Published on Tuesday, 2 January 2024

As we say goodbye to 2023 and welcome in the New Year, I have come to the conclusion that on the whole 2023 wasn’t too bad a year.  On a personal note, I ticked something off my bucket list with a trip to Twickenham in the summer to watch the All Blacks v South Africa.  It wasn’t the result I had hoped for, but to see the Haka live was a pretty special experience.

From a business point of view the market surprised me in the end.  The year started off strongly with a number of deals concluded, but then mid-way through the year the market did falter slightly.  Interest rates were creeping up, inflation was at an all time high, recession was being talked about and we had one bank holiday after another.  Then post summer the market rallied.  I do like a good statistic or two.  I check our website each month to see how many properties are being viewed and how many brochures are downloaded.  Apart from the mid-year blip traffic has been consistent all year.  We made the bold decision at the end of 2022 to list on Rightmove Commercial to supplement our advertising on Zoopla Commercial, Egpropertylink and Loopnet.  It was a good decision and has generated some good quality leads for us.

I’m going to pick three highlights from the year.  Firstly, the sale of Westgate Park in Grimsby.  It was my biggest deal of the year with a building that worried me when we started marketing.  However, we got the deal over the line in good time and the client was delighted with the outcome.  Secondly a letting at Stable Yard near Barrow in North Lincolnshire.  This was not a big deal, but just a lovely quirky office in a beautiful setting.  Finally, the work that we’ve done at Priory Tec Park in Hull.  It had proved to be a difficult location to let offices, but with some fresh marketing techniques and careful structuring of lettings we’ve got a couple of nice deals away.  They proved that hard work does bring its rewards.  It is slightly ironic that my three highlights of 2023 were all in the office sector, which has proved to be a more than tricky market as people have changed their working habits post Covid.

The year did present a challenge as the high street said goodbye to a long-standing name.  Wilko’s finally succumbed and Administrators were appointed.  I’m now dealing with the re-letting of their town centre store in Grimsby.  It’s a big space, but well located adjacent to the proposed cinema, leisure and market hall scheme.  We’ve engaged architects and are looking at how the building can be repurposed, possibly changing the orientation to look out over St James Square and E-Factor’s St James House redevelopment.

As we approached the end of the year I had a fantastic day at The Commercial Property Network (www.thecpn.co.uk) conference and cocktail party at the prestigious Lansdowne Club in London.  It was great to meet up with fellow members and guests and I was privileged to host a Q&A with our guest speaker, David Smith – Economics Editor of the Sunday Times.

So what does 2024 have in store?  To be honest I think it will be about the three W’s.  Watching, wondering and waiting.  I expect many occupiers and investors will start the year with a watching brief, taking stock of the market.  They will be wondering what is going to happen to interest rates.  Will they plateau or perhaps start to come down again, or is another rate rise on the horizon if inflation starts to creep up again?  Conflicts in Ukraine and the middle east rumble on which have an indirect impact on our economy.  I can’t talk about 2024 without mentioning the election.  We will have a general election in the next 12 months.  The smart money says there will be a change of Government, but the only thing certain about politics is the uncertainty!  Who knows what might happen?  Buyers will be waiting for the right moment to close a deal.  I think Q1 will be a steady start to the year, but I’m optimistic that as the year progresses activity levels will increase and ultimately 2024 will, as a minimum be on a par with 2023. 

And finally.  I need to cross something else off my bucket list.  Options currently under consideration are a Thames high speed RIB ride or a trip to the south of France to drive over Norman Foster’s Viaduc de Millau.  Watch this space.