What’s driving up property prices in Liverpool city centre?
We take a look at the neighbourhoods that have seen the biggest house price rises since the pandemic
Dear members — we’ll start today’s newsletter with three (yes, three!) pieces of exciting news. Yesterday, we not only reached the 1000 member milestone, we smashed through it and now sit on a grand 1017. A huge welcome to all 18 of you who signed up after yesterday’s newsletter.
We got some lovely messages and emails, so thanks for those. As one tweeter said: “Fantastic local reporting & fascinating stories written by people who know and love the city. You won’t see this level of Scouse understanding & knowledge from any other news source.” We also got a shoutout from industry publication Press Gazette, who told their followers that us, alongside our sister publications in Sheffield and Manchester, all now boast more than 1000 paid subscribers. As one reply said: “But Reach [says] that only clicks and adverts will make them money… but.. but.. but…”
Anyway, enough gloating…onwards and upwards!
We’ve also secured our second full time hire. The identity of the newcomer will have to remain shrouded in mystery for now as she serves her notice at her current job, but by sometime next month we’ll be expanding, not just the number of teabags needed in the cupboards at Post HQ but also the ambition and scale of the projects we can take on.
And the third piece of exciting news, if you’re not all exciting-newsed out. Alongside our permanent signing, we’ve also secured the services of Daniel Timms on loan for the summer. Daniel is a data and policy whizz who used to work as an analyst for Metro Dynamics and is going to be writing for The Post and our sister publications (The Mill and The Tribune) for the next four months. To get in touch with him with any tips, info or just to say hello, email email@example.com. In his Post debut, he’s looking at what’s driving property prices around Liverpool, sure to play into the Great British obsession with house prices. It’s a cracker, and it’s got great graphs too…
Your Post briefing
A group of former pupils of Lower Lee boarding school in Woolton who suffered sexual and physical abuse in the 1980s and 90s are taking legal action against Liverpool City Council (LCC) for allowing it to go unchecked. Calling themselves “The Forgotten Boys”, the group have described staff attacking them with hockey sticks and cricket bats, making them stand naked in corridors and sexually assaulting children as young as five. Their lawyer said it was “one of, if not the worst, cases” he had seen in his career. Two men were jailed for offences relating to the abuse in the 90s and the council has previously said it “should never have been allowed to happen”, but the men believe action should now be taken. Jack Barnes, who attended the school, said LCC had “parental rights putting me into that school and they failed me”. He added: "I've had my childhood stolen from me.”
Lucy Letby — the nurse accused of murdering seven babies on a neonatal ward in Chester between 2015 and 2016 — wrote “I killed them on purpose because I'm not good enough” on a note found at her home, a jury heard. The 33-year-old denies the charges, plus further charges of attempted murder. The notes, found at her home when she was first arrested in 2018, included a number of other sentences, including “I am evil I did this” as well as “slander”, “discrimination” and “I haven't done anything wrong”. Extensive other notes and writings found in Letby’s home were also shown to the court.
Pte Richard George Masters, a Victoria Cross recipient war hero who helped save the lives of over 2000 soldiers during World War One, has had his grave refurbished. Masters was awarded the honour for driving an ambulance under heavy fire to rescue numerous injured men at a place called Hell Fire Corner near Bethune in France in 1918. His actions won him the Cross “for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty”. He lived until 1963 after the war, dying aged 86. His Southport grave had fallen into a state of disrepair in the years since, so ex-soldiers Edward Byrne and Roland Sutton stepped up, giving Masters a new grave “to reflect the heroism of our local hero”.
By Daniel Timms
Scroll to the bottom for our accompanying interactive data story, which allows you to delve into the figures in more depth.
Data journalism can be dispiriting. You spend ages pouring over a spreadsheet, only to find that the thing you’re looking at is completely average or easily explained. No, the accounts aren’t being fudged, and yes, the place with the poor education outcomes also has poor health outcomes. Then you go back to trudging through the numbers.
But the reason you do it is that, every now and then, you find a number that makes you sit up. The white whale to my Captain Ahab. Like my discovery this week that the average property in Liverpool City Centre now sells for 60% more than it did just before the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s right — 60%.
While house prices went up across the country in the pandemic — due to a combination of extra saving, the “race for space”, and the near abolition of stamp duty — this is well above the national average of 11.1%. It’s also well ahead of any other Liverpool neighbourhood (though not too far behind is Riverside — which also contains some of the urban core). The chart below shows the change for every ward between the start of the pandemic and the most recent data point (September 2022), with the helpfully named “Central” ward best capturing the City Centre.
