Forget London – Commuter Towns are the Hottest Places for Property Investment!

London has been a global beacon for finance and investment for decades, growing from strength to strength. However, with the eye-watering increase in property prices in recent years within the capital, many workers find themselves unable to afford to live comfortably in the city. The potential gains for buy-to-let investors have also been significantly hampered, with average rental yields for London homes being as low as 3.2% in February 2017.

For several years now, young professionals have been moving out of London and into towns within an easy commuting distance in order to find a home to buy or rent at a price that doesn’t break the bank. And this is exactly where savvy investors should be looking.

Whilst the prestige of owning a London property might be appealing, when you compare the ROI to investing in commuter towns, there’s no question as to where you’ll get more for you money. After all, isn’t that the whole point of investing in the first place?

Take Luton for example, where you are just 23 minutes from London by train. But for that small distance of just 30 miles, buyers can save an impressive 65% on property prices! While the average price of property in London is currently £685,877, in Luton it is just £239,618, a massive £446,259 less! And with a 10.4% increase in average rents in Luton since 2014 (the highest in the UK, by the way), investors can achieve rental yields of 6% (double that of London) making Luton one of the most profitable places in the UK to be a landlord.


So what should you look for when considering investing in a key commuter town?


Travel Time

Travel Time

Obviously the time it takes to travel into the capital (usually by train) is a key factor in a commuter town’s appeal – hence the epithet ‘commuter town’. Ideally you would want to keep this under 45 minutes.


rental yields increasing

House Prices and Rental Yields

Of course the difference in property prices and relative rental yields you could achieve compared to the capital will always be top of your list of things to take into account as an investor. Make sure the cost of the property is in line with the yield you want to achieve. Just because a property is expensive doesn’t guarantee it will yield higher rents.


UK Train Ticket

Commuter Travel Costs

Any savings that residents make on the cost of buying or renting a home in a commuter town is also impacted by the cost of their commute into London. Every Londoner is very aware of this. With some similar length routes costing more than others, it’s worth checking the prices for season tickets from the town you’re exploring. This is key in determining the commuter appeal.


Local amenities

Local Amenities

Whilst those living in commuter town will still look to the city for some of their more ostentatious entertainment (with it being easy to travel to), you still want to be comfortable in the town you’re living in, so easy access to shops, good schools, bars and restaurants, etc are an important consideration. Pay attention to development in the area as well as this often brings in new amenities. By noticing small improvements in the town and investing earlier, you could gain even more in capital growth just a year or two down the line.


London Cross Rail Logo

Upcoming Investment in the Area

This brings us to our last major point, which we just touched on. Any large-scale investment projects, such as town centre regeneration, in areas within the commuter belt are worth taking note of – and for towns that may previously have been thought of as a little too far out, transport infrastructure developments like Crossrail and can provide a huge boost. This is very fundamental when looking for new commuter towns to invest in. When the government is investing in the local transport system or even upgrading the train stations, that is usually followed by increases in house prices as well as more residents moving in due to the improved networks.

These factors all combine to provide the perfect enticement to potential residents and investors. With all this knowledge fresh in mind, now is a great time to look at potential property investments in commuter towns.


If you want to know what other factors to consider for your property investment then take a look at What Size Property Should You Buy for the Best Investment, or check out our Six Surprising Things That Affect Property Prices.

And if you’re already looking to start your investment journey, then take a look at the property we currently have available.

Changes to Lettings Agency Fees: What You Need to Know

In this year’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the government would be introducing a ban on lettings agents charging upfront fees to tenants.

The thinking behind this is the fact that prospective tenants cannot ‘shop around’ for lettings agents. Tenants have to go through whichever agent the landlord has chosen to advertise the property with in order to rent the home they want. Whilst the average fees in the UK are around currently £300, some are as high as £700, particularly in London. This has led to concerns that these fees put an undue burden on renters.

Whilst this move has been generally welcomed by housing organisations, some landlords may understandably be apprehensive. By banning lettings agents from charging tenants, it is presumed these fees will be pushed across to landlords. This could add yet more to their costs in a year that has already seen changes to taxes and mortgages impacting rental income. Some have suggested this may lead landlords to increase rents to mitigate the affect, thereby removing any potential benefit to renters.

Estate Agent House

However the government believes that the ban will not only makes things fairer for renters, but that it will increase competition between lettings agents, which could ultimately present landlords with better deals. This in turn would help them to take on the additional fees without passing the cost onto tenants.

It’s wise, nevertheless, to break-down the costs in order to truly understand any potential impact.

  • According to, average rents in the UK are £902 per month, with average yields at 5.00% last year
  • Landlords currently pay lettings agents 10-15% of their rental income for a full service management. This works out to approximately £95 a month, and brings the average annual yield to 4.47%.
  • If you divide the cost of fees currently paid by tenants (£300) across the year that would be a mere £25 a month extra. When you take this into account, average yields would be 4.33% – a change of just 0.14%.

Industry experts consider this relatively small increase in fees for landlords not to be a major concern. Nick Marr, co-founder of the, says:

“The figures… show that even if letting agents are forced to pass on the costs of tenancy fees directly to landlords, it will not have a significant impact on the landlord’s overall yield and profits. In fact, the additional loss in returns could be as little as 0.14% when compared to the existing landlord fees structure.”

