Thetford: Dual fuelled

The dualling of the A11 through Thetford has opened up a new corridor of commercial property opportunities between Cambridge and Norwich and it’s one which occupiers would do well to explore, according to Steven Mudd of Barker Storey Matthews’ now part of Eddisons Bury St Edmunds office.

Thetford: Dual fuelled

 

In the world of commercial property in Cambridge, it is difficult to avoid enterprise parks and campuses, innovation hubs, clusters and corridors so it’s no surprise that the A14/A11 road route has been designated as the ‘Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor’.

But don’t just take our word for it.

The Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor is a joint initiative between ten county, district and borough local authorities spanning the territory and the two enterprise partnerships whose interests are at the corridor’s boundaries. All are working together with a pump-priming £500 million development growth fund.

The ‘tech’ is not exclusive to the kind for which Cambridge is internationally renowned. The corridor initiative is profiling research, manufacturing and production in the agriculture and food sectors, the automotive and energy industries as well technologies in the fields of digital, manufacturing and advanced engineering.

It is a 60-mile corridor in which Thetford is situated right in the middle – equidistant from both fine cities by dualled road or rail. Thetford is a rapidly expanding market town and the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor is giving it a chance to shine.

As the agent under instruction on what is a potential head office level property in Thetford, Barker Storey Matthews is showcasing The Limes which is on the edge of town closest to the new leisure and hotel complex.

Although a Grade II Listed building set in landscaped gardens and dating back to the 1760s originally, The Limes has been in office use for a number of years before its recent extensive refurbishment and upgrading to modern office standards.

The Limes is an exception at present given the limited supply of quality office accommodation in Thetford. The commercial property view is that this should be changing as the town raises its development profile to become a key business location at the centre of the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor.

For more information about The Limes or available commercial property in Cambridge, contact Steven Mudd 01284 702655, [email protected] 

Valuations: More than just a number

A valuation report is worth its weight in gold when it comes to commercial property assets – especially if it is conducted by a qualified and accredited chartered surveyor who knows the rules when it comes to best practice.

Valuations: More than just a number

 

The adage about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing could easily be the lament of us registered and qualified chartered surveyors in professional practice. Valuations are more than just a number and we often struggle to make the case to clients about the importance of a comprehensive valuation report carried out by a registered valuer.

Valuations are a serious business for a serious purpose and, as such, should be carried out by a RICS registered valuer who knows and adheres to UK and international valuation standards. The RICS Valuation Global Standards are the registered valuers’ bible with mandatory rules and best practice guidance

Valuation reports are required by property owners for a myriad of financial reasons: loan security, due diligence in acquisition or disposal transactions, pension fund management, Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax purposes or regular accounting and financial statement reporting.

In producing a valuation report, a professional valuer will need to source and obtain relevant documentation – such as leases or plans – make at least one site visit to measure and photograph, undertake desktop research into comparable properties’ planning history and rateable values, check and chart any updated or forthcoming legislation or other statutory compliance issues which may affect the property’s current or future value.

As well as researching the property in question’s history and legacy of previous ownership, the process of producing a report might also flag-up opportunities to enhance value: perhaps there may be an opportunity to re-gear the lease, the property may be under-rented with an outstanding rent review that could be implemented or there may potential for redevelopment.

A valuation report may also highlight areas which require attention. For instance, repairs may be recommended to ensure the property remains in good order and marketable. There may be a need to obtain Asbestos Surveys, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), Fire Risk Assessments or similar – all in order to meet legislative requirements. Such elements are required before a lender will release funds. Early identification of outstanding issues such as these can prevent unnecessary delays to a transaction.

While there are very clearly defined areas to examine and cover in producing a professional valuation report which meets the required industry standards, it’s far from a tick-box approach. Each property is as individual as its owner. To produce a good quality report usually takes a minimum of eight to 12 hours solid work depending on the size and complexity of the property – most reports are in excess of 20 pages long.

A professional report takes time and money but you can be sure that you get what you pay for.

For more information about valuation services see www.bsm.uk.com/valuations/ or contact Mark Critchley, 01223 467155, [email protected]

How to calculate property yields and return on investment

How to calculate property yields and return on investment

 

Knowing exactly how much profit a commercial property will bring you is a vital component of the buying decision. We look at how you can calculate the yield and return on investment (ROI) so you can make an informed choice.

