Stuart Woolgar, CEO of Global Guardians, considers how the uncertainty caused by Brexit has impacted on the British property market and how to manage the security of vacant buildings
The uncertainty over Brexit negatively impacted on the UK property market as 2018 progressed, according to RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), pushing it to its weakest level in more than six years by December, with almost half of surveyors reporting that sellers and buyers were sitting tight because of political uncertainty.
Also, due to the increased economic uncertainty surrounding Britain’s EU departure, which came at a time of moderating house price growth and increasing build costs, house builders were becoming increasingly risk-conscious, commented a UK residential research associate at Knight Frank late last year.
However, amidst the Brexit situation, one thing was incontrovertible. The property development market was and still is experiencing a temporary hiatus. RICS is right. House sales are flat and investors and developers are wary of the potential fall in land values and a sudden glut in commercial property for sale or to let, and the impact that will have on prices, so they are hanging back from commitment until the sector settles down. It will of course. Any review of the property market over the decades shows fluctuations with booms and recessions, but it always stabilises and recovers its equilibrium.
Vacant property and land banked sites, already a focus of negative publicity given the housing shortage, are therefore likely to continue and increase for the foreseeable future and vacant property is everyone’s worst nightmare, if you own it, manage it or live next door to it. Vandals, arsonists, thieves and fly-tippers are attracted to it, and it’s a magnet for anti-social behaviour of all types from graffiti and drug dealing to illegal parties and raves. The fabric of an empty building deteriorates far more quickly than an occupied property and people generally hate living near or next to one because of all the associated problems. Finally, vacant property is difficult to comprehensively insure and owners still have a duty of care for the health and safety of trespassers, even if they are there illegally. Such is the vagary of British law.
Security is another issue that is now high on everyone’s agenda but not just from the threat of terrorist bombs and guns. In uncertain times, when there is also fear of unemployment or it becomes reality, anti-social behaviour and criminality tend to increase.
Vacant property owners and managers need to focus on this serious issue, as empty buildings are a magnet for all kinds of unwanted trespassers and criminal or anti-social activity. A safe pair of hands, expert hands, is what is required to keep vacant property secure, safe and maintained… and also, productive. Something a lot of people don’t even think about.
Estimates on the current number of vacant properties vary but according to The Guardian in September 2018, the number of empty residential buildings in England stood at around 200,000 whilst in October the BBC reported that more than 20,000 commercial properties in the capital have been empty for at least six months, with 11,000 of those vacant for two years or more.
Given the serious shortage of affordable housing across the country, but particularly in the larger urban conurbations, it seems obvious that so much more could be done to facilitate the use of vacant property to provide affordable homes for those on lower salaries, or people struggling to save to get on the property ladder or those who have to live in or near our expensive city centres. People who simply want to lead a less stressful lifestyle, without so much economic pressure on their disposable incomes to pay high rent, bills, taxes, travel and general living costs such as food.
A solution to the security problems associated with vacant buildings is to install property guardians in the premises through an ethical and responsible company such as Global Guardians, the leading organisation in the sector. They can turn the void into a productive building, preserving the property’s value, as opposed to a resource drain, for as long as it’s necessary. The building becomes secured, the guardian company maintains it and ensures there are adequate living and domestic facilities there for its guardians; insurance cover can benefit, and an otherwise vacant building gets turned into a low-cost accommodation opportunity so the social benefit is enormous.
Having guardians living in your vacant property is the best form of security because they provide a proactive security solution as opposed to traditional security services. In addition, our property guardians are good people, often key workers in inner-city jobs, and form close communities where they live in our clients’ properties.
Along with all this, they get the satisfaction of caring for an otherwise vacant building for its owners. No matter what type of property it is, buildings are always so much better when they are occupied and looked after by people who care. The property is kept secure and maintained by us, and instead of lying vacant to deteriorate, it is put to worthwhile use.
Being a progressive and inclusive organisation, we also care for our guardians and always strive to maintain the very highest standards for them as well as our clients. However, not all guardianship companies hold the same values.
As with all business sectors, there are those organisations which strive for excellence, comply with regulations, belong to accredited professional trade bodies and care for their employees, associates and clients… saving them time and money in a responsible way, and there are those who cut corners, ignore recommended standards and are simply out to make a profit. When it comes to ethical business practice, especially in an operation where Health & Safety is paramount, as well as quality of life, property owners seeking to put guardians in their buildings should do their homework and go with members of the British Security Industry Association and who state clearly they follow the recommendations of BS 8584:2015, a standard I personally was involved with producing.
We at Global Guardians are the fastest growing company in our industry and look on ourselves as the pioneers of good practice and compliance, and are leading from the front in terms of offering our clients innovative ideas to make their vacant property productive and work for them, no matter if it is residential or commercial. We are also consulted by those in local and central government, or with an interest in the provision of affordable housing, for thought leadership and professional opinion, based on many years of experience in this evolving sector.
Our organisation offers a cost-effective vacant property security solution which protects commercial or residential buildings. Our solution keeps both clients and guardians updated via our innovative MyGlobe web portal which provides real-time reports on everything connected with the property. No worries, no stress, simply peace of mind which allows our clients to get on with other aspects of their business and life, knowing their empty buildings are being taken care of by experts.
For more information on how we could help you with your vacant property, get in touch with us today.
CALL: 0203 818 9101
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Global Guardians Management Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)7841 954941
+44 (0)203 818 9101