Focus on Scotland

Fears may be allayed further when consideration is given to a pilot study of this scheme that took place in Scotland in 2012. Campaign group Shelter commissioned an independent research study to assess the effects of the change on the Scottish rental market. They found that landlords there weren’t any more likely to increase rents than those in other parts of the UK, suggesting that they hadn’t felt adversely affected by the new system.

If you found this article useful, you may also be interested in What Does The Cut in UK Interest Rates Mean for Investors? and Buy-to-Let Boosted as Property Rentals Exceed Sales for the First Time Since the ‘30’s.

11 Facts about Edinburgh You Might Not Know!

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, steeped in culture and history, and teeming with a range of stunning architecture. But how much about this fascinating place do you know? Here are a few fun facts about Scotland’s capital that you might not know:

UNESCO Edinburgh
1. Meet me in Auld Reekie!
Edinburgh’s nickname is Auld Reekie (Old Smoky). This comes from the time that coal and wood were predominately burnt for heating, filling the air of the city with smoke.

Old Edinburgh Fire Brigade
2. And where there’s smoke, there’s fire!
Edinburgh was the first city in the world to have its own fire service. In 1703, after a series of fires devastated parts of the city, The Edinburgh Act was passed, and a ‘Company for Quenching of Fires’ was formed. This first brigade was made up entirely of volunteer firefighters.

Castle Rock in Edinburgh
3. Castle Rock hides an explosive secret!
The large rock Edinburgh Castle sits upon is actually an extinct volcano! But rest assured, the volcano last erupted over 350 million years ago. The crater of the volcano is named “Arthur’s Throne”.

Edinburgh Castle is home to another famous stone of destiny
4. Edinburgh Castle is home to another famous stone.
The Stone of Destiny, which is still used during the crowning ceremonies of English monarchs, is kept in the castle. After being captured by Edward 1st in 1296, it was finally returned to Scotland in 1996. It was last used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, when it formed part of the coronation chair.

Sherlock Holmes
5. From famous stones to famous detectives.
Writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an Edinburgh native, apparently based his most famous creation, fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, on the then President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Professor Joseph Bell.

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature
6. A literal City of Literature.
Conan Doyle isn’t the only famous literary figure to emanate from Edinburgh. The likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Muriel Spark, Irvine Welsh and Sir Walter Scott were also born in the city. In fact, thanks to its long heritage of literary prestige, Edinburgh was the first city to be named UNESCO City of Literature. And there’s the famous local legend of J.K Rowling writing the first Harry Potter book in an Edinburgh café!

Other famous literary names from Edinburgh
7. Other famous names sure to ring a bell.
And it’s not just famous writers that Edinburgh has given us. Sir Sean Connery, Ronnie Corbett and Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, all come from the city.

Edinburgh Zoo
8. Edinburgh’s most exotic residents.
Edinburgh Zoo – the city’s second most popular tourist attraction – is the only zoo in the UK that is home to koalas and pandas. Koala Territory, opened in 2005, currently houses 3 koalas, while Yáng Guāng and Tián Tián the giant pandas were loaned to the zoo by China in 2011.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
9. The city attracts a lot of visitors too!
The population of the city doubles during August, aka festival season! From 500,000 to over a million. The Fringe Festival is just one element of Edinburgh’s tourism trade, and industry that brings over 15 million visitors to the Scottish capital every year.

A Taste of the High Life, Scottish Whiskey
10. A Taste of the High Life.
This northern city is also famous another export: Whiskey. Scotch whiskey has attained such a high reputation that forty bottles are shipped abroad every second! And Edinburgh is the biggest contributor to this £3billion industry, with a variety of distilleries and specialist bars scattered across the city – including a fabled distillery at the foot of Edinburgh Castle: The Scotch Whisky Experience.

Scotland's Unicorn and Flag
11. A Touch of Magic.
While you ought to know that Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, you may not know that Scotland’s national animal is… The unicorn! How fun is that?! Although for a city that inspired Harry Potter, it’s perhaps not so surprising.

There are so many fun sides of Edinburgh to be discovered, it’s no wonder that people flock to visit, work and invest in the city.

If you want to know more about this spectacular city and why you should consider investing in property there, take a look at Why Invest in Edinburgh.

A Look into The History of Coleman’s Fireproof Depository

Iconic, enduring, eminent. These are just a few words that describe this historic building. Ever photographed, locally recognised and a muse to various artists, Coleman’s Fireproof Depository has in its own right (and almost by accident) become a strong part of everyday living in Liverpool.

But how? What life has it lived? If only walls could talk! Already well over 116 years old, Aspen Woolf takes a look into this iconic building’s history.

The Beginnings

Where its story started was a bit of a tricky one to decipher. Mainly due to not having enough records at hand. What we did find was that Coleman’s Fireproof Depository was initially established circa 1875 as a ‘cart owners and furniture removers’ business by proprietors George Coleman & Sons, and then later by Edward L. Coleman.

No one really understands why the current building has the legend ‘Rebuilt 1900’ on its side. No buildings were listed on the current site up until 1902 when Coleman’s Depository was first recorded at 37A Park Road as a ‘furniture remover’. And before that, a map of Liverpool in 1863 by John Dower shows a stone quarry on the plot on which the current Depository stands.

