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PROPERTYdrum Pulse: Cardiff

publication date: Dec 1, 2009
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Croeso i Caerdydd! Welcome to Cardiff! And although it was rather too early for daffodils, at the end of balmy October it didn’t rain at all during my visit. What a treat to see the stunningly regenerated Cardiff Bay and the city centre so fresh it could be a New Town. But Cardiff is far from being a ‘new town’; it is the capital (since 1955) of Wales and while it has many very impressive new buildings, it also has its fair share of historic landmarks including Cardiff Castle, which is 2000 years old.

Among the new buildings, the most prominent are the Senedd, also known as the National Assembly building, which is home to the National Assembly for Wales. The building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 1 March 2006 having cost £69.6 million to build. Looming in the city centre is the 75,000 capacity Millennium Stadium, an incredibly impressive all-round venue which was the first to have a retractable roof. It hosts all manner of events including rugby, cricket, football and speedway as well as concerts and spectacular shows. There are many other venues as well, hosting top acts in music, dance, drama as well as any other type of entertainment you can think of. Cardiff is a very cool city; in the centre smart hotels abound (and are much more reasonable than most UK cities), throbbing nightclubs, trendy bars and a truly international feast of restaurants attract the crowds every night. You can’t help noticing the young revellers – some barely out of their childhood and barely dressed – who start to party early in the evening and manage to carry on all night long.

Down by the waterside there is an equally diverse range of entertainment on offer, from night-time jollity to daytime family fun, with sailing and a myriad of watery events in summer. In Cathays Park right now there is a Winter Wonderland, complete with ice rink, a huge wheel and unlimited possibilities for fun. Culturally speaking you are spoilt for choice in Cardiff. The Welsh National Opera has recently staged La Traviata and Madame Butterfly, the fabulous Royal College of Music holds open days where you can try out a Steinway piano or meet the stars – when I was there you could sing with the excellent choir, All Men Aloud. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales holds regular concerts at St David’s Hall and Llandaff Cathedral presents evenings of song; to name just a few opportunities. If nothing really draws you there are CDs of famous Welsh exports Tom Jones, Kathryn Jenkins and Charlotte Church available everywhere to listen to at home.

Slightly less mainstream events and attractions are also plentiful. The Penderyn Distillery, the only distillery in Wales, is located in the Brecon Beacons National Park. You can see the distillery at work and of course taste the award-wining brand, Penderyn Single Malt. The Rhondda Heritage Park, at the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery in Trehafod, depicts coal mining and social life of South Wales. Finally, the Goleulong 2000 Lightship is a slightly strange floating Christian Centre; a central focus for the Churches of Wales.


The day I arrived in Cardiff they had just opened the new £675 million St David’s Shopping Centre. With a particularly flashy John Lewis, über-smart boutiques, family stores and chains this is as impressive as any other European shopping centre. It has the huge advantage of an outdoor area – less oppressive than completely indoor malls as well as blending with existing shopping streets to maintain the broad retail mix.

Elsewhere in the city other shopping areas include Capitol and Queens Centres, Edwardian and Victorian arcades; which, if placed end to end, would totally nearly 1 kilometre of shopping heaven. On the quayside, more niche shops and smart estate agencies sit side by side with even more restaurants. There is also a Riverside Farmers’ Market every Sunday when stallholders set out their wares on the banks of the Taff; all very pleasant.


Cardiff has to be one of the easiest cities in the UK to access; it has an international airport, high speed intercity rail links and the (usually) speedy and efficient M4. Its not so easy to actually reach the city centre by car but I get the feeling that, in common with many cities, they don’t want you to drive into the centre – major promotion of a new Park and Ride service drives the message home. Once there however, city ‘ambassadors’ are posted on street corners to help visitors find their way around, taxis and buses are plentiful and it is a pleasure to walk through the streets and parks absorbing the atmosphere.


The latest official estimate of Cardiff’s population is 324,800 persons (the 2008 Mid Year Estimate). As noted earlier, many are very young – the population by age group in Cardiff is in stark contrast to the rest of South-East Wales. Of particular significance is the effect of Cardiff’s student population who represent around 10 per cent of the city’s residents. Most full-time students are aged between 18 and 29 and more than 20 per cent of the total population are aged between 20 and 29 compared with just over 12 per cent of the total population in the rest of South-East Wales.