What is rental yield?

There are two forms of rental yield: gross yield which omits costs and expenses, and net yield which omits figures such as interest rates, maintenance costs and periods when your property may be vacant.

Rental yield is a method of calculating the ROI on your commercial property using how much rental income the property is likely to bring, over the true cost of purchasing the property. If you’re considering a Buy-to-Let property the yield means how much annual income it will generate as a percentage of the value of the property.

By using rental yield as a yardstick you can compare different properties before you buy in order to compare how much return you’re likely to make.

Making a calculation

Calculating the gross yield: the gross yield simply means how much ROI you will make before any expenses are deducted. It’s calculated by this simple formula:

Annual rent ÷ property value x 100

So, if the annual rent you expect to make on a property is

12 x £892 pcm (the UK average as of January 2017) = £10,704

And that figure is then divided by £216,750 (the average cost of a house in the UK as of September 2016) x 100 the gross yield will be 4.9%.

Calculating the net yield: the net yield will give you a figure for the ROI after you have deducted your expenses. You can calculate it like this:

Annual rent (using the same figures as above) = £10,704 – operational costs (purchase price, transaction costs, letting fees, maintenance and repair costs, mortgage interest and insurance etc) = £8,359 (average as of April 2015) ÷ property value (£216,750) x 100, the net yield will be 1%.

Clearly, the higher the percentage, the better, and please bear in mind that these calculations are based on the UK average – in your specific location and in your own individual circumstances, the figures will inevitably work out differently. Experts suggest that any figure above 7% (net yield) is a healthy ROI.

If you need advice on any aspect of purchasing a commercial property or are concerned that your current property is not delivering on its ROI potential talk to a member of our team. We can offer professional, current advice on getting better value from your mortgage as well as rental management services among other things.

 

Written by: John Padgett on Tuesday 25/04/2017

 

Office property: The way we work

When it comes to doing business in Cambridge, the city’s available office stock and the requirements of modern office occupiers are adapting, according to Ben Green, Barker Storey Matthews’ now part of Eddisons most experienced Cambridge agent.

Office property: The way we work

 

Technology, cycling and eating are three of the forces that have played their part in the changing requirements of office occupiers in Cambridge in the past twenty years and, thereby, the layout and the fit out of the city’s office units.

Ten to 15 years ago, the smart thinking was all about the wireless office but as well as the technology failing to fulfil, the bigger barrier has been the risk to security. So agents, occupiers and landlords are still hard-wired to the jargon of raised floors, suspended ceilings and trunking.

Cambridge office space is at a premium – all commercial agents here agree – for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the acute shortage of available space, but shrinking technology has played its part too.

Long gone are the days where big, airy spaces – or even floors, in some instances – were required for server rooms. Even companies involved in ‘big’ data are catered for off-site by the mega-hosts when ‘the cloud’ can’t accommodate data storage needs. Requirements for a post-come-print room, big enough for an array of pigeonholes and photocopiers are a thing of the past too for mainstream office occupiers.

Technology has enabled the twin phenomena of hot-desking and mobile-working and both have made remote-working possible. Open plan layouts are the norm even for those involved in highly sensitive business pursuits such as solicitors or senior executives in other commercial spheres. Rooms for private conversations and meetings remain but these are for use by all within the company when the need arises.

Cambridge office occupiers have accepted – albeit reluctantly – the demise of on-site parking facilities. This has been the case in the city centre for a while now but, increasingly, it’s becoming so on the edge of city business and research parks too unless you are heading to one of the out of town business locations such as Cambourne Business Park.

The city has a mobile population and a significant cohort of office occupiers move about on their bicycles when it comes to the daily commute. Any new office building in Cambridge is expected to cater for the city’s cycle culture. Similarly, landlords are advised to consider the cycle in upgrading and retro-fitting older office units. It can be pay off for landlords in more than PR terms. Cycle racks beat server racks in modern requirements, particularly for central Cambridge office occupiers.

Employees who cycle – not to mention colleagues who sit next to them – expect to be able to freshen up before getting down to the day’s work. Shower room facilities are a requirement that have moved up the rankings in the past ten years. Beneficial too for staff who gym or run before – or after – the office or, even, during lunchtime.