Whilst we never found out why it specifically says ‘rebuilt’ on its side, we did find that at least the 1900 date on the building does ring true as The Liverpool Mercury in 1899 held the following advertisement:

“OFFICE BOY (smart) Wanted at once; age about 14: residing neighbourhood Edge-Hill preferred – Apply Coleman’s Depository, Overton-street, Liverpool.”

OFFICE BOY (smart) Wanted at once; age about 14: residing neighbourhood Edge-Hill preferred – Apply Coleman’s Depository, Overton-street, Liverpool.

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Plus, just a few years later the 1902 Gores Directory of Liverpool listing held a rather grand advertisement about the business reading:

“WAREHOUSING. The Depository is thoroughly FIREPROOF, having been specially erected for the Storage of Furniture, Musical Instruments, Pictures, Wines, Carriages, and Luggage and is open for inspection daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sundays excepted). SEPARATE LOCK UP ROOMS. SPECIAL ROOM FOR PIANOS. STRONG ROOM FOR PLATE, DEED BOXES, &c.”

WAREHOUSING. The Depository is thoroughly FIREPROOF, having been specially erected for the Storage of Furniture, Musical Instruments, Pictures, Wines, Carriages, and Luggage and is open for inspection daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sundays excepted). SEPARATE LOCK UP ROOMS. SPECIAL ROOM FOR PIANOS. STRONG ROOM FOR PLATE, DEED BOXES, &c.

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The ‘fireproofing’ was probably brought in due to the fact that fires would break out relatively easily back then, especially in industrial cities.

For about 10 years after that we can find ads dispersed within Gore’s Directory of Liverpool & Birkenhead. All featuring their grand cart and highlighting their removal services, fireproofing, electric lighting, and heating features!

Colemans Fireproof Depository Ad From Gore’s Directory of Liverpool & Birkenhead

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The latest historical find we could uncover was another ad 40 years on, this time from The Liverpool Daily Post back from 1945, and it reads:

Long-distance removals by Road, Rail, or Sea loaded and delivered by expert men.
Packing and Forwarding Home or Abroad. ESTIMATES FREE. PHONE ROYAL 7535 m54625”


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The Liverpool Riots

There isn’t really any further information on the building after the 1940’s. Yet 40 years later it made headlines once again. This time for something quite ironic though as it was set on fire during the Liverpool Riots in 1981. Nonetheless, true to its word it couldn’t be taken down and was one of the few buildings that survived that tumultuous time.

Following the riots, like many other parts of Liverpool, it was left empty.

Colemans Fireproof Depository Christmas Light Show

Recent Uses

Even though it was abandoned for more than 30 years, it still left its mark on the local area. Just a few years ago the Coleman building sprung back to life as a backdrop for a stunning Christmas show. For a time, it played as the biggest outdoor cinema in the country. Images of the L8 area was interspersed with film of carol-singers – all projected onto the four-storey building.

The light show was staged by Illuminos, who specialise in creating inventive and memorable artworks. Their recent work included ‘Treasured’, the Titanic commemoration shown at nearby Liverpool Cathedral.

The light show was one in a series of initiatives to celebrate Liverpool 8 and its long history, including a new heritage trail and the siting of a model of the Titanic in the area.

It’s even made it into print as one of Becka Griffin’s favourite pieces. Becka is a local artist in Liverpool that specialises in graphic arts, illustration and drawing, and most known for her illustrations of local landmarks/houses.

Becka Griffin Coleman's Fireproof Depository Print

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“The print is taken from a watercolour and ink image which took days and days to complete, carefully painting each individual brick. The original hangs proudly in my dining room, and it’s just my absolute favourite painting!” – Becka Griffin

Present Day

Today, Coleman’s Fireproof Depository is definitely one of the most recognisable buildings in Liverpool. The charismatic lettering still stands out and is commented on year-on-year. Mainly thanks to the original signage being made up of brickwork instead of traditional signs, something that has worked in its favour for over 100 years now as it has barely faded.

Its been a long time since its fireproof vaults were used for their intended purpose, but soon it’ll open its doors once more to locals. Giving them the chance to make use of it for a second time – as their own home.

A report by council planning experts says that the former warehouse is not listed as a designated heritage asset, but describes it as “something of a local landmark”.

Sam Tumilty, managing director of Liverpool City Lets said: “We are delighted to be involved in such a unique and exciting development. Liverpool’s famous skyline is famous for a reason, we have a huge number of beautiful buildings that have made our city what it is today and this historic building has stayed empty for too long.

“After seeing the plans for the building, and working with Maddison Develop previously, I know it will be an instant hit. We look forward to offering these spacious luxury apartments in such an iconic building to the residents of Liverpool.”

Coleman's Fireproof Depository Refurbished Internal Lounge & Kitchen

The Future

The proposal to revamp the building to house 27 loft style luxury apartments was gladly accepted, concluding that it would be “bringing an iconic landmark back into use.”

The rooftop will be extended and there will be cycle and bin storage plus on-street parking. Original features such as the iconic brick lettering on the outside of the building will be restored and retained, along with its 100-year-old goods lift and a number of prominent iron doors.

