Pub and restaurant sales in the Home Counties remain strong as the number of potential buyers far outstrips the number of available properties.
The number of pubs sold so far this year by Christie & Co's Maidstone office in Kent is up 62% on last year, while the total value of the pubs is well in excess of last year's prices. Although the availability of pubs on the market is still an issue, the number of pubs for sale this year is up 50% on the same period last year.
Furthermore, the number of properties under offer is at an all-time high, with nearly half of pub sales being leasehold properties. Ten years ago, there was very little demand for leasehold pubs, but the lack of freehold sites on the market and the fact that leasehold properties are cheaper to buy is boosting their saleability.
Another factor is the increasing importance of food sales to today's publicans, leading to less concern about the cost of a pint of beer, which often has to be purchased through suppliers specified by the leaseholder. Die-hard drinking pubs still exist, but many other pubs would not survive without their food sales. The increasing popularity of leasehold pubs is encouraging some pub operators to grant a new lease while retaining the freehold, enabling them to retire from the business but maintain an income from the lease rent.
In the northern Home Counties, the number of purchasers registering has increased by 25%. Last year, just over 50% of pub sales in the area were to first-time buyers, including investors looking for alternative ways to invest money while the stock market languished. Competition often led to offers in excess of the guide price.
Restaurant sales are also buoyant in the South-east. Rising residential house prices enabling first-time buyers to enter the market with a deposit and banks' eagerness to lend are two key factors driving the market. But once again, the number of buyers outstrips the number of available properties.