Changing eating habits have made their mark on Cambridge’s office stock down the years. Twenty years ago, Cambridge software companies used to have a reputation for feeding employees on-site and, therefore, an atrium or room large enough to accommodate the lunchtime headcount was not an unusual requirement. Not so now. The atrium is more likely to be used as an informal meeting room often called, in modern office parlance, ‘the break out space’ – where it’s common to find colleagues exchanging ideas over a coffee ‘to-go’.

While the ‘sandwich van’ may well still reign supreme in the edge of town business parks, the foodie is more than catered for in Cambridge city centre – whenever modern office life requires a break for a snack or a meal.

Open Cover Insurance

Open Cover Insurance

 

For many owners of commercial property, arranging Open Cover insurance can prove problematic. We take a look at the main points to watch out for.

There is always an element of risk involved with arranging insurance contracts. A methodical approach to the transfer of operational risks involves identification, assessment and quantification. The challenge, however, is not to rely on the comfort of ‘Day One’ cover, but to recognise how your needs can change and to ensure that your insurance is capable of responding accordingly.

Pre-appointment reliability?

Before you arrange cover, consider the pre-appointment policies involved. Due diligence is vital to ensure that the Insurer has access to all material facts before cover is issued, in case of a future dispute. A wise commercial investor will clarify the response position should a company enter administration. Try to arrange cover via an Insolvency Insurance facility which will be mindful of previous cover and costs.

Getting the correct cover

Most Open Cover insurance facilities provide up to 30 days blanket cover. During this time, the IP establishes what cover is required and informs the broker, usually via a questionnaire. IPs should ask for clear recommendations on appropriate cover to avoid either over- or under-insuring.

Cost vs cover

Open Cover is often criticised for the cost of the premiums, particularly when estimated realisations are low. If this is the case, it’s important to establish whether cover has been arranged on the correct basis.

Ask questions such as: Would the building be reinstated in the event of a loss? Does the appointment include vehicles? Have premiums been market-tested? Can premiums be recovered from tenants in accordance with the terms of the lease?

Non-compliance

While many insurance contracts and Open Cover facilities require the insured to adopt ‘reasonable precautions’ they also introduce warranties or conditions which risk the contract not responding in the event of a loss, particularly in relation to vacant properties. The advice, therefore, is to check the contract’s code of practice regarding vacant sites.

Insured sums

Commercial property owners run the risk of financial hardship if the insurance assessment is valued incorrectly. Make sure that your building is insured appropriately, either for reinstatement or at market value. A broker can provide further assessment valuations, if required, to ensure that claims do not fall short.

Insuring vacant buildings

If you’re insuring a vacant building make sure that the market value is not significantly above the reinstatement value. Other considerations include whether the building is listed, if the lease has reinstatement obligations, whether the building would need to be reinstated to facilitate a sale and whether the value is in the land, not the building itself.

Checks and balances should always be in place when arranging insurances, and risk management must be at the forefront of your mind. A good working relationship between IPs and brokers is essential to avoid operational exposure. Here at Eddisons we pride ourselves on providing clear advice on appropriate cover, as well as a wide range of other services, including taking on the responsibility for vacant property compliance. If you need advice on any aspect of Open Cover insurance, speak to a member of our team.

 

Written by: Nick Towns on Wednesday 31/05/2017

 

Investment: Views from our core

Barker Storey Matthews’ now part of Eddisons latest Commercial Property Supplement offers expert views on a number of commercial property sectors; here, Steve Hawkins, the firm’s MD, rounds up the regional view of local investment markets.

Investment: Views from our core

 

It will come as no surprise that the common thread which runs through the views offered by our commercial agents on the ground in our core offices covering the eastern region from Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Huntingdon and Peterborough is a strong investment market underpinned by continuing low interests rates coupled with rental growth.

There is an acknowledgement by all of a hardening of yields in the twelve months since Q1 of 2016. Against the national and international political and economic uncertainties which have come in to sharp focus since June last year, investors are struggling to find returns elsewhere and so sentiment in the commercial property market remains steady enough with a view to rising rents and capital values and a fast-moving lettings market when properties become vacant.