Inside, the original brick work, which has been painted over, will be returned to its former glory, while iron pillars will further add to the industrial style.

In just a few months Coleman’s Fireproof Depository will be brought back to its former grandeur. The renovations will be complete in Q2 2017 and Aspen Woolf couldn’t be prouder to be able to offer this unique and charismatic building to the open market.

If you’re interested in purchasing a property with a unique piece of history attached, or you’re just curious to see what it looks like nowadays, then head on over to our investment page – Coleman’s Fireproof Depository.

Gatwick Airport Parking Scam Notice

An Airport Parking Scam Notice to Our Investors

Property investment can be hugely rewarding, but as with any type of investment, it carries a degree of risks as well. This is why hugely popular and successful investments can all of a sudden be imitated by the wrong people, as they see it as an easy opportunity to make money.

Aspen Woolf feel we would not be doing our job properly as a trusted investment company for over 10 years if we didn’t raise awareness on the current scams out there.

Recently it has come to our attention that there have been fraudulent rogue agents selling UK Airport Parking Spaces to investors. We would like to keep any future investors and our treasured current clients knowledgeable about this so they too can help keep themselves and those around them safeguarded.

We have found out that there are scam companies claiming to be selling Gatwick Airport Parking Spaces as well as Glasgow Airport Parking Spaces, without being accredited agents by the developers.

Park First, which is the true developer of Airport Parking Spaces in the UK is also aware of this and have issued their own notice on their website, which you can read here.

We would like to add our own Airport Parking Scam Notice to help keep everyone aware and to hopefully avoid any future disappointments. Aspen Woolf takes great pride in our customers’ successes as they directly attribute to ours. This is why we take this matter very seriously.

Firstly, please keep in mind that Park First will always confirm their official agents, of which Aspen Woolf is one. You can at any time get in touch with Park First to confirm an agent is accredited. You can do this by contacting Ruth Almond directly either via email ( or telephone 01282 330 33.

If at any point you feel a company is trying to keep you away from being in touch with the developer, or gives you the impression that the developer can’t be reached for whatever reason, we would suggest not being in further contact with them. An official agent for UK Airport Parking Investments through Park First will always be transparent about the product and the developer. Please feel free to ask for proof of affiliation and/or being an accredited agent.

Secondly, we would like to give some tips to everyone on how to avoid future investment scams of any nature.

Great Tips on How to Avoid Investment Scams

Investment scams are designed to look like genuine investments. It is always important to do your own research and due diligence. Please feel free to read through some official tips on how you can spot and avoid a scam here. And for our overseas (U.S.) investors you can find some really great information from Please help yourself to the vast information on offer and help keep others aware of current scams.

Investing is the act of putting money, effort, and time into something to make a profit or get an advantage. Please keep your investments safe by keeping yourself and those around you informed. Feel free to share this notice with anyone you believe would benefit from learning more on how to avoid future investment scams or to simply make them more aware of the current UK Airport Parking Scam.


The Aspen Woolf Team


To keep up-to-date on the most current property investment news, or to find out more about investing in general, please visit our News Section.

Trinity Hall, Leeds – See It Take Shape!

Who doesn’t love seeing things they feel passionately about taking shape? Whether it’s art unfolding to an artist, business successes to an entrepreneur, personal bests for an athlete, or just something small like seeing results after finally joining the gym. Well, this is how we feel when we see our developments take form. It’s almost like watching your own child grow up. It all starts so slow, and then all of a sudden you can’t believe how much has changed in such a short time.

This is why we’re excited to be able to say that construction is now underway on Trinity Hall! Don’t worry, if you’re the type of person that would rather skip ahead to the pictures, then you can check out the gallery below to see Trinity Hall take shape.

For anyone not yet aware of what Trinity Hall is, it’s one of newest UK student property investments located in the popular city of Leeds. It comes with larger than average units that also feature coveted double occupancy. Meaning that couples that want to share finally can! It’s hard if not near impossible to find student accommodation that facilitates double occupancy. As the demand for more purpose built student housing has surged over recent years so has the increased demands brought forth by students. They want something close, ultra modern, and now also want to be able to share if they are in a relationship for example. This is why Trinity Hall is here – to fill those gaps in the market, and many more.

Trinity Hall is also one of the closest student developments to educational facilities, making it just a 5 minute walk to the University of Leeds and a short 12 minutes away from the City Centre.

Some units even come fully ‘Smart’ equipped. We won’t go into a huge amount of detail there as it can be a bit techy, but let’s just say that it is definitely the future of housing! To give you a taste, you can remotely control things such as heating from your phone anywhere, even whilst doing your weekly shop. We had the privilege to test out some of the features and they’re just incredible, makes us envious of what students these days really get!

If you’re the type of person that tends to be a bit hesitant about 100% off-plan investments, but still yearn to take advantage of off-plan prices, then Trinity Hall might just be the solution for you. With construction already underway it makes Trinity Hall a secure investment with units starting at just £69,995. Once construction for phase one is complete prices will rise with it, so it might be worth your while to see what is still available.


August 2015 – Site Cleared

August 2015 – Ready For Piling

September 2015 – Piling Has Begun

September 2015 – Piling Complete!

At the end of the day, Trinity Hall offers so much more than just a great place to live and study. It’s a place for students in Leeds to come to make the most out of their time at university and a development investors can profit from for years to come. If you would like more information about Trinity Hall or any other developments to date please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Alternatively you can read more about Trinity Hall directly by clicking here.

Project Jennifer Q&A with Steven Knowles

Back in 2004 developer St. Modwen, the UK’s leading regeneration specialist, announced plans to bring a neglected main city road in north Liverpool back to life. The regeneration was named Project Jennifer.

Now in 2015 the £150 million pound Project Jennifer aims to transform the once lively Great Homer Street back into a vibrant shopping and leisure destination.
Plans gathered pace and furthered excitement when supermarket giant Sainsbury’s signed up to anchor the scheme and last November work finally began at the site with a ground breaking ceremony.

This year has seen a flurry of activity as the developer set about enabling the site. Aspen Woolf has recently had a lot of investors ask us about the regeneration and we thought ‘who better to answer these questions than the regional director of St. Modwen himself?’ So, this is exactly what we did.

With the project moving forward and will the help of Your Move, we caught up with Steven Knowles, regional director for St. Modwen for a quick update.

Can you give a brief overview of where you’re up to?

Steven Knowles: It’s fairly simple really, it’s business as usual. The project is moving forward in the timescales we’ve set ourselves. We’re on site now doing enabling works, prepping the site ready for Sainsbury’s to get on site in the late summer.

From speaking to some of the local residents, it feels like there have been some delays in the past. Is that the case or is it just because things are happening behind the scenes?

SK: We’re on a targeted programme and that was that we would have the site ready for the summer of this year and then Sainsbury’s would start its build programme. The Sainsbury’s store is still due for delivery in late summer/autumn of next year. There’s no delay.

And what about the rest of the project? What can residents expect to see?

SK: There’s another 80,000 square foot of retail space to come alongside it, half of which we’ve agreed deals for. That will be the retail centre delivered. Alongside that will be the public realm and quite a substantial amount of highway works.


How many jobs will the scheme create?

SK: In general terms it’s going to create up to 1,000 job opportunities under a £50m redevelopment scheme. That will be construction, sub-contractors and obviously people working in the retail element of it.

Will there be many changes to transport in the area?

SK: Obviously because we need to get access to the retail park there will be alterations to the highway network so there will be new junctions formed off Scotland Road.

How much of Scotland Road will be impacted?

SK: It will be impacted. Obviously during the construction period we’ll keep things going. The highways will continue to work.

Can you give any information on the homes involved in the scheme?

SK: The housing element is a key part of Project Jennifer and is being carried out by housing developers including Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) and Liverpool Housing Trust (LHT). LHT has recently completed 20 new residential units at Dryden Street and LMH has recently started work on site to transform the redundant 14 storey Marwood Tower into new residential accommodation.


What will the project mean for the area?

SK: This major regeneration scheme, which has been much needed and wanted by the local community for many years, will transform this part of north Liverpool. It will create more than 1,000 jobs and provide a new district centre for the area, as well as better public spaces and extensive road improvements. The commencement of main site works represents the substantial investment being made in the city and brings more than 10 years of work to fruition. It is testament to the support for the project in the local area.

Finally, do you have a message to the residents?

SK: The scheme is on track and we are continuing to deliver!

St. Modwen has set a target date of summer 2016 for completion of the scheme. Paul Batho, projects director at St. Modwen, says: “The commencement of main site works is a major landmark for the scheme and represents the substantial investment being made in the city. This significant milestone brings more than 10 years of work to fruition and is testament to the support for the project in the local area. We are now in a position to accelerate activity on site, with a view to delivering this major partnership regeneration project by summer 2016.”

The hoardings for the site were designed by pupils from nearby Notre Dame College and are designed to reflect the theme of community.
Paul Batho, St Modwen projects director, said: “Project Jennifer is a result of community collaboration and so we wanted to ensure that we involved people from the immediate area in this important milestone. By working in partnership with Notre Dame College, we have been able to bring to life the community spirit in the area so that passers-by can see what this means to local people.”

Back in 2014 when work first began Mayor Joe Anderson said: “This is a day the local community has long waited for. Project Jennifer will transform this part of North Liverpool, providing much needed jobs, shops, homes as well as the new market.”


Want to find out more about Project Jennifer, why not see what investment opportunities are available in and around Liverpool?

Game of Homes – House Buying [Infographic]

London may be pricing out many first time buyers, with house prices in and around the capital uncontrollably increasing. Buying a house has never been an easy task and with it being a financially tiring process, it is of no surprise that many house or flat purchases fall through. To avoid this at all costs, homeowners need to understand the process as much as possible to make it a stress free process.

Many of us have often sat down to a competitive game of Monopoly and despite it being only a game, it poses similar pitfalls as with the reality of buying a property. Competitive offers, being gazumped and the endless fees invoiced by your solicitor are all typical ways a future homeowner could find the process a little too much to cope with. Taking a playful approach to the issue of home ownership and the gruesome process it presents to many, Sell House Fast, an online property website has created an infographic which identifies the 12 key stages of buying a home through an estate agents.

