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Demographic Trends Pushing Land, Housing Values Up

By Expert Author: Chris Westerman

Land and housing values are affected by certain demographic trends.

Housing values are affected by many factors: the economy, the availability of financing, building, population growth and variables of age and ethnicity.

For those considering making an alternative investment in strategic land, it is worth understanding the housing shortage in the UK. It’s a classic case of short supply, high demand – and increasing prices. Perhaps less well known are the underlying factors, particularly population trends:

Net increase in population for England and Wales

Unlike other parts of Europe and Russia, there are clear population increases now and likely into the future:

• The population grew by 3.7 million people in 2001-2011, a rate of about 7.1 percent.

• Growth was largely due to inward migration, higher birth rates and a lower death rate in the elder population.

• There is projected population growth of 4.9 million in the current decade, and by 6 million additional residents between 2020 and 2035.

• England and Wales are now populated by 56 million people, the highest ever recorded. Concentration and growth rates are highest in London and the East Midlands, lowest in the North East.

Influx of professional class immigrants

Part of the growth of population can be attributed to troubles in the Eurozone:

• Anecdotally, we know of working professionals moving to the UK because of the Eurozone crisis. The Financial Times reported in June that the posh neighbourhoods including Mayfair, Belgravia and Knightsbridge were destinations for well-heeled foreigners looking to establish a London address (this is being curtailed by a stamp tax imposed by the chancellor, George Osborne).

• Savills, the real estate firm, has data that reflects these increases: Buyers from Spain grew by 14 percent in 2011; from Italy, by 46 percent and from Portugal, by a whopping 153 percent.

• London real estate prices, atypical of the housing elsewhere in the UK, maintain their value perennially. Save for a dip in 2008 and 2009, prime Central London home prices have continued on an upward swing that is divergent from the rest of the country since 2005. As it is said, there will always be London.

• The children of working class immigrants, many of whom arrived during the Thatcher era or before, are experiencing better-than-average social mobility, adding to the class of people who are likely to purchase homes.

Population is aging – but not moving

Hooray for the pensioners in that they are living longer and more vital lives. However, that means they are staying in their homes longer, which keeps their flats and cottages from coming available on the market:

• As a share of population, people aged 65 and older constitute the largest ever portion at 16.4 percent

• In the 60-64 age group – baby boomers – the number of individuals increased by 800,000 between 2001 and 2011. The total in that category is about three million.

• The largest proportion of older people live in the South West; proportionally, London has the fewest pensioners.

Rental rates are up (£750 per month in private housing, on average), which usually precedes greater demand for home purchases. But developers are not finding loans nor are younger buyers able to find mortgages due to tight credit markets. Consequently, there is building demand for housing – but the demand is not being satisfied.

Does this portend explosive growth once credit is eased? The factors are all there, but the question can only be answered by the banks … and time (something those hardy, long-lived pensioners, many of whom lived through the War and shortages in the aftermath, might be able to tell us about).

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