Monday, 29 February 2016

One For The Developers - 110 Bedroom Commercial to Residential Conversion

This is a truly unique opportunity! Located in the City Centre and most recently used as the headquarters of God TV, no less!

It's a 10 storey former HMRC office building with the potential for 110 bedrooms and mixed use retail space on the ground floor

Location-wise it's not necessarily as great and on-the-up as the sales particulars make it sound, the immediate area is a bit rough to say the least - click here for my article on the Nile St development (which is just over the road) to give you a flavour of the area

It's being marketed by Paul Airey so contact them for more details

If you are interested in this and do take it on I'd be very keen to be kept in the loop as I would relish the opportunity to see a project of this magnitude take shape at first hand!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Sunderland Homes Are Some Of The Smallest In The UK...And Are Shrinking!

This week I took a call from one of our Landlord's who'd seen an article in the Sunderland Echo featuring a report which claimed homes in the Northeast were some of the smallest in the UK

I looked at the article  and it whilst it made interesting reading I wasn't really sure what, if any, impact this revelation would have on the Sunderland property market, either now or in the future

It outlined that at an average 85.4 square meters (sqm), Northeast three bed homes are smaller than the governments guidelines of 93sqm by around 8sqm, and that New Builds in general are about 10sqm smaller than they were in 2003

The first thing to note is that the data just covers New Builds...and anyone who has taken an interest in the Sunderland property market for the past few years will be able to advise that there really aren't too many recent New Build developments in Sunderland

Secondly, when focusing on the rental market, whilst there may have been a few developers who have turned to renting their properties out post-2008 as they couldn't sell them (or wouldn't sell them at a deflated price), educated investors know that new builds rarely stack up as a good medium to long term investments

Sure, you could buy off plan at a "discount" from the developer but how often is this reflective of the true value of the property once completed? The value of a New Build property dips as soon as the development is completed, rising slowly over a number of years to get back to parity with existing housing stock

So the majority of 3 bed rental stock is going to be based on existing properties in Sunderland, just as it is with most of the houses to rent (apartments are another matter altogether)

This may change with the institutions being encouraged to Build to Rent that we discussed in recent blog posts

I would argue that the average man or woman on the street couldn't really tell with any accuracy whether a property was a couple of square meters bigger or smaller - they'd know if if felt spacious or pokey, but that's about it...

They certainly wouldn't be able to make comparison with properties elsewhere in the UK and weigh up the relative value based on rents and size...

As I'm a bit of a property geek I have taken the opportunity to do just that!

I calculated that based on the average 85.4sqm of a Sunderland 3 bed property (average rent £585pcm) compared to a similarly sized City in the South East such as Southampton, where the average 3 bed New Build is 93.9sqm with an average rent of £1045pcm, Sunderland rents per square metre are roughly half of those in Southampton, paying £6.85 per square metre compared to £11.85

So Sunderland tenants are paying 56% of the rent compared to Southampton tenants but getting 91% of the property! That settles it then! Everyone in Southampton should move to Sunderland!

Following this rather pointless little diversion it brings me to my final point, that unlike buying the latest flat screen TV or cutting edge carbon fibre road bike, choosing a property to rent or buy is not about specifications or size or £ per sqm, it's about much softer factors too

The thing about houses is that they are as big as they are and they are located where they are!

If you want to live in any particular town or city you really do have a finite number of choices available to you at any given time

I've been on countless viewings when the potential tenant has said, "If only the bedrooms were a bit bigger..." or "It would be perfect for me if it was only in..." Unfortunately such things are beyond our control!

I would also argue that once the basics are covered off, such as enough bedrooms & bathrooms to cope with the number of people staying there - people buying or renting will make decisions which are highly influenced by intangible 'gut reactions' as much as they are square meters and EPC ratings

This got me thinking that even if there is an influx of Build to Rent new build homes in Sunderland (which as I've said before I don't necessarily see as a bad thing) it could work in the favour of landlords owning existing older stock...indulge me for a second on this...

My logic follows that if potential renters are put off by the small size of the New Builds they could reevaluate older housing stock in a more positive light and look to them in order to get more space!

Given New Builds are likely to be offered at a premium rent, if a Landlord has an older property with the same number of bedrooms but offers significantly bigger accommodation (presented to a comparable standard as a New Build) could they perhaps look to price it accordingly? Could this lead to higher rents for high quality older housing stock?