Whether you are a first time buyer who only understands the bare minimum when it comes down to placing an offer on a house or packing up your family home and moving elsewhere; there are a million and one considerations to comprehend to avoid falling off the property ladder. With any sale made by an estate agent, future homeowners need to have patience, time and a stash load of money saved away! With hidden expenses and that all important survey to conduct before any exchanging of contracts can be made, buying a house can be financially compromising if mistakes are made. So before you enter a potential sale, understand how the game of homes work to make sure your new house becomes your home!

Infographic courtesy of

Game of Homes infographic

Liked this infographic? Why not check out our own in-depth and fun infographic about Student Property Investment.

A Guide To Commercial Property Investment

Although the media headlines often concentrate on the purchase of residential property for investment purposes, many canny investors are moving toward commercial properties to help diversify their portfolios. This makes a lot of sense, as having all of one’s eggs in one basket can lead to trouble.

Property values often move independently of other asset classes and are typically not associated with fluctuations in the stock market. This gives the investor a good opportunity to spread their risk and even out their investment strategy.

What does commercial property mean?

office building

Photo Credit: Craig Rodway via Flickr

Commercial property generally covers all types of property that are purpose built with the intention of making an ongoing profit. Just some of these are:

  • Offices
  • Industrial units
  • Warehouses
  • Retail developments
  • Hotels
  • Eateries, such as restaurants and cafes

As you can see, the term covers a broad spectrum and it is this diversity that gives commercial property investment its appeal.

Why should I invest in commercial property?

Commercial property is attractive for a number of reasons, but it is the lease structure in the UK that often tips the balance for investors. Here we have a far longer length of lease for commercial properties than in either the US or Europe, and this can work in the investor’s favour.

London leases can be between 10 and 15 years while the rest of the UK still averages out at around 8 years. Compare this with a residential property lease of 6 months and it is easy to see why investors like the idea of putting their money into commercial property.

view of london

Photo Credit: barnyz via Flickr

Diversification is obviously another reason why so many investors choose to enter into the property market. Dealing in physical assets can bring about a relatively stable income return when compared to other investments such as the stock market.

Property is currently performing well and it has recovered fantastically after the dark days of 2008. When looked at alongside the current rates of interest available from savings accounts, commercial property becomes all the more attractive for those with a long-term view of their investment strategy.

Commercial property investment options

different investment paths

Photo Credit: Martin Fisch via Flickr

The options that you have available to you as a commercial property investor differ somewhat from those who want to invest in the residential market. The three main ways to invest are:

  • Direct investment – If you are looking to have full control over the property that you invest in then direct investment is the way to go. However, for most private investors this simply isn’t an option due to the amount of cost involved. Direct investment means that you would be buying the whole property, either by yourself or in a group, so the outlay can be vast. It is for this reason that the majority of investors choose a different route into the commercial property market.
  • Direct commercial property funds – Often referred to as ‘bricks and mortar funds’ this option is a far more common way to get a foot in the commercial property door. These collective investment schemes invest on your behalf into a wide-ranging portfolio of commercial properties that would commonly be out of reach for most individual investors. Examples of which can include warehouses, supermarkets and office space.
  • Indirect property funds – Another form of collective investment scheme, indirect property funds invest in property companies by buying shares that are listed on the stock market. This can sometimes fly in the face of the diversification process as this type of investment is closely tied to the rise and fall of the stock market itself.

investment funds

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Funds such as unit trusts, investment trusts and OEICs give the smaller investor the opportunity to be part of multi-million pound building projects that they would otherwise be unable to invest in. These funds normally operate in one of two ways: direct property ownership or by owning shares in property related companies.

Profits are paid to investors either by way of rental income and capital growth in the case of property ownership, or by the payment of dividends and growth in market value for shares in selected property related companies.

Many funds cater for very small investment amounts, some of which only require a lump sum of just £500 or monthly payments of £50 for those who wish to invest on a regular basis. This is what makes bricks and mortar funds ideal for those who are thinking of entering the commercial property market for the first time.

What drives profits?

investment profits

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As mentioned above, dealing in commercial property generally gives the investors two potential revenue streams: capital returns (a change in asset value) and income returns (money generated by the asset). Capital returns are determined by how well the overall property market is performing, whereas income returns depend upon the lease structure that has been signed off between the tenant and the owner.

Supply and demand naturally comes into play when investing in the property market. Strong demand from businesses that wish to rent property that you have invested in will obviously push prices upward and increase the overall rental yield. Strong demand will also mean that the owner will not have to incentivise businesses with offers such as rent-free periods, further strengthening the returns for the investor.

monopoly money

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Good asset management will also help to push profits in the right direction. Rent reviews are typically made every five years where they are set to market level if that level has gone past what the tenant is already paying at the time of the review. Upward only reviews are common throughout the UK although there are other options available to the management team. These include:

  • Turnover related rents – This is where the rent is set as a percentage of the occupying tenant’s business turnover made from the space they are renting. This type of rent is more volatile than the upward-only model, but it is a popular way of setting rent for the retail sector.
  • Fixed uplift rents – As the name suggests, this type of rental agreement sees a fixed increase made to the rental amounts charged to the tenants after a certain period of time has elapsed, normally every three to five years.
  • Index-linked rents – A somewhat new way of managing rental increases in the UK is the index-linked model. These agreements are linked in to indexes such as RPI inflation and increases to rental charges are made in line with the movement of said index.

