I’ve just spent a fantastic holiday in Tel Aviv — and what a place it is. I have to confess that I’ve hardly been there in years and the change is remarkable. As a food addict, it was heaven. The restaurants are amazing. So are the Israelis.
They are having a bit of a property boom over there, so I had a quick look around to see if there were any opportunities. We’ll see.
We are hoping that we might get back to a bit of normality in 2010. The market has picked up in patches but who knows where it’ll be at the end of the year? It’s been two years since I’ve bought a property and my hands are twitching, but I’m being sensible. In fact, unusually for us, we’re selling a few properties. With some, it would be foolish not to because we can achieve such strong prices; others, I’m advised, are “no longer strategic to the business” or “don’t contribute positively to cash-flow”, like farmland and a lake in Lancashire.
We will get back to buying but for the moment I’m making sure the business stays healthy. I attended a meeting with one of our lenders to discuss a new product called a “reverse flipper swap”. I thought Flipper was a dolphin but it turned out to be a derivative. I’m still learning.
The commercial property market is still two-tiered, with London coming out on top. Foreign investors are buying. The old rules about long leases and good covenants are still important but location seems to be king. Residential property is shifting well in the right places. We’ve sold a complete 30-unit scheme in Islington off-plan in Hong Kong. With that kind of commitment, we can now seek bank finance to build, which would have been difficult otherwise. However, a completed scheme in Camden is selling more slowly.
I don’t know when the bad times will end but, as I tell the office, when we go home after work we’re a day closer to it.