Location, Location, Location: it’s no coincidence the TV show seized on that title because the importance of a property’s position is key for the buyer. But will the concept of ‘location’ have to be redefined by the changes now afoot on the High Street?
Recent days have shown how the concept is shifting shape.
Last week’s press release from Lloyds Bank included research - well, you could call it that - suggesting a home within walking distance of a leading supermarket could have £21,500 added to its value; even more if the supermarket was a Waitrose, Aldi or Lidl.
It struck me how old-fashioned that claim was and that press release was.
I don’t just mean that estate agents came out with a ‘Waitrose effect’ almost a decade ago (that research, too, was pretty flakey as some of those agents admit). No - more important is the fact that the Lloyds press release had little relationship to today’s changing world.
Peoples’ shopping habits have altered (more ‘small’ shop visits rather than a ‘big’ weekly expedition, for example, plus of course the delivery of food by growing numbers of stores) and as a result many High Street names are disappearing or contracting.
What might this mean to agents, the housing market, patterns of demand and even property details in the future?
Firstly, it seems the long-standing definition of ‘location’ will still be key for some time to come...but perhaps it may ‘fray’ around the edges a little.
Agents are already reporting that deliveries by Ocado and the like have given some second home locations a new lease of life - the ones that previously would have been harder to sell because of their distance from shops.
Secondly ‘location’ may be redefined a little, to include ‘services’ too.
So how long before property details say less about a house being situated ‘close to a neighbourhood shopping centre’ and more about it being ‘within the boundary of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Ocado services’?
Thirdly, will this High Street volatility change how people think about location?
Of course, being close to a school or a railway station will be key to many. But might country houses (distinctly less popular now, even amongst the posh) get a second wind?
Will ‘city centre living’ - a title invented in the 90s when buy-to-lets were being built in large numbers in areas previously dominated by bars and restaurants - be a harder sell when people almost anywhere within a five mile radius of a city centre can see the latest movie on Curzon At Home while eating a Wagamama meal delivered by a guy on a bike?
Finally, what if shops as we know it change completely anyway? What then for ‘location’?
I recently visited Amazon Go, the company’s first convenience store, located in an office quarter of Seattle. There were no Eds or Sharons on the tills (actually, there were no tills) and there wasn’t even an ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ automatic check-out.
Instead I entered through a turnstile opened by my Amazon app. Cameras and sensors traced everything I bought and within seconds of leaving the shop (‘without paying’ so to speak) an itemised receipt pinged into my email inbox. The payment had already been deducted from an Amazon Prime account.
Amazon has spent five years developing the technology to allow this - imagine what it could do to the concept of shopping if such ‘no staff’ stores popped up in neighbourhoods, automatically making local shopping quicker than going to Tesco or Marks & Spencer.
And don’t think it won’t happen here...the name Amazon Go has been registered as a UK domain, too, so the tech giant clearly has this country in its sights (or should that be sites).
So, the ingredients of ‘location’ are changing fast, as the redundant staff from New Look, House of Fraser, Poundworld, Toys’R’Us, Maplin et al know all too well. It remains to be seen how this may impact the housing market, but as ever, change is coming.
In the meantime, could someone do us all a favour? Could you please tell Lloyds Bank that time has moved on?
*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn