One-on-one interview: Giles Leadbetter of Hunters Land and New Homes
Posted 21 January 2016 by Keith Osborne
Our weekly series of interviews with senior property industry figures continues with the land and new homes division of major estate agency firm Hunters, where we catch up with director Giles Leadbetter.
Please tell us little about you and Hunters Land and New Homes
I have had 15 years’ experience in the property business. I spent six years at Hamptons International as head of global investments and have 13 years’ experience in the new build sector.
We launched the Hunters Land and New Homes arm 10 months ago. The division has offices in Manchester and London and will focus on delivering high-quality investment stock in London, Manchester and other select regional markets to Hunters’ expanding client base. Services for developers include land sourcing and acquisitions; consultancy; and the management of sales and marketing campaigns in both the UK and international market, spanning Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
How have housebuilders and developers responded since you introduced this new division?
Both have received the launch very well. Hunters have a truly nationwide business with a large geographic spread in cities throughout the UK; this allows us to service the majority of the market.
Are you persuading many people who may not be interested in new build to see the advantages of buying brand new?
Many government incentives are tied to new build properties, so we see a lot of first-time buyers attracted to these. Families also like the idea of living in communities and many new build developments offer this lifestyle with charming communal areas and activities arranged for residents.
Most investors purchasing a buy-to-let home are looking for a fairly hands-off investment. With a new build property the investor has the peace of mind that everything is straight out of the wrapper and will come with warranties and guarantees. The buyer also benefits from a warranty when purchasing a new build.
Do you expect the number of new homes buy-to-let investors to fall off dramatically when the new stamp duty surcharge is introduced in April?
We are starting to see a slight change in investors mentality already. The higher end of the market is starting to look less attractive to investors who now seem to be focusing on the medium to lower end instead.
Investors are seeing value in the secondary areas of London outside of Zones 1 and 2. They feel that Prime Central London is becoming overheated and see huge growth potential in these more affordable areas of London. Yields in these areas are also strengthening as London renters find themselves squeezed out of the city centre.
In a similar way we are seeing real demand in the key northern cities, in particular the Manchester market has great growth potential. With a huge amount of international investment flooding into the city we feel it will only have a one-way effect on property prices.
People will always invest in property and that will never change but the locations that they invest in will shift to accommodate buyer needs.
Are you optimistic that the government's intentions to build more homes across the country will come to fruition?
I am optimistic. Due to the recession and lack of lending, developers had previously slowed their pipelines but over the past years it is very clear the cranes have been returning in full force. International and institutional money has strongly hit the market, which has enabled developers to return to supply levels of 2007. This has been particularly noticeable in the major northern cities, especially Manchester and Liverpool.
What kind of developments are you currently selling and where are your new build "hotspots”?
Our hotspots are all investor driven; we are keeping a close eye on East London, in particular in Romford where the Crossrail will really improve transport links. We also expect Edgware and Walthamstow to perform very well this year, these areas of London are still fairly affordable: one-bedroom properties are available from £350,000 and central London can be reached in just half-an-hour.
Outside of London, the Northern Powerhouse cities such as Manchester and Liverpool would be our hotspots, both are benefitting from increased investment with strong local economies, good employment and world renowned universities.
Where do you see house prices going this year?
My view is that at the top end central London will continue to cool off as the increased stamp duty and introduction of CGT for foreign investors continue to take effect. However, there is still growth left in Greater London, especially in commutable areas within zones 4-6 where values are currently around £500-£700psf.
Will interest rate rises happen in 2016 and will they impact significantly on the property market?
Interest rates have been at a historic all-time low and money has never been cheaper. Interest rate rises cannot be ruled out but any increase is likely to be slow and gradual to give the market time to adapt. I feel the market can certainly withstand a small increase without any negative effect.