Manchester might have claimed the title ‘The UK’s second city’ a while back, but in many respects it’s second to no one at present.
Five years after the Northern Powerhouse initiative started, and more than 20 years of Champions League football and global recognised music groups, the Manchester juggernaut continues to roll, absorbing investment and global attention.
Where to start? Its economy is diversifying and growing, competing with London for the national offices of global companies and offering a hub for national companies and SMEs. Professionals have therefore arrived with work, while more than 65 per cent of the graduates from its universities stick around after graduation. More than a third of Mancunian students who go elsewhere to study return home thereafter, Manchester City Council found in its State of the City 2018 report.
As such, property prices in the city rose 15 per cent in two years up to 2018, and 9 per cent in the 12 months up to July 2018. Over the same period as the latter, London fell 1 per cent, Cushman & Wakefield data show.
With demand high, and billions having been invested in roads and infrastructure, the city centre has been a hive of cranes and building work. But there’s a degree of evolution here. The popularity of areas such as Castlefield to capture the business workers in Spinningfields is now spreading to arena such as Northern Quarter for media and tech, not to mention MediaCityUK down by the ship canal.
Then we have Northern Manchester (NOMA), the GBP 800 million, 20 acre redevelopment scheme focused on the north west of the city, allowing less fancied areas to play catch up.
The northern city is one of the six in Germany that continues to experience price appreciation.
As with the capital, Berlin, Stuttgart, down south in Munich and others, low ECB interest rates and a shift towards buying rather than renting has led to price spikes, with new construction lagging behind to absorb demand. The word ‘bubble’ has entered the vocabulary of research papers of the country’s real estate market for the last year.
House building is actually more plentiful in Hamburg than its peers, Deutsche Bank research noted. This means that while property prices have risen 70 per cent since 2009 up to the start of 2018, rents rose at a steadier pace as there is more to buy. The city has a more stable population, too.
Perhaps this year will see the city shift up a gear. Real Capital Analytics reported that the city saw EUR 5 billion of overall investment between Q4 2017 and Q32018, roughly the same as Amsterdam.
Indeed the city has been earmarked by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as one of a band of smaller, dynamic cities around Europe that have room to grow if internal investment continues. The company put the city at number seven in its table for Overall Prospects for this year, behind Lisbon at number one. Key factors include stability, quality of life and the current stage of the growth cycle.
Prices in the city centre are roughly EUR 5,000 per square metre, Numbeo data from last year show, similar to Stuttgart. Rents are expected to rise 3.74 per cent, and capital values 3.66 per cent this year, PwC estimates in the same report, putting the city 10th of the European cities listed.
Despite the louder noises and glitzier statements made from its neighbouring Gulf nations, Bahrain has spent the last two years has quietly improving its businesses to carve out a niche as the stable, lower cost, Middle Eastern destination.
The country is 62nd globally in the ranking of the ease to do business as of 2018, up from 66th in 2017, according to the WorldBank’s annual report. Setting up a company is more streamlined, costs are lower, and processes for building permits has improved as the country seeks investment and expatriates.
Indeed, for its bold construction projects in the pipeline, it had better keep improving.
Manama, the capital, is situated in the north of the island and is the hub for the majority of the commerce and construction. Traditional areas such as Juffair and Seef, built upon for the last two decades, are now joined by bold developments such as Amwaj Islands, the reclaimed land development replete with villas and sea view apartments.
Bahrain Bay is another stand out - a $2.5 billion waterfront mega project over three islands of reclaimed land. With a stunning H-shaped tower as its centrepiece (stunning on the brochure image), it is now 13 years since its initial launch. Reclamation work is finished, and the utilities are being installed. The pitch is to offer a luxury destination for both businesses and individuals in the proverbial mixed-use offering. It will also feature a harbour.
It is now a year since the country established its first real estate regulator to crack down on rogue property brokerages and add transparency to the market. In certain areas of the city, it allows freehold ownership to non-Bahrain citizens. Changes a-plenty.