UK’S BEST BUY
If London is the UK’s Manhattan, then Birmingham is UK’s Brooklyn, and now is the time to buy.
Text: Regina Russo
A few decades ago, I saw an opportunity in Brooklyn, New York. The cost to own was low compared to New York City, the famous borough that was only a mere few stops on the subway. It was a sense of community, the diversity, culture, restaurants, great schools like Poly Prep, the golf courses, the endless Prospect Park, Botanical Gardens, the fifth largest library in the U.S, and its close proximity to NYC that attracted me to it even when you had to see the scour on people’s faces when you uttered the name. Remember, in Sex in City when Miranda chose to move to Brooklyn from Manhattan. It didn’t sit well with the other girls and Samantha even used breast cancer as an excuse to avoid a visit. Why such hatred. The fear of the unknown, I guess. But really, it only takes one person to spread the word and the others will follow. And it spread. Today, it’s a whole different story. Shit...Matt Damon lives in Brooklyn. But back to the point: my family knew the value; we purchased and made a score. The good news is I am seeing the same trend across the pond, in the United Kingdom, in the lovely city of Birmingham.
Surrenden Invest, a leading property investment firm in the U.K. recently confirmed my suspicions. “The simple fact is, Birmingham is an amazing city that has an awful lot going for it. Its business community is thriving, and there’s palpable energy when it comes to startups and entrepreneurs in the city. Birmingham’s residents demand the very best, whether that’s cultural attractions, retail outlets or the restaurant scene - and that’s precisely what the city delivers. It is a modern metropolis that is drawing in new residents by the tens of thousands, and for very good reasons,” explains Jonathan Stephens, Managing Director of Surrenden Invest.
I began to do a bit of due diligence and start my comparison to Brooklyn and Manhattan. Birghimham is not a few short train stops away from London. It is about an hour by train and two hours by car. For many, this may seem like a deterrent but not me. Do you know how many people commute on the Long Island Rail Road from Nassau and Suffolk Counties to NYC daily? About an average of 311,054. The reason is simple; you get more house for your dollar on Long Island.
My search continues for culture and amenities. I was not disappointed and pleasantly surprised by the number of established museums in the area like the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. The National Sealife Centre reminded me that Brooklyn is home to an aquarium as well. The boxes continue to be checked off as I investigated the green spaces - large park grounds and botanical gardens where one can relax or have a run while enjoying nature. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I could appreciate that the UK’s largest fish market, The Bull Ring, is located in Birmingham. The fact that you can get a fresh catch daily is ideal for both those who love to cook at home and those who like to eat out. Country Club? check the members-only Edgbaston Priory Club, that sits on roughly fourteen acres and provides pretty much everything you could want from a country club except golf. There is the Hilltop Golf Course for that. Shopping malls are fairly descent. Selfridges boasts a personal shopping suite on the fourth floor for those looking for a bespoke shopping experience complete with champagne of course. As for schools, I need to do a bit more research as I have run out of time, and this article needs to go to print. If you can share insight, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now we get down to business. What is available and how much does it cost? One of the leading developments in the area that is centrally located is “Westminster Works.” Home to 220 loft-style apartments, the development is offering 1-3 bedroom luxury residences starting from £168,995. The building provides an impressive rooftop terrace, concierge service, secure on-site parking, and smart home, eco-friendly technology. “With Westminster Works, what we see is apartments and amenities that deliver a new style of urban living to Birmingham’s aspirational, dynamic young professionals,” comments Stephens.
Stephens is pitching buying-to-let and is promising 5% net yields. While that is okay for now, I am looking into the long run. The Grand Central’s opening in 2015 was significant for Birmingham. Now the £500 million Birmingham Smithfield masterplan, located just behind Westminster Works, is taking the regentrification to the next step. Head of city center development and planning, Richard Cowell, has hailed it as, “an example to international cities.” Residents of Westminster Works will soon have access to a new shopping district, museum, hotel, culture centers, leisure facilities, and a 24-hour gourmet foodie hangout.
A return now, and a potential for increase later, puts Birmingham at the top of my list for places to invest next. You might want to hurry if your thinking the same, as property values have increased by over 29% in the past five years with a promising outlook to keep going.