Do you agree? If you would like to chat about any aspect of the Sunderland property market call me on 0191 567 8577 or email

Friday, 19 February 2016

Two Bedroom Riverview Apartment (Advertised at Almost 1/3 of the Previous Sale Price)

Regular sunderlandpropertyblog readers will know that I think apartments in the Riverview development on Low Street can make decent investments, and this is a good example

It's a 5th floor, 2 bedroom apartment (and it is a general rule of thumb that the higher floors are better), they're all standard layout in Riverview and one of the advantages which makes them versatile is that the 2 bedrooms are identical in size, with no ensuite in either meaning they work well with professional sharers or students as well as young professionals

This apartment was bought in 2005 from new at £180,000 and is now being offered at £62,950

The rents have remained steady for as long as I can remember, with £495pcm being the achievable norm - based on this and the above price and it delivers a very healthy 9.4% Gross Yield (compared to a 3.3% Gross Yield for the purchaser who paid £180k)

It's likely that more of these apartments will come onto the market from people who bought from new (the changes to mortgage interest tax relief may be the straw that breaks the camel's back for many) so as they come up I'd suggest investors take a look - but would also warn that the likely drip feed of properties onto the market will have a dampening effect on prices so I wouldn't factor in any capital growth any time soon

It's being marketed by Hackett so click here for details and call them to arrange a viewing

Call me if you'd like to discuss the Riverview development or any aspect of property investment in Sunderland - call 0191 567 8577 or email

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Are Over 60% Of Sunderland Private Tenants Really On Housing Benefit???

I’m often asked “Who is your typical Sunderland Tenant?” often by people who don’t know the modern day Private Rented Sector and therefore assume that Tenants are either exclusively students or on Housing Benefit… 

In reality Tenants tend to fall into several groups...20 something professionals; young and middle aged families; corporate Tenants; students; older singles/couples and Housing Benefit claimants – and they all come with different needs and wants

So choosing who best suits your Sunderland property – and steering clear of bad Tenants – is a big factor in making property investment a success

I’m often asked by Landlords & novice investors looking to Sunderland whether they should accept Tenants on Housing Benefit? Often they think they have little choice but to do so 

It may come as a shock to the Landlords of Sunderland to learn that based on the latest DWP statistics, there are 8,250 Housing Benefit recipients in the Private Rented Sector in the Sunderland City Council area - this equates to 63% of the 13,077 private rented properties in Sunderland

Knowing the Sunderland property market as well as I do this still came as a big shock, I expected the Sunderland figure to be higher than in more prosperous areas (for example the Housing Benefit figure is 29% for Chelmsford and 36% in Derby) and infact I expected it to be a fair bit higher than the national average (which is 39.2%)

When you look at this again it does make quite startling reading (well it does to me anyway!) that the national average has around 40% of all Tenants receiving some form of Housing Benefit 

This might make the Sunderland figure a little easier to take but even so I didn’t expect the Sunderland figure to be quite so high!

It’s worth noting that this figure does include those who are working and are receiving some form of Housing Benefit top up, it would be wrong to assume this Housing Benefit figure equates to only 'The Unemployed'

I know many Landlords have suffered late rent payments with Tenants on Housing Benefits, especially since 2008, when local authorities started paying Housing Benefit to Tenants rather than directly to the Landlords, but you can’t ignore them given Housing Benefit Tenants make up more than half of the Sunderland rental population!

My opinion is that the final choice of accepting such Tenants has to be the Landlords, some Landlords see the fact that Housing Benefit tenants often stay a lot longer than working tenants as a major positive to outweigh any negatives

Whilst you can’t tar every Housing Benefit Tenant with the same brush, for purely commercial reasoning I would always advise Landlords that if a property is of a suitable standard to attract a working Tenant, then working Tenants would always be preferable

...and if a property is not to a standard that will attract a working tenant, why isn't it??

Now, let us look at the occupations of Sunderland Tenants, which makes even more fascinating reading

Of the 13,077 privately rented properties in the Sunderland area, 64.6% of Head Tenants (the head Tenant being classified as the head of the household) are in employment (the other 35.4% of rental property head Tenants either being retired, long term sick, students or job seekers)

This does fit with the above suggestion that in an area such as Sunderland with relatively low average wages (the average Sunderland gross weekly pay is £455.90 compared to the national average of £529.60 per week) there may be proportionally more working households requiring Housing Benefit ‘top ups’ to make ends meet

Splitting those 8,447 Head Tenants down into their relevant professions
2,433 (28.8%) of them are Senior Managerial, Professional or Technical
2,272 (26.4%) are in Administrative/Secretarial occupations or Skilled Trades
2,000 (23.6%) are in Caring, Leisure, Sales and Customer Service Occupations
1,757 (20.8%) are in Process, Plant and Machinery Operatives/Elementary Occupations

Given we deal exclusively with working tenants this is fascinating data to back up what we have always known anecdotally (but until I did my research, never had anything to back it up with) that Sunderland has higher than average proportion of the renting population coming from admin/leisure/customer service roles and those employed in skilled trades – which I’d suspect very much mirrors the labour market profile for Sunderland vs the national average 

Maybe in future articles, I will look deeper into the corporate Tenant market, young and middle aged families, students and older persons rental markets.... 

