Philip Larkin, the famous poet who moved to Hull in his thirties and lived there until his death, once said that the city suited him because it was ‘on the edge of things.’ Due to its rather isolated position, Hull has always been a place one goes to, rather than goes through. In recent years the number of people going to it has increased steadily, thanks largely to the announcement back in 2013 that it would be the City of Culture 2017. Tourism figures have been on the up ever since and the Rough Guide put Hull on its list of Top 10 Cities to visit in 2016.
It’s not only tourism giving Hull a positive boost – business confidence is also high, with Siemens gaining planning permission for a wind turbine factory in the city back in 2012 and staff now in training ahead of the plant’s imminent opening. The Hilton Hotel, under construction, will also create new jobs and there’s talk of a cruise ship port down the line. Things are looking up for a city once, unkindly, dubbed the ‘crappest town’ in the UK.
Dave Rawding, Director at Larards Residential Sales, says the impact of the City of Culture is growing as it gets closer. “There used to be an apathy in Hull from the residents because they’ve had a lot of white elephants proposed that never got off the ground. Then we had things like The Deep aquarium. We all saw the architectural drawings, it looked fantastic and suddenly it was there.
Positive vibes are fl owing through the housing market and both sales and rentals are buoyant in the city. We’re achieving up to 100% of asking prices.
“Then there was the new football stadium and I think people’s attitudes have changed because they started to see things that were promised come to fruition. Now you go into the city centre and people joke about the amount of work that is going on and there has been some disruption but you can see what’s happening; it is changing people’s ideas about the city.”
The positive vibes are flowing through to the housing market and both sales and rentals are buoyant in the city. “If you went back two or three years we would achieve 85-90 per cent of asking price. Now in some areas we’re up to 96 per cent, in other areas 100 per cent,” says Rawding.
He predicts that the City of Culture could lead to a 5-10 per cent uplift in house prices in certain areas and indeed prices have been up year-on-year every month for the past year, according to Land Registry.
Mark Thompson, Area Director for William H Brown, says the market is already well on the way to achieving this figure. “The Hull market has been improving in terms of average price and transaction numbers have gone up – about 5 per cent last year.”
Some say that prices could rise dramatically, as they did in Liverpool when it was City of Culture in 2008, but the 75 per cent-plus growth that took place in that city over the five-year period up to 2008 was likely attributable as much to the pre-crash housing boom as its cultural credentials.
Like many other areas of the country, there’s a supply/demand imbalance in Hull, say agents. “Stock levels are down,” says Mark. “Just as an example, we put on a new development of seven small houses in the west of the city on the market earlier this year. They all sold within a week. That gives an idea of how quickly things are selling, especially new properties.”
NEWBUILDS AT A PREMIUM
Although Hull has a huge stock of Victorian properties, new builds are very popular, particularly in the Kingswood area of East Hull. More than 3,500 homes have already been built there and developers have turned their attention to the Kingswood Park estate, slightly further out of town.
Kevin Thubron, Sales Director at Persimmon Homes Yorkshire, currently building the Richmond Fields development in Kingswood Parks, says the location is a huge draw. “In the last two years we’ve done over 200 sales at Kingswood; testament to the draw of the location. That is down to the fact that you’ve got so much going on around there – good quality housing but you also have the supermarket, retail outlets, leisure outlets and restaurants so there is so much there for people. There is definitely a good vibe to the Kingswood Park area.”
Retail giant Next is building a flagship superstore in the Kingswood Retail Park, replacing its smaller outlet with one that will provide 220 jobs.
“What differentiates Hull from much of the rest of Yorkshire is the diversity of the economy. You have a bit of everything; the maritime connections but also retail work and the chemical and healthcare industries, as well as developments like Siemens and the wind turbine plant. All of this helps to support incomes and affordability,” says Thubron.
Prices are higher than the Hull average in the Kingswood area, at £151,698 versus £110,764 according to Rightmove, but developers offer purchase schemes such as part-exchange and the Help to Buy scheme is also popular.
Other modern housing areas include marina developments of houses and apartments, as well as the old Fruit Market on Humber Street, a dilapidated area where a swathe of new housing is now under construction.
Rawding of Larard’s says developments such as those in the Fruit Market are bringing city centre living back into vogue. “Because of the City of Culture there is a lot of regeneration going on in the city centre and more apartment blocks coming up. City living is becoming a trendy again.”
EAST VERSUS WEST
Traditionally West Hull and its villages have been the more desirable places to live in Hull’s vicinity, with outlying villages such as Willerby, Brough, Kirk Ella, West Ella and North Ferriby providing good access to the centre and the motorways. More centrally, the Avenues and Dukeries areas and the cul-de-sac of Newland Park are among the more desirable locations, with large houses fetching £300,000 to £400,000.
However, East Hull is growing in popularity and looks set to benefit further due to its proximity to Alexandra Dock, where the Siemens factory is located, according to Steven Goforth, Branch Manager at Reeds Rains, East Hull. “We are seeing a lot of talk about the Siemens project coming to the east of the city and this is great for the area. Once it is running and fully staffed I think we will see more people wanting to live in the east or in the village of Holderness, which is a good commute into the development site.”
Rawding says people are already opening up to the idea of living in East Hull. “People used to say to us in the past that they had specific areas where they wanted to live. We have a lot of people now that will come in and say, ‘I want to be within a five or 10 mile radius of the city centre and I’ll consider west or east.’ If they go to the east and compare what they get for the money and they don’t need to live in the west for the motorways, they’ll buy in the east.”
East Hull is also increasingly a hunting ground for investors, says Goforth. “One thing I have noticed is the number of investors approaching us because East Hull is ideal for buy to let investors.”
LANDLORDS ENJOYING HEARTY YIELDS
One reason landlords have turned their attentions to East Hull in recent years is the introduction of Article 4 directions related to shared housing in central postcodes. This has made it harder to run the large student houses once favoured by out-of-town investors. Increased competition from purpose built student accommodation has also dented returns for student housing landlords.
But there are plenty of areas where investors can still achieve decent yields and last year Hull was number two on HSBC’s list of buy-to-let hotspots, with an average rent of £450 and an average yield of 7.81 per cent.
Goforth says landlords are particularly drawn to the HU7, HU8 and HU9 postcodes of East Hull, with the Greatfield, Bilton Grange and Longhill council estates proving popular among both investors and first-time buyers. “These are good areas, there is a lot of regeneration and a large number are privately owned. We sell some of these within days.”
While landlords are being hammered by tax changes, Thompson predicts this could have less of an impact in places like Hull. “It’s my suspicion places like Hull will see more, not less, investors as those committed to the property market look for cheaper properties with better yields that they can possibly buy for cash, instead of taking out mortgages.”
A SUNNY FUTURE
With demand for holiday lets growing thanks to the tourism boom and holiday lets exempt from the reduction of mortgage interest relief rules coming in next year, it may hold appeal for those looking to diversity their property investments. TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals says it saw a 45 per cent increase in demand for holiday lets in Hull last year and is expecting an almost 100 per cent rise this year.
While geographically Hull may always be ‘on the edge of things’, cultural and economically it seems it is increasingly getting closer to being ‘in the thick of things.’ As it attracts further investment and its population grows, there seems to be only one way for its housing market to go, and that’s up.