We can put that in context by looking at other city centres in England’s so-called “Core Cities”, highlighting the council wards that best fit the city centres:
What does this chart show us (other than that Birmingham has an inordinate number of wards)? Firstly, Liverpool has seen growth that is generally stronger than most of these other cities — whereas their neighbourhoods tend to be clustered to the left-hand side of the chart, Liverpool’s are more evenly spread — only Manchester sees a similar pattern. Secondly, most cities see the opposite pattern to Liverpool with their city centre having lower growth rates than the whole city — in Bristol and Newcastle, city centre values have actually fallen. That’s not surprising, given many reports of people looking for more private outdoor space during the pandemic. And thirdly, Liverpool city centre’s growth has been off-the-scale compared not just to city centres but almost all neighbourhoods in these cities.
At least part of this seems to be a catch-up effect — going into the pandemic, the city centre’s house prices were in a deep slump, and now they’re recovering. If we look at the absolute values before and after for the city centres, you can see how far Liverpool was lagging before the pandemic (and it’s intriguing to see Manchester city centre overtake Bristol’s).
Some of the most expensive properties in the city centre have gone for upward of £500,000 — mostly apartments — and there’s some evidence of corporate property investments, including thirteen waterfront flats in the same block which all sold for exactly £2.04m each (if you know any more about this intriguing transaction, do get in touch…)
I caught up with local writer, David Lloyd, who explained that the supply of new properties onto the market has slowed down following the ongoing investigations into how developments were awarded under Joe Anderson. Various high profile sites, such as the Liverpool Infinity scheme have stalled, and investor sentiment is somewhat cagey. “Demand is still out-stripping supply”, he concludes.
There’s also evidence of more people moving to Liverpool. When the Census was held in March 2021, 63,000 people had moved to the city over the previous year, accounting for over 50% of all people in some parts of the city centre. We unfortunately don’t yet have data on who they are and where they moved from — many will certainly be students — but some of the rumoured out-migration from London may well have ended up here.
Depending on your view, all of this could be a positive sign that Liverpool city centre is starting to play in higher leagues, and that recent investments in areas like Liverpool Waters and the Baltic Triangle are beginning to attract serious interest. The alternative take is that the forces of global capitalism have spotted a value opportunity and will quickly get to work eradicating affordable accommodation in the centre. Perhaps both are true.
This isn’t just a story about the city centre though. Looking at our first chart again, most neighbourhoods in Liverpool have seen prices go up by over 20% — which compares to the England average of 11%. While not everywhere has shared in this uplift, that’s pretty impressive.
Where does that leave house prices now? The map below shows the distribution of values — the more blue it is, the more expensive:
Clearly, the North-South divide (or perhaps more accurately, Northwest-Southeast divide) remains strong in Liverpool. There’s a huge difference in what you get for your money between Walton and Woolton, with the average property going for three and a half times as much in the latter. In absolute terms, Woolton saw an increase in property prices of £72,750, second only to Allerton and Hunts Cross (£75,500).
That all being said, Liverpool remains a fairly affordable place to live, at least in relative terms. The average house is just under five times a resident’s average earnings, compared to a ratio of 6.2 in the North West and 8.3 across England. In fact, it’s been a gap that’s been generally widening over recent years. But you can see the pandemic effect in the jump in the 2021 data — and the comedown in 2022 has been more muted here than elsewhere:
Ratio of average house prices to average earnings
At a national level, the Covid-era house price boom has begun to reverse – at least partially. The rise in interest rates after the Truss “mini-budget” has caused demand to fall back and prices to begin to sink. Although — as the chart below shows — prices remain well above where they were before the pandemic, and the fall is already beginning to level off.
We don’t yet have the data for what this national dip in prices means in Liverpool. But it’s clear more broadly that the pandemic has kickstarted higher growth rates, especially in the centre — which has recovered from a slump in values. If development remains restricted, prices may continue to climb. Perhaps comfortingly for those of us who aren’t multimillionaires and yet, perhaps pluckily, still aspire to home ownership — flats going for more than £1m are likely to remain the exception, not the rule.
We’ve created an accompanying data story to allow you to explore these figures in more depth: click here to dig into the nitty-gritty.