In the meantime, if you want more news, views and commentary about the Sunderland property market, there are many similar articles like this on the Sunderland Property Blog or give me a call on 0191 567 8577 or email

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

"Needs Work" Hylton Castle Semi (7.7% Gross Yield)

This 2 bedroom semi in the popular Hylton Castle area of SR5 needs decoration throughout and a new kitchen and bathroom but it's realistically priced and if you can negotiate a bit of a discount it could stack up to be a decent BTL purchase

It's on the market for £64,950 and realistically will need £5 - £10,000 spending on it but if you can bring it all in for around £70,000 (conscious this will need a bit of haggling on the price) it will return 7.7% Gross Yield based on a realistic £450pcm rent

It's being marketed by Hunters so click the link for details and call them to arrange a viewing

Call me on 0191 567 8577 or email to discuss this property or any aspect of property investment in Sunderland

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

"Full Refurb" 4 Bedroom Terrace Close to Hospital - May Suit Conversion to "MiniMO" (Generating Income of £1,235pcm)

This 4 bedroom, 2 reception room mid terrace in Barnes is being offered with vacant possession and the decoration, fittings, furniture etc suggests that it's been occupied for some time by elderly homeowners

The location close to Sunderland Royal Hospital, along with the property size means that it may work as a small HMO (or "MiniMO" as I heard it described recently) 

It will need full refurbishment throughout anyway so to reconfigure it at this stage (using one of the 2 reception rooms as a downstairs bedroom and perhaps sacrificing the smaller bedrooms to provide an additional bathroom/shower room) may pay dividends

Doing it this way will allow 4 lettable bedrooms (the 3 doubles may even be big enough to accommodate a small ensuite 'pod' which will increase the achievable rent and attractiveness to potential tenants) along with a communal lounge and kitchen

Being only on 2 floors and only having 4 lettable rooms means it will not fall into HMO licensing criteria, which will mean less paperwork and cost

It would be difficult to calculate return given I can't hope to suggest the total refurbishment cost but based on renting the 3 doubles at a conservative £75pw and the single at £60pw it will deliver an annual income of £14820 or £1,235pcm

It's being marketed by Dowen so click the link  and call them to arrange a viewing

If you'd like to discuss this 'MiniMO' strategy or any aspect of property development in Sunderland please call me on 0191 567 8577 or email

Monday, 15 February 2016

Immaculate 2 Bedroom Grindon Mid Terrace (7.2% Gross Yield)

We've let a similar property in this street only this month so know that this 2 bedroom Grindon mid-terrace will be popular 

The owner of the property we've just let won't mind me saying that this property looks to be in much better condition with immaculate decoration throughout and stylish modern kitchen and bathroom

We let 'our' property for £495pcm and whilst the fact that this one is of a much higher quality may suggest that more rent could be achieved, that would push it above the 'magic' £500pcm barrier (most Sunderland searches to rent are for properties under £500pcm) and therefore it may result in it taking longer to let

I'd be tempted to put it on at £495, know it will let almost instantly, is likely to be let on a long term basis and it's likely that you'll never have any voids

Even based on £495pcm (which is conservative) it will return 7.2% Gross Yield based on paying the £82,000 asking price

It's on with Peter Heron so click here for details and call them to arrange a viewing

If you'd like to discuss any aspect of the Sunderland property market give me a call on 0191 567 8577 or email

Thursday, 4 February 2016

How Will "Right To Rent" Affect Sunderland Landlords?

From Monday 1st February all UK Landlords will be required by law to ensure that all prospective tenants have the right to rent in the UK - and face a £3,000 fine per tenant should they fail to do so

I was speaking to a local Private Landlord this week who was concerned about the extra burden this may put upon him and he asked my opinion on how I thought ‘Right to Rent’ will affect Landlords in Sunderland and how it will affect the Sunderland lettings market

Casting aside the political motivation for this and whether this is a Good Idea or Bad Idea, it's here so Landlords have little choice but to deal with it

UK citizens or nationals from the European Economic Area (plus Switzerland!) have an automatic & indefinite right to live in the UK - for those from outside the above areas (or even for family members of the above) their right to live in the UK is likely to be granted at the discretion of the Home Office and is likely to be only for a finite period

Looking at the last available figures (using the latest Census figures from a couple of years ago) there are 275,506 residents in the Sunderland area and of those, 264,201 residents (or 95.9%) were born in the UK

Of the other 4.1% I found that 3,206 are from Europe, 1,611 from Africa, 5,019 from the Middle East & Asia, 280 from the Americas & The Caribbean and 161 from Antarctica, Oceania and Australasia

If all of the above residents from outside the UK and Europe weren’t supposed to be living in the UK, that could risk a fine of £21,213,000 coming to the Landlords of Sunderland!

