discussions concerning rent control measures to shield tenants from disproportionate rent increases have been sparked by high housing costs relative to salaries.

A greater emphasis has been placed in recent years on the calibre of rental homes. Renting accommodations must now adhere to rules and specifications to guarantee that they are safe, healthy, and energy efficient. The general standard of rental housing in the UK has improved as a result of this.

Sustainable real estate takes over the UK

In recent years, sustainable real estate in the UK has become a crucial factor, reflecting a growing awareness of social and environmental responsibility. This industry is being shaped by a number of significant trends and behaviours.

Building research establishment environmental assessment methods like BREEAM and LEED, as well as other green building certifications, have been gaining popularity. These accreditations serve to increase the appeal of certified properties to both investors and tenants by demonstrating a dedication to energy efficiency, minimal environmental impact, and sustainable construction methods.

In sustainable real estate projects, integrating energy-efficient technologies is now considered best practice. In addition to reducing environmental impact, features like solar panels, cutting-edge insulation, and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems also provide long-term financial savings for building owners and residents.

Sustainable real estate has been fueled by the switch to electric cars (EVs). As the use of electric vehicles increases, there is a high demand for real estate that has EV charging infrastructure. To fulfil this growing demand, many developers are now adding EV charging stations in their brand-new complexes.

In the real estate industry, there is a rising commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions. Through a combination of energy-efficient building design, renewable energy sources, and sustainable property management methods, investors and developers are vowing to lessen their carbon footprint.

Embracing property technology

The property industry in the UK has enthusiastically embraced technology and PropTech, or property technology. This adoption demonstrates the industry’s dedication to improving client experiences, reducing procedures, and maintaining its competitiveness in a setting that is changing quickly.

In the UK real estate industry, virtual property viewings have completely changed the game. Potential tenants and buyers can examine homes remotely using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies, which eliminates the need for in-person inspections. This offers a handy way to view homes while also saving time.

Online real estate search engines like Rightmove and Zoopla have become indispensable in the UK. These platforms provide a sizable database of property listings, comprehensive property details, and market analytics, arming buyers and renters with crucial information they can use to make wise choices.

With the help of smart home technology, homeowners can now control lighting, security, heating, and other features from their smartphones. As tech-savvy purchasers look for modern, connected homes, these technologies not only provide convenience but also raise the value of real estate.

The adoption of blockchain technology holds the promise of streamlining real estate transactions by delivering open and secure record-keeping systems. This might lessen fraud and simplify the frequently difficult process of buying and selling real estate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the use of PropTech for lease signing, tenant communication, and property management. More and more, landlords and property managers are using digital platforms to improve productivity, offer contactless services, and streamline business processes.

The adoption of technology and PropTech by the UK real estate sector has ushered in a new era of comfort, effectiveness, and creativity. The industry is set to offer even more customized and frictionless experiences for property buyers, sellers, renters, and investors while remaining at the forefront of technical breakthroughs as these technologies continue to develop.

Affordable housing: Still a concern

The lack of affordable housing supply, slow income growth, and rising property prices have all contributed to an ongoing problem with affordable housing in the United Kingdom. These difficulties have broad social and economic repercussions.

The high expense of property, especially in major cities like London and regional hotspots, is one of the main problems. Homeownership has become a distant dream for many due to skyrocketing property prices, pushing a sizable section of the population into the rental market, where affordability issues still exist. The issue is made worse by the vast disparity between availability and demand for affordable homes. In brand-new complexes, local authorities frequently fail to satisfy the necessary quotas for affordable housing. Although there are government incentives to promote the building of affordable dwellings, supply still does not meet demand.

Housing associations are essential to the provision of affordable housing because they fill the gap between the demand for and supply of cheap houses. However, there might be a long waitlist for these homes, placing many people and families in unstable living situations.

Rent that is priced affordably and shared ownership plans are two popular methods for achieving affordable housing. Low-cost rental properties are made available via affordable rent, and renters can gradually build up equity in their homes thanks to shared ownership. Although the availability of both choices and the eligibility requirements vary by region, both aim to increase housing accessibility.