What are the risks?

danger tape

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Dealing in commercial property does come with a certain amount of risk, much like any other investment. However, narrowing down the different risks associated with this sector is difficult as there are so many ways for an investor to enter the market.

For instance, the risk associated with direct investment will be entirely different to the risk you will have if you choose to put your money into an indirect property fund. The individual investors appetite for risk is also a factor, as some funds will offer greater risk for higher returns and vice versa.

Due diligence is key here. If you decide to enter into the commercial property market it is vitally important that you research each individual fund or property yourself so that you are fully aware of the risk involved with that particular investment.

Final thoughts


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2014 saw gains of 19% in the commercial property sector so it is little wonder that this form of investing is receiving greater attention of late. The UK economy is doing well and this naturally leads to more businesses looking for property to rent. The increased demand for commercial space means higher rental yields are easier to command.

If you are looking for a way to spread the risk of your investment portfolio, commercial property certainly offers up a viable way of doing so. However, research into your investment vehicle of choice is vital and it is advisable that you use commercial property as part of a wider investment strategy.

Commercial property investment may not be suitable for inexperienced investors, but for those with a little knowledge of the investment market it can prove to be a valuable addition to a well-managed portfolio.

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If you enjoyed this blog post then perhaps you’d like to read “5 Mistakes Property Investors Make“?

A Guide To Buy-To-Let Investments

More and more people are looking towards the property market for a way to diversify their investment portfolios, and for many buy-to-let is the obvious choice. If you are someone who is thinking about investing in a buy-to-let property then you’re in the right place.

Our guide aims to explain all you need to know about creating your own property portfolio and give you the advice you need to get things right first time. So, without further ado, let’s get started:

What is buy-to-let?

Firstly, it’s important to understand exactly what buy-to-let means. Buy-to-let is a type of property investment where an individual purchases a residential property not to live in, but to rent out to others. By undertaking this investment, the purchaser becomes a landlord and they collect rent from their tenants for the duration of their contract.

Who are buy-to-let investments suitable for?

property investments

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Investing in property may seem like the easy way to untold riches but the truth is it’s not always that simple. Buy-to-let investments are not for everyone, and the main issue that you must address is whether or not you can afford to take the risks associated with dabbling in the property market. Despite the media hype surrounding buy-to-let investments, the risks are very real and you should only take on a BTL mortgage if you can manage those risks sufficiently.

You must also have a decent credit record in place before attempting to get a mortgage for a buy-to-let property and it is highly likely that the lender will only consider you if you already own your own home. This can either be held outright or with an existing mortgage, but it is very rare that mortgage providers will supply a buy-to-let mortgage to someone who doesn’t already have a property in their name.

Your age will also be taken into consideration and this can potentially be a stumbling block for those looking to take on a BTL mortgage for retirement. Many people leave the decision too late only to find that lenders are reluctant to take them on if they are over a certain age.

While there has been a recent discriminatory court hearing on this very subject, it will still be more difficult to get a BTL mortgage if that loan is set to end after you are 75. So, if you are looking to get a 25-year mortgage, the latest you should apply for one is 50-years of age.

Where do the profits come from?

profits from investment

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As with any investment, the main aim is to make money and the way that this happens with buy-to-let is twofold. In the short-term, money can be accrued from the rent received from the tenant. This is sometimes referred to as rental yield.

The rent you charge should always cover your mortgage payments and more, so that you can build up a reserve fund just in case any repairs or maintenance needs to be undertaken on the property.

The second way that profit can be made is when the property is sold. After holding the property for a period of time the hope is that the market will have moved upwards and the property can then be sold at a profit. This profit is commonly referred to as capital growth.

When considering a buy-to-let investment it is important to look toward the medium to long-term as opposed to hoping for any short-term gains.

Selecting a property

key in door

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The key to a successful property portfolio is in the selection of the properties that you place within it. Making the right choices at the start will stand you in good stead for the future. But how do you make the right choices? Following these key points will get you off on the right foot:

  • Research – Ask around your local estate agents about the types of property that are hot at the moment. Find out the areas that are mentioned frequently and look for a pattern. Enquire about what kind of rent these properties are fetching and who the tenants are; i.e. young professionals, students, retired etc.

Once you have this information you can then research the specific area further. Find out about the local amenities such as transport links and schools to see how they fit in with your prospective tenants.

  • Target – Make a list of the types of properties you wish to target. Bear in mind all that you have found out and work this into your equation. Location, tenant and property type should all fit together.
  • Calculate – Now you can start to work out the financial aspect of your investment. Look at the property types that you are targeting in the area you wish to make your purchase, and begin to calculate yields and whether or not you can obtain a mortgage for these properties.

Calculating rental yields

for rent sign

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Rental yields can be calculated to give you an idea of your returns over the course of a year. This is important to know, as a cheaper property may not always be the best investment.