This is small change when compared to other Cities with a much higher proportion of non UK or non European nationals as residents

Looking first close to home, of Newcastle's 280,177 residents, 9.9% are from outside the European Economic Area so might not be eligible to rent in the UK but even this figure is relatively small compared to 17.6% of Birmingham and 18.3% of Manchester's residents who are originally from outside the UK or European Economic Area

Go further South and the proportion of non UK or European nationals increases with Luton having 21.3% of it's 203,201 resident population from outside the EEA and UK - this rises to 28.2% when you look at the population of Slough

So looking at the current profile of Sunderland's population, it could be argued that 'Right to Rent' will affect Sunderland Landlords far less than those Landlords from elsewhere where there are far more non UK or European nationals

This is a dangerous simplification, as for a Landlord not to check the Right to Rent status of ALL potential tenants (even if they are originally from South Hylton rather than South Korea) risks them being accused of racial discrimination!

Obtaining & checking the 'Right to Rent' eligibility status of all potential tenants is now necessary a very complicated procedure, requiring very analysis of the various kinds of ID available - both before offering the tenancy then as required during the tenancy, should the permission to stay in the UK be granted only for a fixed period 

In a nutshell, Sunderland Landlords will need to Obtain, Check and Retain copies of certain documents that show a potential tenant has the right to live in the UK

These include ….

  • UK Passport
  • EEA Passport / Identity card
  • Travel document or Permanent Residence Card showing indefinite leave to remain
  • Paperwork from Home Office stating their Immigration status
  • Certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen

I would strongly recommend all Landlords familiarise themselves on what's required by visiting or alternatively give us a call as we can help make sense of this - it's no wonder that more Landlords are looking to knowledgeable agents to take care of the ever increasing demands put upon them!!

If you need more detail on how Right to Rent may affect your lettings business in Sunderland, or any aspect of the Sunderland property market please call our office on 0191 567 8577 or email

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

One For The Developers! Art Deco Synagogue In Prime Location

Subject to obtaining the required planning consent this splendid Grade II listed, Art Deco synagogue would certainly provide a fantastic opportunity to create a unique & stylish residential development

It was built in 1928 and is 8900ft2 spread over 3 levels

Picture 1

It's being marketed by Jonathan Lewis at OIRO £239,000 - click here for details and contact them to arrange a viewing

Clearly it would be impossible to estimate development costs or returns so this is simply to say this may be worth a look!

Call me to discuss any aspect of property investment in Sunderland - call 0191 567 8577 or email 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Three x 5 Bedroom Houses Being Sold As Portfolio (+13% Gross Yield)

These three 5 bedroom houses are being sold as a portfolio and have previously rented to students at the nearby University

Given the uncertainty of the changing student market in Sunderland I wouldn't necessarily advise buying these houses with that market in mind, but given the properties are opposite a Metro station and less than a mile from the Hospital, it may be that they could be let to working sharers

The fact that the current owner is selling them also raises questions over the long term viability of this market, or is that just me being cynical?

The suggested return of £35,000 pa has been calculated on a 40 week student rental (which breaks down to just under £60 per room per week), giving a 13% Gross Yield base on the OIRO £270,000 asking price

I would suggest that if they were offered to working adults at a suitably good standard (which will probably require investment in both internal refurbishment and appropriate furniture if they have been previously let to students) not only could they achieve significantly more than this per room but also they could be let all year round

Given they look to be only 2 storey properties they will be classed as non-licensable HMO's, which is always a bonus

They're being marketed by Paul Airey so click here for details and call them to arrange a viewing

This is not for the inexperienced or faint hearted investor but please feel free to call me if you want further advice or to discuss this opportunity, or to chat about any aspect of the Sunderland property market - call 0191 567 8577 or email

Monday, 1 February 2016

Stunning 2 Bedroom Cottage Close To Hospital (7.7% Gross Yield)

This 'Ready to Let' two bedroom cottage is in a convenient location close to both Sunderland Royal Hospital and the Pallion shops, it should be popular

It was bought in 2013 for £44,000 and clearly the price suggests the property was in a poor condition with the current owners having improved it to a high standard throughout, meaning it will appeal to a wide range of tenants

Based on paying the £70,000 asking price and a very conservative £450pcm (given the condition it is likely that more can be achieved) it will return 7.7% Gross Yield

It's being marketed by Pattinson so click here for details and call them to arrange a viewing

Call me on 0191 567 8577 or email to discuss this or any aspect of property investment in Sunderland