76.1 per cent are ‘economically active’, 69.2 per cent are in employment, against the national average of 72.5 per cent, giving an unemployment rate of 8.7 per cent, against the national rate of 7.8 per cent. Major employers in Cardiff include companies such as Legal & General, Admiral Insurance, HBOS, Zurich, ING Direct, The AA, Principality Building Society, 118118, British Gas, Brains, SWALEC Energy and BT, all operate large national or regional headquarters and contact centres in the city, some of them based in Cardiff’s office towers such as Capital Tower and Brunel House. Other major employers include NHS Wales and the National Assembly for Wales.


I asked the experts who buy, sell and let in and around Cardiff. Rhodri Humphreys, Branch Manager of Allen & Harris says, “Cardiff is a great place to live! There are lots of parks and a new shopping centre,” while Jane Rees, Director at Barbara Rees Ltd says, “Cardiff is a friendly city with a huge university which attracts students and young people. The area has also been redeveloped which has really helped.” Tony Felice, Director of Kelvin Francis and RICS spokesman for residential property in Wales says, “Cardiff is a vibrant area and in particular, Cardiff Bay is very popular with lots of tourists enjoying all the new facilities. We also have great shopping: The new St David’s shopping centre expects 30 million people visits in its first year!”

On a sporting level it has a great deal to offer, as Mike Shrubshall of Martin & Co says, “Next year we are hosting the Ryder Cup!” (Cardiff, that is, not Mike’s company). Golf fans, go west.


Residential property prices have, in common with the rest of the UK, dipped in the last 12 months but they still remain a good investment with average prices for a four bedroom detatched house still hovering around the £300,000 mark. All the residential sales agents we spoke to said that demand has increased but there were mixed views on prices. Michael Jones of Michael Jones Estate Agents said, “We have strong demand for all properties up to about £300,000 so sale prices normally stay at the at the full asking price. However, some are more negotiable; it depends on how long they have been on the market and how it is valued in the first place. There are a number of unrealistic prices out there”. Viewing ratios are quite good though; Micahel says that most properties are selling after six to ten viewings. Jane Rees, Director at Barbara Rees, said that Investment properties are most popular at the moment but that, “although demand was up, selling prices are not increasing”.

Rhodri Humphreys, Branch Manager at Allen and Harris, says that, “Everything in demand, higher and lower end property. Last year flats were not selling as fast but now even one bedroom properties are in demand and prices are definitely going up”. No need for cutting asking prices there. Jayne Tearse, Valuer and Sales Manager at Peter Morgan says, “In my opinion, owners with more expensive properties listen to to our advice on reducing the price. The highest priced property we have at the moment is £695,000. Owners with properties around the £250,000 mark often don’t listen to our advice which means they do not reduce the asking price”.

Christopher Barker, Associate at Staff Vale Centre reports a slight increase in interest, particularly for good quality terraced houses, with starting prices of £130,000 going up to £500,000. “Owners are listening more so we are working together on making sure the price is right”.

Tony Felice is a Director of Kelvin Francis, with offices in Lisvane and Cyncoed. they have a full range of properties for sale between £69,950 and £1.65million, the latter being one of he most expensive properties in Cardiff for sale now. “Sales have definitely picked up. “It’s a complete change from March this year, most in demand are the two bedroom starter homes and three bedroomed houses.” Tony also believes that, “Prices have increased hugely. In 2007 an average 2 bedroom property was £189,000 now a similar property is £253,000”. Price increases, says Tony, may be due to short supply – there is a great lack of property available at the moment in this area.

David Matthews, MD of Matthews Estate Agents is equally upbeat, “We have experienced a significant increase in buyers since the start of 2009. Demand for properties in the North Cardiff area has outstripped supply. As result of this increased demand, reductions, compared with the same period six months ago, have been few. Cautious optimism would be my opinion of the property market’s performance during 2010. Confidence is certainly returning to the market, however, we still have a long way to go before conditions return to some sort of normality. We are still seeing little evidence of lending conditions improving for buyers at all levels, and until this happens we can expect any further recovery in the market to be slow.”