Policymakers, developers, and housing associations are working to find creative solutions to the affordable housing shortage as the UK struggles with a continuous housing crisis. This will guarantee that more people have access to stable and cheap housing.

UK property sector: Attracting international investors

The real estate market in the United Kingdom has historically been significantly influenced by foreign investment, which has boosted its vibrancy and appeal on a global scale. International investors are still drawn to the UK because of its reputation for stability, an open legal system, and a broad real estate market. There are several important factors to consider when it comes to investing in real estate in the UK as a foreigner.

Historically, foreign investors have concentrated on coveted areas in large cities, particularly London. Luxury homes, exclusive locales, and well-known landmarks have all proven to be extremely alluring targets, frequently acting as long-term investments and value stores.

The UK commercial real estate market is dominated by institutional investors, notably sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and real estate investment trusts (REITs). These organizations are looking for assets that would generate steady revenue, and the UK market’s durability appeals to them.

Brexit originally led to considerable ambiguity in the environment of foreign investment, with worries about changes to regulations and market access. However, as the post-Brexit landscape became more evident, the market showed resiliency, and investor confidence rose.

Beyond just residential and commercial properties, foreign investment in UK real estate also affects other areas. The country’s overall economic growth and infrastructural development are aided by the investments made in development, logistics, and infrastructure projects.

The diversity of international investors is noteworthy, with interest coming from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and North America, among other places. Each area brings to the market its distinct investment preferences and methods.

Large-scale real estate developments have been financed with the help of foreign investment, which has also boosted the economy and produced jobs. The requests for more balanced investment have, however, been spurred by discussions about housing affordability and its possible effects on nearby towns.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, demographic changes, and sustainability concerns are just a few of the many factors that have an impact on the UK real estate market. Understanding these trends and insights is crucial for everybody involved in the UK real estate industry, including buyers, sellers, investors, and developers. The UK real estate market will continue to be a fascinating and lucrative industry for years to come, even as the market adjusts to the changing circumstances.

IFM_GMS Kumar
GMS Kumar, CEO of MAI (Myproject.ai) and Work-tops

Recently, International Finance caught up with GMS Kumar, CEO of MAI (Myproject.ai) and Work-tops.

GMS Kumar embarked on his journey in the construction industry at Work-tops.com in the UK, where he put to use his 10+ years of experience in the Stone Industry, and eight years in Recruitment and Education consulting. He is also set to venture into the world of marketplace with MAI (Myproject.ai), a platform catering to diverse construction needs for the people of the UK through mobile application.

His track record includes pioneering Microsoft Dynamic CRM in international student recruitment, implementing SAP at a prestigious Solicitor Firm, launching a PHP-based Stone Industry marketplace, and integrating cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence into Work-tops.com.

During his interview with International Finance, GMS Kumar sheds light on various aspects of the UK real estate market. He talks about the application of blockchain and AI in the property market and how real estate professionals are adapting to the digital era. Additionally, he discusses the key factors that influence real estate prices in the UK and provides further insights into the market.

Q) How has the UK real estate market evolved in response to changing economic conditions in 2023, and what trends can we expect in 2024?

A) In my opinion, in the UK, the construction industry is embracing sustainability. The UK has reduced its reliance on raw materials and is increasingly using reusable products. Moreover, the industry is integrating technology into property construction to lower energy consumption and electricity usage.

We anticipate a shift towards using more local raw materials, supported by the government’s initiatives to reduce carbon footprints. Expect the emergence of innovative recycling methods for raw materials through government schemes and support.

Q) How can one determine the current market value of his/her property?

A) In the UK, property owners can easily determine their property’s value through the England Land Registry, where data is submitted and third-party companies evaluate market property values. The UK is also promoting individual builders and self-building activities, emphasising the use of leftover materials to increase property value. Proper maintenance of the property is crucial, and various communities provide guidance on enhancing property value through sustainability. Having a property that has incorporated more sustainable methodologies will increase its value in the current trend. Contests for people who build with sustainability are being held. The best ones get financial aid, awards, etc. This encourages people to move more towards sustainability.

Q) How are blockchain and AI used in real estate and property management in the UK?

