PROPERTY company Grainger says there are increased signs of activity in the market since the turn of the year.
The Newcastle company, which is the UK’s biggest residential landlord, increased its fees and sales during the four months to the end of January.
But rents were down after it disposed of just over half of its German assets to Heitman and entered into a joint venture to manage the properties.
Fees increased to £4.6m from £2.9m in the same period last year and Grainger completed sales of £64.6m, compared to £62.4m, while gross rents stood at £27.3m, down from £30.4m, the trading statement said.
Grainger has been busy during the period with a number of transactions that are part of strategic changes in the business.
They include the German joint venture, announced in December, where Grainger has sold around 3,000 properties to Heitman and will manage them on its behalf, and the newly unveiled build-to-rent venture involving around 100 units in East London.
Grainger chief executive Andrew Cunningham said: "We have started this financial year with a number of significant transactions.
“These endorse and expand upon our asset and property management skills and underpin our stated strategic objectives. Despite the remaining economic challenges, and a slightly subdued market during the first financial quarter, we are seeing increased signs of activity in 2013. Institutional investor interest in the UK residential market continues to grow, supported by positive Government measures.”
He said the group has continued to be a net seller of property and Grainger is committed to reducing its debt to £1bn by the end of the year.
And he welcomed the recent Government support for build to rent schemes, including a £200m fund for the construction and stabilisation phase of Build to Rent schemes and £10bn of Government guaranteed debt for the investment phase of Build to Rent schemes.
Grainger said economic conditions are continuing to favour the private rental sector in the near to medium term, which will lead to growth in rental and income streams.
“While economic uncertainty remains in the UK, there is increasing optimism that we will be able to avoid any further major corrections in the near term, particularly in the housing market in the UK,” the company said.
“Mortgage lending, however, will continue to be constrained, as will affordability for potential house buyers. In addition, a growing number of individuals in the UK are choosing to rent for lifestyle reasons, as is common in many other European countries.”