PROPERTYdrum research has found that there are over 100 agents offering a wide choice of properties to let in Cardiff. Findaproperty shows 1857 available, while its sister portal, Primelocation, shows 2028. Rents are quite impressive as well, with many of the larger houses commaning rents in excess of £2000 per month. Jayne Tearse, Valuer and Sales Manager at Peter Morgan is optimistic for 2010. “We believe that the market will continue to stay stable but maybe perhaps around and after Christmas it will drop as this is normally a quieter time. Cardiff has good access to the M4 and is becoming more European and less like an old fashioned Welsh town.”

Mike Shrubshall, Director at Martin & Co also finds this time of year relatively quiet, but nevertheless, demand for houses is steady. Landlords with tenancies coming up for renewal are negotiating on rents to avoid having properties standing empty and, if the teants do move out, they are taking agent advice on adjusting the rental asking price. “My predictions for 2010 are all positive as a huge percentage of people will always need and want to rent.” Michael Jones is also finding lettings slightly tougher than sales because of a glut of available properties, “Rental property prices may be in more danger than sale prices. Landlords are stuck with empty properties – something which has not been experienced in recent years.” He also reports that rents are down by around five per cent – although properties let relatively quickly, with four viewings per property being the average.


There is no shortage of new build property in Cardiff. Property developers Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Bovis and Lovell all have new developments there. Michael Graham Young has a very smart development called the Woodlands, just two miles from the city centre, offering nine detached luxury family homes in extensive, landscaped grounds. Prices start at £925,000. At the other end of the price scale but equally impressive, Taylors are marketing new apartments in the waterside dvelopment, Victoria Wharf. For £125,000, these apartments provide stunning views from the balcony, two double bedrooms (one en suite) and a high spec kitchen.


Auction property in the area during the period of our research tended to focus on small terraced houses in need of refurbishment but there are some interesting lots coming up for auction. Savills Commercial Auction on 7 December will offer Woodlands, a 37 bedroom former care home of 15,000 sq ft (approx) set in 2.4 acres 3 miles south west of the City. With a guide price of £450- 500,000 that’s a lot of space. More typically, Allsop recently sold a freehold mid-terrace house in Riverside, a mile away from central Cardiff, at auction for £73,000, just over its guide price of £70,000. The four bedroom, three reception room house is subject to a Regulated Tenancy with a rent of £3666 per annum. Local auctioneers have plenty of activity coming up. As we go to press Seel & Co are preparing for their 24 November sale which offers 40 with guide prices ranging from just £3000,00 for a plot of land to £320,000 for a former school.

The properties are in South Wales; Cardiff offerings include The New Dock Tavern at £75,000 and a ground floor shop in Riverside, guided at £149,000. Meanwhile at Countrywide’s next auction covering Wales on 10 December in Birmingham, they have a leasehold three bedroom ground floor flat, in Singleton Road, Cardiff, guided at £80-85,000. In September, Pattinson, the big auctioneers based in Newcastle, held their first auction in Wales at Cardiff Arms Park, with the aim of attracting homeowners in the area to see how cost effective auctions can be.


Knight Frank’s South Wales latest report expects little growth in activity as the aftermath of recession drags on, but it does expect prime headline rents to be preserved at their current level, in direct contrast with other UK office markets. This is probably because there are just two city centre schemes, at Callaghan Square and Cardiff Waterside. Certainly, there is no glut of good office space although industrial space and land is in good supply. Knight Frank are marketing Global Reach at Cardiff Bay, a 60,000 sq ft building available in units from 2615 sq ft at £16.50 per sq ft.

Also brand new and very smart is Caron House, Oak Tree Court on Cardiff Gate Business Park, which is South Wales’ ‘Premier’ Business Park location. Caron House is one of 14 recently constructed self contained office buildings, available to let through Fletcher Morgan; 925 sq ft at £15,000 per annum. This Cardiff based chartered surveying practice Fletcher Morgan has recently been named Wales and South West of England’s leading commercial property agent for the fourth year. Fletcher Morgan Director, David Mullins said, “It’s been another fantastic double for us and underlines the consistently high reputation which we enjoy both among our clients and the commercial property sector.”

Retail space is clearly available. Although the huge St Davids centre is very well occupied, there is a wide choice of smaller retail units – not all in prime areas of course, some areas outside the city are in need of some of the regeneration budget focused on the glitzy centre. Savills have a shop in a good position on Queen Street, between Starbucks and Gap with three floors giving a total of 6700 sq ft.