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By Mark Burns

Managing Director, Pure Investor


Why Manchester remains a buy-to-let investment hotspot

It’s been widely reported that Covid-19 has sparked an ‘escape to the country’.

This may have left property investors wondering if Manchester is still a good place to put their money.

The answer is a resounding yes. Here’s why...


Manchester blends city and country

Manchester itself is very definitely a city. Greater Manchester, however, is a mixture of small towns and villages.

Thanks to Manchester’s excellent public transport (and extensive road network), it’s easy to get between all of these places (and to travel far beyond them).

This blend offers two significant benefits to both residents and investors. Firstly, it means that most people can find a suitable property in the Greater Manchester area. Even people on the tightest budgets should still have a decent choice.

Secondly, it means that everyone gets to enjoy the attractions of both the main city and the surrounding countryside.

Manchester has done an excellent job of blending sustainable modern development with its rich industrial history. In particular, it has managed to retain and repurpose many of its iconic buildings.

For example, the former Daily Express office in Ancoats looks the same on the outside. The inside, however, is now modern, and highly desirable, office space.

It’s exactly the sort of balance that could attract modern ‘Covid-19 evacuees’. Despite what some of the papers say, it’s highly unlikely that many people are going to want to relocate from a city to a genuinely remote area.

They’ll want to be anywhere from the suburbs to a town or village at least moderately close to a city.

Manchester has five universities

Manchester is home to The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Salford, University of Bolton and University Academy 92.

Between them, they attract about 100,000 students to the city each year. It’s possible that they will branch out into remote-first learning. It is, however, highly unlikely, that this will become their mainstay.

Real-world universities are likely to be very aware of the fact that remote-first learning has both advantages and drawbacks. The main advantage is reach.

The main disadvantage is that remote-first learning can limit a student’s experience. That’s why remote-first institutions like the Open University have to focus on courses that emphasise theory over practice.

Real-world institutions can offer a much wider range of courses precisely because they can offer the practical facilities needed to support them. It’s also much easier for them to develop links with local businesses and hence create opportunities for work experience, both formal and informal.

There is also the fact that real-world universities provide a safe environment for young adults to spread their wings. They are away from their parents, so feel independents, but still have a support network of peers and professionals.

What’s more, they get to enjoy the social side of university life. This is often at least as important as the educational side.

Manchester has a central location

Throughout most of history, London has benefited greatly from its proximity to the monarch, parliament and the continent. In the modern world, however, advances in transport and the arrival of the internet have both largely negated this.

Now, London’s position has become a drawback because it’s so far away from most of the UK. Manchester, by contrast, is not only easily reachable from the whole of England, but it’s also massively more convenient for people travelling from Scotland and Wales.

People from Northern Ireland are not disadvantaged thanks to the direct air link between Belfast and Manchester.

Manchester’s central location is already appreciated by companies that operate throughout the UK. It could become even more of an advantage if remote/hybrid working becomes a key part of the new normal.

Many employers are likely to want to bring remote staff on-site from time to time. Manchester’s location and transport links make this straightforward.

Companies operating on a European or even global basis are still likely to find their transport options as convenient as they would be in London.

Manchester Airport already has direct links not just to Europe but also to major global cities around the world. The expansion of Manchester Airport will improve these links even further.

Manchester has a great talent pool

It used to be that Manchester exported its young people, especially its graduates. Many headed to London in search of better career opportunities than they could get in their home city. Now, completely the opposite is true.

Manchester is not only holding on to its own young people, including its graduates, but it's also attracting people from other parts of the UK, especially London. This fact has been recognised by employers and is one of the major reasons why companies of all sizes are increasingly choosing Manchester over London.

Even companies that are remote-first can significantly benefit from having a base in Manchester. This can act as a point of contact for customers, a hub for staff and a place to store and organise equipment.

For example, remote-first companies will typically provide staff laptops. These generally need to be individually configured in a real-world location before they are sent out to users. They may also need to be swapped out for repair or upgrade or otherwise updated. Manchester’s location and talent pool make it a great place to have these sorts of jobs turned around quickly.

Manchester is affordable

Both residential and commercial property is significantly more affordable in Manchester than in London. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the city’s population has been continually expanding for many years now. What’s more, many businesses have also established a presence there.

The main reason why Manchester continues to be affordable is that development has kept pace with growth. Where it has been possible, older buildings have been refurbished and, often, repurposed.

Where it has not, they have been replaced with sensitive new developments which are both high-density and high-quality.

This affordability means that landlords can make decent yields without overburdening their tenants. It also means that renters can get onto the property ladder relatively easily when they are ready.

This is a huge incentive for people not just to stay in the city but to move to it from elsewhere in the UK.

*Mark Burns is the Managing Director of property investment company Pure Investor

Poll: Is Manchester on your buy-to-let radar?



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