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THE MANCHESTER SUCCESS STORY

21st April 2021
By Will Leyland

When we look back through 2020 and 2021, the story may well be written to tell a narrative of a V-shaped recovery. 

A recovery that, for some time, looked quite far in the distance, but once things started to improve, came back into focus sharper and larger than we’d expected. 

It’s hard to imagine that many people had predicted that the property market in the UK would flatline, however, the performance was surprisingly strong throughout the year. 

Similarly, whilst the economy entered recession briefly, many had wondered whether this may signal a more prolonged dip. As the country started to lift restrictions, however, the bounce back has been much better than many assumed it would be. 

There are preliminary figures reported for retail from the opening last week that suggest many had bumper weeks, taking in huge amounts of revenue, even more than expected as cash rich and frustrated shoppers returned to the high street in droves. The story appears to have been similar in many cities and towns across the country. That is to say, that they’ve coped much better than expected and are looking forward to a strong 2021 and beyond. 

Manchester

No city seems to be a better example of this than Manchester, where local politicians and businesses are reporting that the local economy is bouncing back strongly, with figures suggesting a very strong return to some normality. 

To underline this recovery plan, politicians and business leaders recently released their vision for Manchester in 2021, named ‘Building a Greater Manchester, Making a Greater Britain’. 

The aim, as stated in the plan’s release, is to “bring together Greater Manchester’s public and private sectors, educational institutions and specialist facilities to attract research and development funding and drive economic growth. This will be particularly targeted at frontier sectors identified by the Local Industrial Strategy: health, digital, clean technologies and advanced manufacturing and materials.”

This represents an exciting vision for the city and shows the city region’s ambition to return to the staggering growth from before the pandemic. Whilst the city is rightly looking towards its business future, perhaps its strongest economic feature is the local property market. 

Manchester property

In a report for the Financial Times, Antonia Cundy wrote of Manchester’s booming property market. In her report, titled “Manchester’s property prices keep moving on up”, Cundy writes about the remarkable success of the local housing market in such trying economic times. Cundy also writes about the booming market for luxury apartments in and around the city, saying “This recent uptick in prices has surprised some experts, who had cautioned that record-breaking years of development between 2016 and 2018 could flood the market. Despite 35 schemes completing during 2020, according to Deloitte’s 2021 Manchester Crane Survey, bringing 5,000 new homes to market during a pandemic — the highest number in a single year since Deloitte’s records began in 2002 — prices have not dropped. The development of expensive, luxury homes has helped to keep prices high.” 

This speaks of a truth that many in the city have known for some time, that a young and wealthy population which is growing quicker than anywhere else in the UK have been keeping demand for these types of property very high. 

Despite Manchester constructing new-build apartments at a faster rate than nearly anywhere else in Europe, the city hasn’t seen prices drop and has also seen rents stay level during the pandemic despite London seeing rents drop by nearly 10%. 

If we take this impressive performance in the context of the rest of the UK, and indeed Europe, and include the city’s plan to grow even faster in 2021, then it’s safe to conclude that 2021 and beyond could be some of the best years in recent history for the city’s property market. 

With things standing so strong during a pandemic, it’s right to assume that many will now be looking to get more involved and gain more exposure to the Manchester property market, so now would seem to be the time to make your enquiries and bring forward those plans you may have to invest this year.

Image by Tierra Mallorca

SWISS REAL ESTATE MARKET: CURRENT FACTS

Source: Credit Suisse 18.06.2020

At the core of both the real estate study and the Real Estate Monitor is a review of the current market situation. For example, prices for condominiums and single-family dwellings have risen almost continuously since 2002. There was only a brief decline in prices in 2017. Initially, the reasons behind the increase in demand for residential properties and the rise in prices were relatively low price levels and strong economic growth. Over the last few years, historically low mortgage rates have been the main driver.

Image by Naomi Hébert

PROPTECH AND FINTECH PROVIDERS FIGHT TO BECOME REAL ESTATE MARKET LEADERS IN SWITZERLAND

Source: Forbes.com 24.08.2020

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that even large transactions like buying a house or renting a flat can now be completed online. My industry, proptech, has been delighted to see progress in the digitalization of real estate, while at the same time competition in the sector has increased. In Switzerland, most real estate transactions are still handled in real life. People see property as a safe long-term investment and want to get a close look at their potential property before selling it. However, new technologies and their frequent use during the first half of 2020 have shown the real estate sector more ways to conduct business. Human contact is still crucial for buying, selling or renting property, but proptech has been paving the new ways to conduct business.

Where buyers used to physically visit a potential property, they are now more prepared to join virtual reality tours with realtors on the ground. Digital viewings, 360-degree videos, robots and conference technology such as Zoom or Google Hangouts help buyers decide on whether to invest in a property without visiting it first. High-quality photos, drone material and online portfolios offer additional support in filtering the most interesting properties at the click of a mouse.

But it is not just property viewings that are taking the plunge into virtualization. Real estate finance, insurance and contract signing are other services in the ecosystem of housing that are rapidly changing. Even applications for rental property and the communication between renters and landlords are moving online. In Switzerland, big insurance companies and banks are competing with proptechs and more traditional realtors for the role of market leader in this race toward the digitalization of services around property.

A real estate agent sells dreams and brings the people a step further in their life. So selling a property has a lot to do with emotions. These emotions can't be kindled by machines; feelings have to be expressed by the interaction between the agent and the buyer. The whole process can include the technologies which make everything in the background more efficient and the personal touch of a real estate agent. The agent works with technology and the technology works with the agent. It's a win-win.

Taking Real Estate Financing Online

Recently, one of Switzerland’s largest banks, UBS, launched a new online platform that allows customers to search, compare and contract mortgages almost completely online. Key4 is not the only service in Switzerland that is taking mortgages online, but so far, it is the only platform that allows for comparison of different providers. The next step will be to integrate property platforms with the financing so that countless automated services can be found at the same provider. Other real estate and finance companies in Switzerland are also looking into the combination of real estate platforms and financing platforms.

The idea behind this new trend is to make the marketing process faster and more transparent for sellers as well as for buyers. AI solutions from the fintech and proptech sectors can provide thorough, transparent, data-based advisory services for lower costs. The trend in Switzerland, Austria and Germany is clear: Technology is pushing the transaction volume of online mortgages up. German banks have reported that the proportion of mortgages completed online as 45%, whereas in Switzerland and Austria, the boom in online mortgages is about to start.

Integrating Proptech And Fintech

The combination of proptech and fintech is great news for customers, especially for digital natives, who are used to conducting all their business online. AI can save both customers and providers a lot of time by automatically suggesting appropriate properties, financing models and additional services such as moving or cleaning companies. Investors can make their decisions based on a mostly or fully virtual viewing of the house and an automated process to determine the value of property. Large databases provide the foundation for both the proptech and fintech sectors to offer these services to customers.


Robots cannot sell houses, and the support of a good realtor will always add the particularly valuable human element in a successful transaction. Technologies in property and finance can speed up processes, help with selection and help make businesses pandemic-proof. However, while AI and other modern technologies help in the decision-making process, customers can still benefit from direct contact with a realtor or consultant. I believe we are not ready to go 100% digital just yet. Realtors are still a connecting link between proptech and fintech, combining the best of both worlds and adding the personal touch to property transactions.