Around the Huntingdon area, demand for industrial investment stock exceeds that for offices and we are seeing strong demand for all multi-let estates as well as single buildings, with larger, modern buildings in particular demand. Further north in Cambridgeshire, the industrial warehouse sector also remains popular, but an overall lack of transactions could suggest that the office sector leads the way with a number of high profile buildings being sold in Peterborough.

Several office buildings let on leases with around 10 or more years to run have exchanged hands well below 7 per cent. Thorpe Wood House, let to Anglian Water with around 11 years unexpired, was marketed with a guide price of £13.25 million – representing a net initial yield of 7.5 per cent attracted bids of around 6.75 per cent yield. Pegasus, at Orton Southgate, let to BGL with around 10 years left, has attracted a similar yield and capital value of around £14.5 million.

The residential sector has continued to perform well even with national statistics showing signs of weakness with the London market cooling substantially. Substantial road infrastructure investment in the Huntingdon to Cambridge A14-corridor supports the strong demand for residential development land and with end values approaching £280 to £290 psf for good quality housing – with higher rates achievable for small flats – land values can fetch up to the equivalent of £2 million per acre for higher density schemes.

We recently concluded the sale of 0.25 acres located on the, Huntingdon ring road, on behalf of Cambridgeshire Constabulary at a price of half a million pounds

It is also transport infrastructure improvements driving the newest investment opportunity in Cambridge city. The new Cambridge North railway station – the city’s second station – becomes operational this month (May). It unlocks one of the largest remaining brownfield sites in the city and will be the catalyst for mixed use development on a site close the Cambridge Science Park and its complementary business and research parks on the northern edge of the city.

The pace of student residential development has slowed a little but remains buoyant enough. The commercial tone and pace set by Anglia Ruskin University in this sector in the past few years is being echoed in the redevelopment of the 1970s office complex Mount Pleasant to 243 student rooms with a pre-let agreed to one of the University of Cambridge’s colleges.

Net yields on more conventional retail and office premises investment sales pitch themselves around 4 to 5 per cent, still demonstrating the huge demand for prime investment assets in Cambridge city.

The echo of lack of investment opportunities and the hardening of yields in Suffolk is also reported. Bury St Edmunds is a high profile market town and it’s such towns with a strong local profile which are providing an attractive alternative to the regional city centres. Secondary locations provide more attractive returns reflecting enhanced risk. A 12,383 sq ft industrial unit in Mildenhall with a tenant in-situ, was sold for a price with a net initial yield of 9.23 per cent.

Commercial agents’ eyes are all on the development of the 57-acre Suffolk Business Park by Churchmanor Estates for whom we act as joint agent. The Park is part of a wider employment area of 168 acres and the “Eastern Gateway” approach to Bury St Edmunds.

Investment opportunities remain in the eastern region but with competition at its highest level for a number of years, you should take advice from those with experience and a proven track record and enduring presence in the local markets.

For more information on investment, funding and development in our core areas, see https://www.bsm.uk.com/our-services/investment-funding-&-development/

The practicalities of exercising or negotiating your break clause

The practicalities of exercising or negotiating your break clause

 

Sometimes either a landlord or a commercial tenant will need to break a lease early. We take a look at negotiating a break clause and how they can be exercised to everyone’s satisfaction.

What is a break clause?

When drawing up a commercial lease both landlords and tenants need to consider the inclusion of a break clause which allows either party to end the lease early. The break clause is a provision within the lease which is agreed to by both landlord and tenant, when the lease can be broken, with neither party facing a penalty. It can be on a specified date or dates (usually after a specified period of time into the lease) or it can be on an ongoing or ‘rolling’ basis. Tenants must give at least two months’ notice to their landlord that they intend to break the lease. Landlords can only break the lease with the agreement of the tenant.

Pre-conditions

Tenants can end their lease early if the landlord agrees and providing they meet certain pre-conditions which are specified within the lease. Pre-conditions may include that they are up-to-date with rent and associated payments such as service charges, buildings insurance premiums etc., that they have not breached any covenants within the lease, and that they must give vacant possession as well as reinstating the premises to the condition it was in when they took possession. Tenants may be able to pass the lease onto someone else, or sublet whilst still being responsible for paying the rent. In some circumstances tenants may be able to pay a ‘break premium’ instead of complying with all the covenants.

