Boarded up shops and offices in Britain’s high streets are the biggest untapped resource for converting to new homes, says a new survey of property professionals. Developing empty commercial property will create more homes and revitalise town and city centres, according to real estate software firm MRI.
Three out of four property professionals see a new lease of life for the high street coming from the developments as demand for private rented homes accelerates. They say Generation Rent – those aged 20 to 39 – are here to stay because young adults cannot afford to save the big deposits needed to buy a home and will, therefore, look for private property to rent instead.
Almost 80 per cent feel rents will keep rising, while 90 per cent consider buy to let will become an increasingly significant resource in the UK housing market over the next 12 to 18 months. The report, charting UK Property Trends, highlights that Generation Rent prefers to live in town and city centres where they have shops and entertainment on their doorsteps.
“The challenges faced by retail won’t be solved by a shift to residential, but the trend will be a significant boost to opportunities for property owners,” said Colin O’Reilly, sales director EMEA at MRI.
“Retail property owners will increasingly become residential landlords. Ultimately, more people living in town centres will enhance the opportunities for retailers and other businesses, such as coffee shops, health clubs and entertainment venues.”
The survey also found that renters want homes with high broadband speeds close to public transport and town/city centres where they can easily go to pubs, restaurants and cafes. They also favour landlords who can offer online maintenance reporting, e-billing and an online rent payment portal.
“It is evident that young renters are driving major change in the UK property marketplace. This is a group that is increasingly making its expectations as long-term renters known to the industry. They are changing views on the high street, driving build-to-rent development and pushing the lettings side of the industry to further professionalise management of rental properties,” says the report.