A) Blockchain and AI are being integrated into the real estate sector. For instance, my soon-to-be-launched startup, MAI (Myproject.ai), aligns with the UK Prime Minister’s zero-carbon scheme by helping property owners and traders list leftover construction materials on our platform, reducing carbon footprints and maximising value. MAI also serves as a platform for homeowners and construction-related service providers to find solutions to construction-related challenges. This technology is set to play a significant role in property management in 2024, backed by years of industry research and insights.

Q) What are the key factors influencing real estate prices in the UK?

A) The United Kingdom’s real estate prices are influenced by several factors like the location of the property, condition of the property, and age of the property. Notably, properties older than 75 years cannot have even one brick removed/repaired without proper approval in order to preserve heritage. The government provides financial support to maintain such legacy properties and offers funds for repairs or purchases.

Q) How are rising construction costs and supply chain disruptions affecting new development projects in 2024?

A) Rising construction costs and supply chain disruptions have had a significant impact on new development projects in 2024. Events such as China’s container backlog, the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the Suez Canal blockage have driven up container costs from around $1500 in 2021 to $7000 to $8000. Despite these challenges, the construction industry remains robust due to increased interest from migrants and buyers, even after the UK government scaled back some policies for first-time property buyers.

Q) What are the current trends in urban vs. suburban vs. rural real estate markets, and how are they expected to evolve in the coming days?

A) Currently, urban areas are expanding rapidly, with London now encompassing a larger area. Rural areas, on the other hand, are primarily inhabited by retirees seeking a peaceful environment, subject to strict government approval for property construction or repairs. The population influx is leading to the urbanisation of suburban areas. Rural areas may remain largely unchanged for the next few decades due to regulatory hurdles. To rent a property in London, people are waiting in lines for hours just to take a look at the property. So, there’s a property crisis in the UK and it could increase in the near future.

Q) How can an individual effectively stage his/her home for sale to attract buyers?

A) In the UK, selling a property is relatively straightforward, with most properties selling within 15-90 days, thanks to online availability of property data. To attract buyers, it’s essential to maintain the property well, consider renovations to enhance its appeal, and prioritise sustainability features. Sustainable properties tend to sell faster. Additionally, legal transactions involving property sales are handled by lawyers, ensuring a secure and trustworthy process.

Q) What is the outlook for mortgage rates in 2024, and how might they influence homebuying decisions?

A) UK interest rates have experienced a rapid ascent since December 2021. Initially, these rates reached historically low levels in August 2020, when the Bank of England (BoE) reduced the base rate from 0.25% to 0.10% as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, recent months have witnessed significant shifts in market expectations regarding the trajectory of UK interest rates.

As of the end of 2022, projections indicated that interest rates in the UK could climb to approximately 4.5% within the next 12 months. This estimate saw a substantial revision upward following data revealing that UK inflation displayed greater resilience than initially anticipated. As a result, there were predictions that rates could peak at 6.5% by the first quarter of 2024.

Nevertheless, an unexpected decrease in UK core inflation occurred in August. Consequently, it is now reasonable to anticipate that interest rates might settle within the range of 5.25% to 5.50% by the end of 2023.

Q) In light of climate change concerns, what sustainability and energy-efficient features are becoming more important to homebuyers and property investors?

A) Homebuyers and property investors are placing greater importance on sustainability and energy-efficient features in response to climate change concerns. Advanced technologies like wall cladding are being adopted to protect the interior from external weather conditions. Properties with energy ratings above the C level are favoured, reflecting the country’s energy-conscious stance. Smart devices like motion sensor lights are also gaining popularity for their energy-saving benefits.

Q) How are real estate professionals adapting to the changing landscape of marketing, sales, and property management in the digital age?

A) Real estate professionals are gradually adapting to the digital age, but trust-based transactions remain prevalent. Positive word-of-mouth reviews still drive success in the industry, with traditional methods valued. While digital marketing is growing, property management is largely handled through traditional channels. Real estate agents play a vital role, as around 90-95% of property transactions involve their expertise. Collaborative communication among existing brands and professionals is essential for effective property management and sales.

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