Why Stoke-on-Trent is so good for investment properties?

 

Anyone who knows me knows that you do not have to be in my company for long before I start to sing the praises of Stoke-on-Trent. It is not where I am from originally, but it is a city I spent time in solidly since 2012 when my property investment and property sourcing business started.

Friends often ask me, why Stoke-on-Trent, Rico? What makes it so special?

Well, there are lots of reasons, the people, the history, and the general feel of the place. And professionally, of course, Stoke-on-Trent is in my opinion by far and away one of the best property investment areas in the UK.

A History Lesson

It was not always like this, though the name of Stoke-on-Trent was once know all over the world. On the tables of kings, queens and presidents, were dinner services that were made in the town – crafted by generations of expert potters who passed down the secrets of their craft from father to son.

Recent decades have not been always been kind to the city, however. The 1980s saw industry slump, just as it did in the industrial towns and cities across the North and Midlands. Factories closed, unemployment rose, and places like Stoke-on-Trent were left with an uncertain future.

That effects of that decline lasted for decades, but now at last there are real positive signs that the city has turned a corner.

New investment, big plans for HS2, an expanding university, new housing and a changing economy have all meant that there is a sense of optimism for the future that has been absent for many years. The town has well and truly got its sense of swagger back.

Stoke-on-Trent: A Resurgent Economy

At the heart of this change in mood has been a series of major initiatives to regenerate the town. These are important, not just for the money that they bring. They have also sent out a signal to locals and to those from further afield, that Stoke-on-Trent has not been forgotten.

Central to this change has been a resurgent economy in the area, helped in no small part by its enviable position between the booming cities of Manchester and Birmingham. Within an hour’s drive, there are 3m people – who can work in the city, visit, or act as customers for the goods and services that city firms offer.

The area enjoys low start-up costs for businesses, with support available from different agencies to help grow the economy.  If you are looking to relocate a business to the area, then the Make It Stoke and Staffordshire website is a great place to start – listing the various grants and other support available to businesses.

All of this has rocketed Stoke-on-Trent into the top 10 fastest growing economies in the country outside of London.

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In finding a new future, Stoke-on-Trent has looked to its past. The ceramic industry has always been part of the city’s heritage, and once again it is thriving.  In fact, there is a rapidly developing Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone which has already attracted 1,000 jobs to the area.

It is not just the ceramics industry. Some of the biggest companies around like JCB, BET365 and Amazon are among others who are also investing millions locally. These are not the sort of manufacturing jobs that past generations of Stoke residents would have recognised. The focus is on what is commonly known as ‘Advanced Manufacturing’. These are high-value, high skilled jobs – with a big emphasis on the automotive, rail and aerospace industries.

The reasons for such success are clear – there is a large, skilled workforce at a lower cost than in some competitor economies such as Manchester and Birmingham. In addition, the average office rental in Stoke-on-Trent is over 60% less per sq. ft than in other cities such as Manchester and 57% less than it is in Birmingham, and there are strong links to the University of Staffordshire, which houses a large engineering faculty with around 3600 students studying subjects that are directly linked to advanced manufacturing. The university as a whole caters for around 15,000 students, all of whom contribute to the vibrancy and cosmopolitanism of the city.

All of this has not happened by accident. There is a whole range of local and national investment and support schemes available for firms looking to locate in the area. These help businesses find the best sites and premises and can advise on grants and other incentives to invest in the area.

Stoke-on-Trent: Improving Connectivity

The other massive factor in Stoke-on-Trent’s resurgence is transport and connectivity – both existing and planned. Strangely, the railways, historically, came relatively late to Stoke – in 1848, some years after the main line had led to the rise of nearby Crewe as the centre of the railway industry. In fact, civic leaders did their best to avoid having the line run through the town to protect the interests of the local canal company which was ideal for shifting the fragile ceramics for which the town was rightly famous.  The result was disastrous for the town – tying its fortunes to a single industry that was already in decline.

Current city leaders are determined not to make the same mistake again. They see transport connectivity, and rail in particular, as a key ingredient for the city’s future economic growth. Even at the moment, travel time to major cities is quick and efficient – Manchester is 35 minutes away and you can be in the centre of London within 90 minutes.

These times will be cut even further when HS2 cuts through the Potteries. The main station for HS2 will be at nearby Stafford, with Stoke-on-Trent acting as a hub station – with a quick, regular service to London. The planned station at Stafford is important, not just for the transport links to London, but because as part of the Stafford Gateway project, it will be used by people from far and wide – potentially opening up businesses in the area to hundreds of thousands of new customers.

It is not just the line either. Even before HS2 arrives, there is a planned major facelift for Stoke-on-Trent’s imposing Victorian train station. The first phase of the work has already started on transforming Winton Square and Station Road in Shelton to make the area more attractive and more user friendly for commuters.

And the transport plans do not just end there. One thing that you can say for Stoke-on-Trent is that the city dares to think big. It has recently set out a 10-year masterplan that could see the return of trams to the city for the first time in almost a century, alongside a new indoor arena. These trams would link up the six towns that comprise Stoke-on-Trent – connecting people, and jobs, together.

The first trams could be some years away, but it is a sign of the scale of ambition that the city has that they see the success of such schemes in Manchester and Nottingham and think, “well, why not in Stoke too?”

Stoke-on-Trent: Housing Investment

All of this, of course has a big impact on homes in the city – both existing and plans for new developments. The housing market in the area saw slow growth in recent decades – so much so that in the early 2000’s, the then Government invested in a ‘Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder’ to try and turn it around. That scheme ended in 2011, and the areas in which it focused, particularly Hanley, Stoke and South Shelton continued to struggle for a little longer. There were issues around obsolescence, surplus housing and unpopular neighbourhoods. Taken together, these factors acted as a brake on house price growth.

However, since 2012, the Stoke-on-Trent housing market has been steadily rising. Because values were quite low to begin with, the area was not impacted as much as many others in the 2008 crash, and the recovery over the past decade has seen steady growth. In fact, 2019 figures from the UK Cities Housing Price Index placed Stoke-on-Trent in the Top 5 cities for property value growth – with a year-on-year value growth of 5.5 per cent. That puts Stoke as 4th out of 65 growing UK cities – with prices rising faster than they are in Manchester, Birmingham and London – a fact that people often find surprising.

This has made Stoke-on-Trent one of the best places for property investment in the UK. In fact, the respected This is Money website has identified Stoke-on-Trent as the UK’s best place to invest in buy to let properties – due to a combination of low prices, decent demand and healthy returns on investment. It has one of the highest current rates of rental price growth  in the county. If you need help finding the right property at the right price to deliver you high yield returns, then it is always worth finding an experienced and reputable property sourcer, who knows the local market, to help.

The story does not stop there as far as housing is concerned. Major investment is planned in residential property in the city. New high-quality homes have been built on the former home of Stoke City FC, and the new luxury Clayworks apartments, built as part of the wider Smithfield regeneration scheme are quickly being snapped up by a new generation of Stoke hipsters. Plans are in place for new housing right across the city, which will change the face of the town.

Photos references: all photos have been taken by Rico Pieroni in order to illustrate Stoke housing market as well as some of the past and current residential projects ad what makes Stoke and Newcastle under Lyme such a good investment area for high yielding properties. There are several more developments and regeneration schemes happening, for more information please contact us. 

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