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Magic numbers

Property agents regularly publish research and statistics in seeking to present a view – their view – of their market.

We all compete for the attention of other property professionals, current and potential clients and investors in claiming to offer the most accurate and comprehensive snapshot of our market at any one time.

My firm is no different and we’ve recently published our annual review which attempts to shine a spotlight on the office and laboratory market performance and prospects in Cambridge.

But do any of them really provide a good picture and are they of any use? We all believe so. Especially those in Cambridge.

All agents have common cause in serving the needs of people trying to do business, in one form or another, here. There are a limited number of key property agents and advisors in Cambridge and although we are in competition, we all make it our business to gather intelligence on what each other is up to.

There’s a friendly rivalry but, in an increasingly squeezed market, there’s the sense of a siege mentality evolving which will serve to engender a feeling of camaraderie as we keep trying to pour a quart in to a pint pot.

The most recent figures quoted about the measure of gross value (GVA) added in Cambridge are from 2012 and register at £4.7 billion. This places the city in the UK top ten in terms of productivity when expressed by the GVA measure.

Think tank, Centre for Cities, it its 2014 edition of its annual Cities report confirmed Cambridge to be the most innovative city in the UK with more patents granted per 100,000 residents than the next five most innovative cities combined.

Upbeat investor confidence remains in Cambridge offices. Yields for well-secured 10-year income moved significantly during the final two quarters of 2013 from 6.5 per cent to 6.0 per cent as evidenced by 22 Station Road, CB1 and Vision Park, Histon.

Forecasting sees forward funding and/or prime freehold investments set to attract 5.75 per cent or better during this year and, therefore, on a par with the Thames Valley/West London corridor markets.

Headline or quoting rents by the end of 2014 in the prime Cambridge zone are expected to be £35.00 psf, with £27.50 psf in the zone which includes Cambridge Science Park, £25.00 psf in the southern cluster in which Granta Park and Babraham Research Campus sit, with £19.00 psf in the outer Cambridge zone which encompasses Cambourne Business Park and Haverhill Research Park.

So it’s happy days for agents, you’d think. However, the number which should really be focusing agents’ minds is the loss of 1.5 million sq ft from the development pipeline in the 12 months between December 2012 and December 2013, leaving just 2.8 million sq ft in the pipeline.

That’s the number that should be the talk of the town. Commercial property interests in the city can’t count on a magic wand to be waved to conjure up more, just like that.