“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”


Let’s start in reverse; this year has been ‘the worst of times’ for many people. The COVID-19 crisis has caused financial hardships, lifestyle and work restrictions, and more tragically, multiple deaths. Sad times indeed.

The media (and the government) recently reported that vaccines will be available shortly, and if we all comply with the current restrictions then things will improve.

Nevertheless, it will be some time before the crisis is over and things are back to normal.

‘The worst of times’ also applied to the retail and office property sectors where values plummeted.

In the retail sector, it was all doom and gloom. People bought more products online, footfall in shopping centres collapsed and many large retailers went bankrupt.

There is worse to come and COVID-19 is not entirely to blame. Overdevelopment and business rates have helped kill the retail sector, with Amazon applying the finishing touches.

As for the office sector, the fear was that as more people worked from home, the demand for office space would diminish.

To some extent this happened, but it is too early to tell if this is a long-term trend.

The plight of the retail sector is irreversible. However, the office sector may yet survive, although probably not as we know it today.

It really was ‘the worst of times’ for many people and in some cases the end is not in sight. As for ‘the best of times’, if you were a homeowner then you would have seen your property steadily increase in value.

Prices have risen by over 4% this year and demand for houses, particularly those with gardens has rarely been stronger.

Interest rates were low, but mortgages were not as freely available as in the past.

If you were a landlord, you should have fared well, but that would have depended on the property and its location.

In some residential locations and sectors, rental demand held up well but London suffered from rents and demand falling.

Towards the end of the year, the same started to happen in cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester where too many apartments have been developed.

Some tenants struggled to pay their rent, whilst others had no difficulty. It was very much a ‘case by case’ scenario.

The affordable co-living/HMO sector held up well (Amazon line workers, delivery drivers and other such blue collars were still gainfully employed), but again it would have depended on the individual property, the location and of course, the property manager.

A year to forget? For most people that is certainly the case. For some, perhaps not.

2021 will have its own challenges, as every new year has. As I often remind myself, the cup is always half full, not half empty.


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