Expert view: 'I'm still not buying'

By David Pearl, October 1, 2009
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Now that Yom Kippur is behind us for another year I feel relieved and refreshed. I didn’t have to do too much praying because I lead a virtually sin-free life, but I had plenty of time to reflect on two of my favourite things — food (and my resolution, following hypnotherapy, not to eat so much of it) and property.

I can feel the market turning. August was quiet on lettings but September took off like a rocket. It feels just a little bit better. I am not suggesting that we are anywhere near “good times” but there is more energy out there — more enthusiasm and optimism. Maybe it’s just the “back to school” thing that we always experience in September or maybe we are all just tired of the gloom.

September is always a good month for residential lettings because the students reappear and our lettings team is fully stretched. Many students stay in our properties for a couple of years and we have more applicants than we can accommodate.

My big hate is voids so I prefer to charge a little bit less rent than other landlords and have the properties occupied, than see flats lying empty. We are quite relaxed and young people like that. And they are getting a central London address for a reasonable rent.

Having said that, we are now seeing an increase in demand for flats in trendified Hackney — where you are more at risk of getting run over by one of the army of bicycles (of which I hugely approve) than mugged — than in Beauchamp Place.

The commercial market in London is steady, particularly when it comes to letting small buildings of which we have a good stock. My mother (G-d rest her soul) always told me not to put all my eggs in one basket and it is at times like these that I am reminded how right she was.

Outside London things are less positive but could be worse. There is a big turnover of tenants but our vacancy list remains static at about 5 per cent. It is the same old units that tend to hang around on our books. Others become vacant and we let them in a flash.

I am still not buying. People who are have cash — typically £1m or so that they don’t know what else to do with — and good luck to them. I will start again when the time is right but it isn’t now. There have been murmurings about a change coming in March next year. We will wait and see.

In the meantime, it is more of the same and taking time out for different experiences. A couple of weeks ago I walked along Hadrian’s Wall with three friends — another property person, a banker and a businessman. There must be a joke in there somewhere but I’m not sure what it is.

David Pearl is Chairman of The Structadene Group

    Last updated: 10:36am, October 1 2009