Negotiations

When negotiating a lease, tenants should think ahead and make provision for the possibility of exercising a break clause which may include pre-conditions. Naturally, landlords may be reluctant to include a straightforward break clause, for the simple reason that they may face a period of vacancy and associated loss of earnings. It is, therefore, vital that tenants consult an experienced commercial lawyer before signing a lease which insists on stringent pre-conditions in relation to the break clause and consult them on any negotiations relating to the terms of the lease.

They should also ensure that, if they wish to exercise the break clause, they give their landlord sufficient notice, both to understand fully the precise terms of the pre-conditions (if any exist), but also to ensure that they are fully compliant with any requirements within the clause.

The exercising of break clauses is one of the most common causes of legal disputes between landlords and tenants and it can prove an expensive exercise for both parties. It is in your own best interests, therefore, to seek legal advice at negotiation stage with a landlord to ensure that the terms of the lease are reasonable and not skewed too far in their favour, should you need to exercise a break clause.

If you need specialist advice about a break clause within a commercial lease, talk to a member of our team. Our experienced negotiators can offer you confidential and current guidance and assist with the interpretation of any clauses which are causing concern.

 

Written by: Steven Jones on Monday 29/05/2017

 

Why Brexit uncertainty is affecting the price of farmland

Why Brexit uncertainty is affecting the price of farmland

 

Amidst the political and economic uncertainty which has prevailed in the UK since the referendum in June, one commercial sector has been impacted more than most. We take a look at how the price of farmland has been affected and ask whether it is a good opportunity for investors.

Falling prices

Here in the UK we’re lucky enough to be able to grow around 60% of the food our population needs, and agricultural land comprises almost 17.2 million hectares. However, farmers are increasingly under financial pressure due to a fall in commodity prices, the threat of a rise in interest rates as well as the uncertainty about future agricultural subsidies in the wake of the Brexit vote.

This has led to a decline in the value of farmland in some areas of the country. The South East and East of England saw falls of between -2.5% to -3% during the third quarter of 2106 which, combined with falls from earlier in the year, means that the total fall is between -3.6% and -7% for arable land specifically. This contrasts markedly with a 180% rise in average values over the last decade.

The average price of an acre of prime arable land in the whole of Great Britain is now £9,260, down -2.3%. In England it fell by – 2.5% to £9,360 per acre. In Scotland and Wales the price remained the same as the previous year at £7,940 and £7,500 respectively.

Supply

In Great Britain as a whole during 2016, there was a 3% increase in the amount of farmland available to buy, compared to the previous year. England saw a 1% decline, Scotland’s available farmland rose by 4% but it is in Wales that the most dramatic change has been seen. The Principality saw an increase of 43% in the amount of farmland being marketed for sale during this year.

Investment opportunities

For those looking to invest in farmland, it may be a good time to do so. Some farmers are genuinely suffering from the low price of the goods they sell and many others have faced delays in the payments they receive from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In these circumstances, many wish to sell and are negotiating Farm Business Tenancies (FBT) on three-to-five year bases. This proves to be an attractive proposition for investors who can take advantage of lower-than-open-market values.

If you’re interested in diversifying your portfolio by investing in farmland, contact a member of our team today. Our experts can source a variety of farmland businesses throughout the UK and can offer advice and information regarding ROI expectations.

 

Written by: John Padgett on Monday 29/05/2017

Keep the faith – five UK chapels converted into commercial property

Keep the faith – five UK chapels converted into commercial property

 

In our increasingly secular society, many historic places of worship fall victim to dereliction and decay. Some, however, lead a full and successful second life outside the sphere of religion as they are repurposed for the needs of the 21st century. We take a look at five of the most successful chapel conversions in the UK.

Alma de Cuba, Liverpool

The former St Peter’s Catholic Church in Seel Street, Liverpool, was first built in 1788 and is now a Cuban-themed restaurant which opened in 2005. The fine conversion of Liverpool city centre’s oldest surviving church was undertaken by R2 Architects and had to be handled sensitively due to its Grade II listed building status. Many of the original features have been retained, including some of the 18th and 19th century stained glass, extensive decorative stone and marble work particularly on the altar, a first floor gallery and the king post roof.

