About Anna Rowell

A recent architecture graduate from the University of Nottingham, I am currently working for HTA Design LLP as an Architectural Assistant.

Anna Rowell
United Kingdom

It is clearly propitious for the UK to keep current interest in UK property buoyant, with international purchases accounting for 2.2 billion pounds worth of central London property last year, an increase of 22 per cent from the 1.8 billion pounds spent in 2011 (http://resources.knightfrank.com/GetResearchResource.ashx?versionid=1615&type=1). While there has always been substantial interest from investors toward UK property, there is no doubt that the UK’s property, construction and development sector cannot rest easy with competition increasing in the Middle East and elsewhere. The demand for high value property in London has been driven by an aspiring coterie within deregulated economies, such as China and India, enticed by the transparency of the UK market. However, the demand for central London’s high value property is juxtaposed with the rest of the UK’s struggle to attract investors.

The UK’s property market has to be addressed as a whole in order to maximise returns for investors. A key proposal for driving this is to focus on information availablilty to make the UK an investment haven for local and overseas investors alike. Unclear tax policies dampen international investors’ interest, encouraging them to look elsewhere. In the same way, limited property information limits higher investments by overlooking the opportunities presented by market competition.

The digital era has transformed the role of the consumer, and it is time for this to translate to the property sector. Demands made by better informed and more discerning customers force the pace of change. A systematic approach to building performance labels as a result of Building Information Modelling (BIM) would drive energy efficiency and size of new-build properties, thus creating more consumer choice. In the same way, a clear tax policy for international property investors in UK, particularly after the announcement of the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on foreign property investments, would encourage further interest and competition.

Given the statutory requirement to produce an energy performance certificate (EPC) at the point of sale or rent, there is obvious potential to extend this to include other information with clear and simple metrics to encourage investors to make informed choices. The main statistics of interest to consumers are those with a cost impact. These include the specific tax obligations the investment presents, house or property price indexes, gross internal floor area, energy performance, accessibility and water efficiency, outlined against baseline requirements. Standardising the format of this in a property performance comparison database would enable consumers to benchmark property against one another as one would with competing brands in a supermarket. With instant access to this data, investors can make market comparisons on the available property in terms of long or short term profit, so increasing demand for the industry to match consumer expectations and to achieve market differentiation.

Digital technologies have the potential to expand interest in the property market by harnessing consumer pull. Current technologies can serve to encourage consumer driven quality, value and performance, increasing the ease of local and foreign investments. These tools could include software such as smartphone apps to provide quick calculations for the relative long term costs or profit to the investor. This would update as mortgage providers and the Government introduce more beneficial rates and even differential taxation based on energy performance of properties. Investors wanting more input into new-build developments could use consumer interface portals to compare the appearance, costs, performance and potential lifespan of a property before settling on a final design or investing in a development. A consumer oriented quality rating system would collate customer satisfaction on the quality and reliability of property developers, introducing further transparency to the process. Everyone in the supply chain would also have access to this vital information, and investors would then have all the necessary data to make a well-informed decision before making an offer. This technology therefore serves as a means to make information more readily available, drawing investors to the UK markets for the foreseeable future.