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Over the last decade, those looking for a high-quality property investment have flocked northwards.

The rapid rise in property prices across London and the southeast is a significant factor. Many simply cannot afford to invest in the south. Besides, rental yields are generally lower than in the North despite some hotspots. So unless an investor is willing to sit on a property and wait for the long-term capital gains (which, in fairness, is not a bad idea), the profitability of an investment property in London is limited – especially for buy-to-let.

Meanwhile, northern cities are witnessing a revival. Decades of under-investment and under-development have given way to a surge of regeneration and progress. Graduates and young professionals are sticking around, the job sector is thriving (especially in tech), and tourism is rising.

Naturally, Manchester and Liverpool, as the two biggest cities in the North, are seeing the highest levels of investment. And rightly so, given their past performance and future forecasts. But, in this article, we’ll instead make a case for a former heavyweight of the industrial revolution, which is now showing signs of great promise: Preston.

Property Investment in Preston

In 2018, Preston was named by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as the most improved city in the UK, based on improvements across employment, income, property, transport, environment, work-life balance and inequality.

The recognition was a welcome and well-earned reward for the city’s development over recent years, aided by initiatives designed to boost the local economy.

Preston City council believes the city has the “economic potential to sit alongside Manchester and Liverpool as one of the region’s first-class city destinations”.

So let’s take a deeper look and make a case for property investment in Preston.

Affordable Property Prices

The main benefit of cities in the North for investors is the more affordable property prices. And Preston is no different.

It offers some of the best prices in the region relative to its size and future potential. Accordingly to Zoopla, the average apartment in Preston sells for just over £90,000. This is much lower than many of the UK’s most popular investment locations, such as London (£520,000), Manchester (£172,000), Leeds (£152,000), Liverpool (£144,000), and Sheffield (£138,000).

Why’s this important? Apart from highlighting how cost-effective the city is, apartments are popular choices with property investors due to the high demand from tenants for high-quality, modern, city-centre stock.

Short and Long-Term Returns

Research suggests those who invest in property in Preston can achieve the best returns in the UK. Coulters took the average property price in every UK city, calculated the likely mortgage costs, and compared it to each city’s potential income from average rental prices. The result? Preston offered the best return on investment, with potential profits of more than £5k a year.

Thinking more long-term, the average price of a property is set to increase more rapidly in the North West than anywhere else in the country over the coming years. Manchester and Liverpool, in particular, are huge drivers of growth for the region and, as such, are likely to see the most significant impact on property values. However, as the region’s third-largest city, Preston will be a force too. We expect property investors in the city to benefit massively from long-term capital gains – especially with the plans the city has in place (more on this below).

Levelling Up

In 2019, Preston was awarded £20.9 million from the Towns Fund, a £3.6 billion government initiative for towns and cities across the UK.

Preston will use the funds as part of the city’s 15 year City Investment Plan. This major regeneration scheme will run between 2020 and 2035. It aims to improve cultural and leisure infrastructure, boost city-centre living, aid health and well-being, and grow the economy by opening a new commercial district.

This is excellent news for any investor. The plans should create new jobs, bring more employers to the area, and, in turn, create more demand for city-centre property – all of which will increase rental prices and benefit the local property market.

Young Population

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is based in Preston. Around 28,000 students are enrolled in the university, according to figures from HESA.

This leads to a young “feel” in the city, with a high population of students and newly-graduated young professionals who have chosen to stick around after their studies. Population statistics show 36% of the city’s population is under 25, well above the national average of 30%.

The key takeaway here? There’s a swell of tenants that fit the ideal demographics for a landlord. And those numbers are topped up every year by a popular, internationally-renowned university.

Preston Property Investment Summary

Most real estate investors have not previously considered properties in Preston. Still, the data suggests they should consider the serious reward on offer – especially for central, buy-to-let apartments focused on the city’s younger population.

One further factor we haven’t touched on above is the city’s unique location. Positioned at the geographical centre of the UK, several major motorway networks run close-by or through Preston. The region’s major airports are also within easy reach, and  HS2 is coming too. Plus, it’s the closest “big” city to the excellent Lake District, a significant pull for many.

If you’re looking to invest in property for the first time or expand a growing portfolio, we highly recommend taking a look. Feel free to get in touch to discuss your plans with one of our team. We can help you find a property suitable for your budget and objectives all at no cost to you. We can also offer some friendly advice and unique insights to help with your property investment.

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