Rook Lane Chapel, Frome, Somerset

Originally built in 1707, this Grade I listed building was closed in 1968 and left to deteriorate before it found its new incarnation as office space for the developers, architects firm NVB Architects, and an exhibition and performance space and wedding venue. A sympathetic modern extension houses a café and further office space, and today Rook Lane is a vibrant community arts venue set in a beautifully-restored historic building of great local significance.

Repton Park Health Club, Essex

This most unlikely conversion, from former psychiatric hospital chapel to health club, takes the concept of a spiritual healing to new levels. The floor of the nave of Claybury Hospital, which was first opened in 1893, is now a 25 meter swimming pool and spa area, and treadmill sessions take place beneath its gilded, barrel vault coffered ceiling.

Manchester Climbing Centre, Ardwick, Manchester

Inside this ordinary-looking red brick Victorian church lies a spectacular secret. The former St Benedict’s Catholic Church is now home to Manchester Climbing Centre which makes use of the height of the imposing building for its series of challenging indoor climbing walls. Originally built in 1880 to a design by J S Crowther, it was deconsecrated in 2002 but still retains many of its original features including an impressive rose window and vaulted ceiling.

Lyon and Turnbull Fine Art Auction House, Edinburgh

Once described as ‘the most beautiful saleroom in Britain’ the fine art and antiques auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull are housed in a Greek Revival style church which was built in 1821 by prominent Scottish architect Archibald Elliot. The church went out of use in 1991 and was converted into its current function in 2003. It retains much of its historic Regency charm which has been blended with a modern aesthetic to ensure this Grade A listed building survives for another 200 years.

While many people bemoan the dilapidation and deconsecration of our historic religious buildings, without the willingness of commercial organisations to preserve and convert them into accessible spaces, many would be lost to the ravages of time. We must be thankful that so many are still available for our enjoyment and enrichment.

If you’re looking for a commercial premises, whether old or new, to create a thriving business talk to a member of our team. Our experienced auction staff can offer you advice and information about forthcoming lots and our commercial team can provide guidance about change of use planning requirements.

 

Written by: Ian Harrington on Monday 22/05/2017

Understanding business rates when a property is empty

Understanding business rates when a property is empty

 

As the owner of one or more commercial properties, you’ll be aware that there are inevitably periods when your asset stands empty. Here we take a look at how business rates apply in such a situation.

Empty properties

Some properties, such as agricultural buildings, those used for training or the welfare of disabled people, and places of worship, are already exempt from business rates. All other properties must pay business rates when they are occupied.

If your property becomes vacant, whether it’s a retail outlet, residential home or office building, you are exempt from paying business rates for three months. However, at the end of this time, you will be required to pay the full amount of business rates to your local authority, as usual.

It’s important to note that the exemption from business rates applies to the property, not to the person who owns it, so if you sell your commercial property during the three month period of grace or buy one during that time, it does not begin again with the new owner.

Exemptions

The owners of some categories of buildings are able to apply for a further period of ‘empty property relief’ as it’s known. These include industrial premises (which can extend the exemption period for a further three months), listed buildings (until someone occupies the premises), buildings whose rates are less than £2,600 per year (again, until they are reoccupied), buildings owned by charities (if the next tenant is continuing the charitable theme) and buildings which are occupied by community charitable sports clubs (if the tenants continue to run a sports club).

In addition, since October 2013, unoccupied commercial new builds are exempt from non-domestic rates for a period of up to 18 months, provided it has been registered on the Ratings list before September 2016, in order to stimulate construction and thence the economy of the UK.

Applying for exemption

To apply for exemption you must contact your local authority or council and fill in an application form. They will then usually send out an assessor who will verify that the building is indeed empty and the exemption will then apply. The timing of your application is crucial as some local authorities will not allow you to backdate your application and will only grant exemption from the time you notify them. In order to maximise your rates-free period, therefore, it’s important to notify them as soon as possible, preferably before the building becomes vacant.

If you need guidance about applying for exemption from business rates, or any other matter relating to the subject, contact a member of our team. We can offer you advice and up-to-date information which may help you save money in the long run.

 

Written by: Craig Newton on Monday 22/05/2017