Thankfully, the equation is simple and you only need to have two figures to hand – your projected monthly rental return and the amount of money spent on the property. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:

Property A

Monthly rent = £1050

Investment made = £250,000

£1,050 * 12 = £12,600

£12,600 / £250,000 = 0.0504

0.0504 * 100 = 5.04% yield

Property B

Monthly rent = £900

Investment made = £225,000

£900 * 12 = £10,800

£10800 / £225,000 = 0.048

0.048 * 100 = 4.8% yield

As you can see, Property B cost £25,000 less than Property A, but Property A has a higher yield than Property B. This makes Property A the better investment of the two in the medium/long-term.

Financing your investment

investment finances

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Buy-to-let mortgages differ somewhat from normal residential mortgages. With a residential mortgage, the amount that you can borrow is normally calculated based on your income and outgoings. Buy-to-let mortgages, however, are worked out by taking into account the amount of rental income your property is likely to generate.

The base figure for most lenders is 125% of the mortgage payments that you will make each month. So, if your mortgage repayments are £950, your prospective rental income will need to be at least £1,187.50 for the mortgage provider to consider lending.

You will also need to be able to put down a fair size deposit on the property you wish to buy, typically around 25%. Some lenders may accept lower but this is a good guide figure to make your calculations around. It will also be expected that you have a personal income of £20,000pa or more on top of what you anticipate you will earn from the rent that you will receive.

What are the risks?

danger sign

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No investment is entirely without risk and buy-to-let is no different. Property markets can fluctuate and this can affect both the amount of rent that you can command and the overall value of the property should you wish to sell.

Structural problems too can take their toll on investors. If you are sailing close to wind in terms of what you are receiving in rent compared to what your mortgage repayments are you could find yourself having to delve into your own savings to repair a roof or deal with burst pipes.

Smaller problems such as broken appliances also cost money to repair and replace, and general wear and tear will eventually have to be taken care of too. As a landlord you have a duty of care to your tenants so you will need to fix any problems that may arise while they are renting your property.

Unsurprisingly, these issues never happen at a good time, and they can catch you unawares if you haven’t made the necessary provisions to deal with them.

Can you insure against the risk?

insurance button

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There are certain things that you can insure yourself for, but not all. Things like moves in the property market are not insurable but damage to your property can be safeguarded against. Similarly, you should have insurance for public liability too. This will cover you should a tenant or service provider be injured in your property.

Loss of rent can also be insured and there are other elements that can be protected as well depending on how much you wish to spend on insurance each month. Do your research and make an informed decision upon the level of cover you wish to take out.

As for contents insurance, tenants should be encouraged to take out their own contents insurance should they wish to cover their own personal belongings while they are renting your property.

How about tax?

When you take on a buy-to-let investment you are effectively running a business as a landlord. Therefore there are tax implications to take into account. These include:

  • Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) – Charged when you first buy the property
  • Income tax – Charged against the rental income
  • Inheritance tax – Charged if you should die whilst holding property
  • Capital gains tax – Charged when you sell the property
  • VAT – Charged whenever you make purchases or pay for services related to the property

Are there any additional fees to pay?

annual fee

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Other than your insurance costs and the expense of maintaining the property to a standard fit for someone to live in, there can be other costs associated with owning a buy-to-let property.

The main one would be if you choose to have a letting agent manage your property for you. Doing so can relieve a lot of the headaches that come with being a landlord, but that stress relief doesn’t come for free.

Ask around your local letting agents to see what sort of charges they make for managing the type of property you are looking to rent out.

Interviewing prospective tenants

If you are not using a letting agent you will need to interview and assess your prospective tenants yourself. In order to avoid future problems, you will need to find out as much as you can about them before you rent your property out.

The five main things you must obtain are:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of credit rating
  • Proof of current address
  • Employer’s reference
  • Reference from their previous landlord

Are there any other obligations?

electrical check

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As a landlord you will need to meet certain obligations in order to legally rent out your property. These are:

  • Mortgage consent to let – You must have permission from the mortgage lender to rent out your property. For the majority of buy-to-let investors this will not be a problem, as you will probably have a specific mortgage for the purpose. However, if you already own a property and are considering renting it out you must inform your mortgage provider and obtain consent to do so.
  • Hold an up-to-date gas safety certificate – If you have gas appliances fitted in your property it is part of your duty of care to have a current gas safety certificate.  These need to be carried out annually and by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • Have a current electrical safety check – Although it is not a legal requirement to have annual checks performed like the above gas safety check, you will need to comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 and the Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994. This is an obligation of all landlords and the Health and Safety Executive enforce these regulations.
  • If you are supplying furnishings for your property they must comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 which extends the scope of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (CPA).
  • Energy performance certificate – Failing to produce a valid energy performance certificate can result in a £200 fine from your local TSO (Trading Standards Officer).
  • Fire safety measure need to be put in place too. Any building built after 1992 must have a mains operated interconnected smoke alarm fitted on the entry level to the property. Older properties should have battery operated smoke alarms fitted.
  • General safety is also an obligation that must be fulfilled by the landlord. Renting out a property that is hazardous could result in a £5000.00 fine, 6 month’s imprisonment, and it could invalidate your insurance policy.

Becoming a landlord involves a great deal of work and it is not an entirely hands-off investment. However, the rewards can be great, so if you feel you have what it takes to go through with purchasing a buy-to-let property why not begin your journey today – it could be the best investment you’ll ever make.

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If you enjoyed this blog post then perhaps you’d like to read “Ways to Increase Buy-To-Let Profits“?