If you look back towards the end of the 1980s there were many predictions of changing working practices. The idea was that more and more people would work from home and remote satellite offices thereby taking pressure off the commuter routes and potentially impacting property prices. Looking back it is obvious that many of these predictions were “extremely optimistic” and while home offices have increased in number they are nowhere near the levels predicted.
This begs the question – will changing workplace practices in the future impact local and national property prices?
Over concentration in city centres
You only need to look at the larger city centres in the UK to see the often sky high price of property heavily impacted by workplace practices. The fact is that where possible, and where affordable, many people would prefer to be as close to their place of work as possible. This reduces travel expenditure and the vast majority of the UK city centres also offer a vibrant social life.
It would be wrong to suggest there has been no significant change in property market structures, with the creation of outer city hotspots, but these are still very much based upon commuter routes. In many ways this has been caused by ever rising property prices in city centres forcing more and more buyers to the “outer regions”.
Does employment dictate every element of property markets?
The simple fact is that employment opportunities attract people in great numbers which increases demand for property and also investment in local services and transport links. Whether we like it or not there is a direct correlation between employment hotspots and property hotspots. True, the ongoing development of the UK transport network is and will continue to have an impact but this is a very slow burn.
We only need to look at the proposed high-speed rail link which has yet again been put on the backburner even though it was supposed to revolutionise the link between businesses in the North, Midlands and the South. Only a few months ago it seemed inevitable that this high-speed rail link would eventually materialise but the ever-growing cost has put it in real danger. Many investors were already planning their next property acquisitions based upon the much-publicised routes.
Working from home
It would be wrong to suggest that the number of people working from home has not increased but in general it has had no real impact upon traditional workplace trends and commuter related property markets. The fact is that many employers prefer their employees to work together, bouncing ideas off each other and creating a cumulative effect which is good for their underlying businesses. There is a time and a place for working from home but for the vast majority of employees their base will always be in their local company office.
On the flipside, flexible working conditions and the opportunity to relocate employees around different areas of the country has helped to strengthen the buy to let market and the short term lease sector. Trying to guess how the working culture of the UK will change in the longer term is proving more difficult than many had expected.