Over the past 16 years there has been significant changes in the make up of the portfolio of rural estate income, which is a key theme of our recently published Estate Benchmarking Survey. This diversity of income is now probably more important than at any other time given the uncertainties presented by Brexit and the increasing volatility across global markets.
Rural estates in England enjoyed a second consecutive year of improved performance (+2.5%) with increased income from the residential portfolio the principal contributor.
Ian Bailey Savills research comments, “The diverse asset base of these estates insulates them from changing economic and political fortunes more effectively than many less diverse businesses.
“Over the history of our estate benchmarking survey, we have seen how the contributions of the core assets to income have changed”.
In 2000, agriculture contributed nearly 49% of gross income and residential property nearly 37%, today these are almost reversed at 37% and 43% respectively. Also other revenue streams including commercial property and leisure enterprises are making a greater contribution.
Increasingly, estate owners are recognising the need to have multiple income streams in order to balance out market fluctuations. Likewise, they are taking advantage of new income sources, when they arise. A good example is the renewable energy sector into which a number of estates have invested. For those estates which actively participate renewable contributed £9.60 per acre to gross income in 2016, almost double the £5.00 recorded in 2014.
Also estates are looking at house building. Our survey suggests 28% of estates plan to build more homes on their land and 40% will look to sell land to developers.
We fully expect the residential sector’s contribution to gross income to continue increasing. In the 12 months to April this year a 15.3% rise was recorded. Estates are actively seeking the best rents by upgrading properties when they become available. Overall, the strongest rental growth is for the smaller properties, but there is anecdotal evidence over the past year of strengthening lifestyle demand for renting, rather than buying larger country houses.
Estate owners are often receptive to letting larger estate properties on longer leases in order to provide tenants with a period of security, perhaps while children are at school nearby or an employment contract involves relocation for a fixed period. This approach can free up a costly to run asset while providing a valuable income for reinvesting.