What picture emerges from LKP’s tour this week of East Anglia?
Apart from Cambridge, leasehold property ownership more resembles the North West than the affluent South East.
In Norwich, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, most leasehold flats are owned by buy-to-let investors – and so far they have proved pretty wretched investments, down 40-50 per cent since the peak.
The much heralded revival of Ipswich, with its boat-bobbing marina, has gone spectacularly phut with the end of the property mania.
One local commentator even said that Ipswich being knocked out of the Premiership was to blame as no longer did Londoners arrive by train, see the lovely marina and realize you could buy a “bargain” flat over the water.
Many are now rented out to social tenants, and the block management put in place by the developers has often been abysmal.
In affluent Cambridge the position is different and there is a strong owner-occupier market.
LKP had interesting discussions with chartered surveyor Jeremy Wager, of Cambridge Property Management.
In the new town of Cambourne, west of Cambridge, developers handed over the management of their schemes to Peverel, Trinity and Mainstay.
We also met Stephen Chard and Neil Robinson of Encore, which has 7,000 units under management in Cambridge, Ipswich, London and, within the last nine months, Nottingham and Bedford.
Stephen and Neil were large-scale residential property investors and founded Accent, which they later sold. Encore is a major property manager in Cambridge and has recently won the management of a new 200 unit Berkeley Group scheme.
In Norwich, Guy Hudson, a multi buy-to-let landlord, set up Norwich Residential Management at the converted resi scheme Paper Mill Yard following appalling experience of national managing agents: soaring service charges, poor maintenance and ever changing property managers (who had no experience of maintenance).
With 1,500 units under management, and numerous sites around the city, he has won the contract to manage Taylor Wimpey’s NR1, which is on the opposite side of the river to Paper Mill Yard.
National outfits such as RMG, Countrywide, Remus and Mainstay (running the NU Centrale block) are all active in the city.
At Bury St Edmunds, father and son Derek and Daniel Wilson have run Temples Property Management for a number of years.
Such is their reputation that local estate agents send them putative buyers to learn the basics of leasehold ownership – and its obligations.
“If you explain the lease and the charges to people beforehand you will avoid having arguments in a year’s time,” says Daniel, who claims not to have lost the management of a block.
“It costs me far less to keep people and ensure that they are happy than it would do to go out and get new business.”