Annual reviews looking at market performance often have a tendency to drown under the weight of their own statistics. The numbers are all very well, and can be very useful, but they don’t really give any insight how it ‘feels’ to have been operating within any business sector over the course of the year.
After all, the property market is notoriously based on confidence, so how developers Landlords and Tenants all ‘feel’ about the market has a direct bearing on their investment decisions, and therefore on market activity.
Bearing the above in mind then, it’s fair to say that 2017 for BB&J Commercial has been a very good year, against a background of quite some turmoil.
We kicked off in January all facing a great deal of uncertainty over Brexit, and it’s fair to say not a lot has changed since. The government may have agreed with the EU to move onto the second stage of talks, but as it’s an ‘all or nothing’ arrangement there remains the very real possibility that a deal may not be reached. Faced with so many unknowns, it’s refreshing to find that the sentiment of most clients we have dealt with has been to roll their sleeves up and just get on with it, a feeling of pragmatism that seems to have been shared across most business sectors.
The biggest challenge BB&J have faced this year, shared with other agents across the market, has been a lack of available freehold stock. Many properties that came to the market on a freehold basis were quickly snapped up, and the same applied with development sites. We had a great deal of interest in an industrial site on Heage Lane in Etwall, and more especially on a site further afield in Lower Pilsley for one our public sector clients, where we had to go to best and final bids and achieved offers of over four times the guide price.
The first quarter of 2017 was also busy on the lettings front, and in truth things hadn’t slowed down much over the winter. All of this activity saw us cement our position as one of Derby’s top agents as we made the top three in EG’s most active agents in Derbyshire in April this year.
Our run of success continued over the summer as we listed and agreed deals on prominent units to national occupiers such as the Co-op and Screwfix as well as agreeing more deals with local occupiers including new offices in Derby to Smith Copper IMFA and the sale of the Black Swan public House in Idridgehay. It was interesting to see activity across all the main sectors of office, industrial , retail and leisure. Whilst retail has been the area that is arguably the most susceptible to the winds of economic change, we have found it to be surprisingly resilient, agreeing in quick succession two deals on King Street in Belper including one to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
We were joined in the summer by Chris Keogh to bolster our agency team. Those of you who know Chris will appreciate he has bought a great deal of drive and ambition to the role, and he has helped bring to the market a number of properties, expanding our geographical area to include north west Leicestershire, south Yorkshire and also an impressive multi million pound industrial development at phase 2 of the Tangent in Shirebrook. This scheme has been extremely successful and out of seven new build units, three were put under offer within the first month of marketing.
Increasing demand for our other professional services such as Landlord and Tenant work and valuations meant we further expanded with the appointment of Lucy Smith, who joins us on a Business Administration apprenticeship to help out our existing office team, increasing us to a total number of seven.
As we moved into the autumn we saw a further flurry of deals completing, including a great couple of weeks where we had a deal complete every day. This is great on one hand but you also need the new stock to replace the properties you’ve let or sold, however, our determined and honest approach worked and during this period we were able to put a similar level of new instructions on to the market.
Of particular note was a 12,000 sq ft industrial unit on Westside Park, which had been on the market with another agent for quite a while, whereas we were able to agree a letting within just four weeks of our appointment through our proactive agency work. Similarly, we took on 8,700 sq ft of hybrid office/industrial space at City Gate Derby and agreed a deal on it in a month. In addition we have very recently become a joint agent on 4,000 sq ft of showroom space at Brailsford with a national agent who had been working on it for over a year, and we were have agreed a sale on the second viewing. It seems a little local knowledge goes a long way!
As we moved towards the end of the year we were very pleased to be involved in deals again with some of the national occupiers ( a prominent unit let to Screwfix in Ilkeston), and acquisition of an off market investment in Ashbourne including Costa-coffee and British Heart Foundation.
We also launched our BB&J Bulletin (which you may know if you’re reading this on it), and strongly upped our exposure on social media. Remember you can follow us on Twitter @BBJCOMMERCIAL and sign up to our bulletin if you haven’t already at www.bbandj.co.uk
All in all, we have had a very good year, getting well and truly ‘stuck in’ against a somewhat challenging backdrop. I think our ambition to grow, backed up with our ability and a firm belief that there are deals to be done if you look for the opportunities and think outside of the box, have all played their part.
More than anything though, I believe that we have a really positive team mentality, and when there are challenges out there, knowing you have a strong team who will all work together for the greater good of their clients and the business makes all the difference.
Finally, and this is the only concrete statistic I will use, I’d like to leave you with this from CoStar, the commercial property agents national database, which shows the most active agents in the Pride Park area:
All in all, not a bad way to finish the year!
Happy Christmas, and see you in 2018!