Prominent city centre building sale is latest example of foreign investment in Hull

Tue 30th March 2021
Jl Anchor House Danny G Mike C And Byron S

Established Hull property company, Westfield Homebuyers, has sold Anchor House to a Chinese businessman in a multi-million-pound deal handled by city legal firm, James Legal.

Westfield founder Mike Clayton purchased the iconic property from a housing association at auction five years ago and spent the following year on a refurbishment that transformed it into a high-quality rental complex.

"It had been used to house tenants with a variety of issues, and so was built from concrete and steel to withstand vandalism, arson and other issues, giving it a very institutional feel," explained Mike.

"We took it back to brick inside and created a suite of high-end flats and studio apartments, as well as putting in communal cooking, garden and barbecuing areas, and even a gym and sauna."

And it was Mike's long-term passion for property that inspired the qualified chartered surveyor to take on what proved to be a tough but rewarding project.

Anchor House, which comprises 44 ensuite bedrooms, 17 Studio rooms and 12 self-contained flats, is at the epicentre of Hull's ongoing regeneration and home to a range of young professionals, including medical staff working at Hull Royal Infirmary and visitors to some of Hull's major industrial employers.

Hull lettings and management  firm MyPad acts as management agent for the building.

All eyes on Hull

Anchor House has now been sold as 96 per cent let by Mike, who, entering semi-retirement, decided the time was right to let someone else take over its running.

He wasn't at all surprised when it was snapped up by an overseas buyer.

"Hull represents a really good investment compared to traditional hubs like London, Manchester or Leeds, because property remains relatively good value here, while still returning solid rental yields, particularly with interest rates on traditional savings still historically low," he continued.

Unsurprisingly, however, dealing with an international purchase in the midst of a global pandemic was no mean feat.

"It did take longer than the three weeks we'd originally hoped for!" said Mike. "In the end, the deal eventually went through after about six months.

"James Legal have been a key partner in the sale. Their excellent communication ensured I understood the options available to me throughout the process. Their expertise was essential to this large project. I'm very thankful for their drive, determination, and practical help on my behalf."

Mike's legal advice was provided by a team from James Legal's Hull office, led by director Kelly Bannister, supported by senior property solicitor Mike Stoney and corporate solicitor Byron Swarbrick.

A passion for property

After becoming the UK's youngest-ever chartered surveyor at the age of 20, in the 1980s, Mike established Westfield Homebuyers in 1989, a cash house-purchase company that aims to operate ethically within a tarnished segment of the industry.

"It's something I feel so strongly about, I've lobbied for the introduction of a code of conduct for the industry," added Mike. 

He estimates he has bought over 1,000 properties over the years - mostly in Yorkshire although he did expand the business nationally for a time. He lets out many of the properties he purchases, which include homes and commercial outlets like hairdressers and gyms.

Anchor House remains his flagship development. "It needed a very thorough revamp after years of neglect and it was an adventure getting it into the condition it's in now, supported by an award from Hull Civic Society.

"It was a challenging one, but one I have an enormous amount of pride in," he explains," because it represented my contribution to the ongoing regeneration of parts of the city like Anlaby Road."

Does Mike plan to take it easy now he's done a good deal on his top property? "I doubt it somehow - another opportunity will come along!" he said.

Danny Gough, managing director of MyPad Accommodation, said: "This deal was a fantastic development for all the companies involved, and indeed for Hull as a city.

"MyPad will continue to manage Anchor House for this overseas buyer, who I understand hopes this will be the first of many similar investments in this locality. And he's not the only one - we're seeing many similar enquiries, week-on-week, from foreign investors who like the look of what Hull and surrounding area has to offer.

"And it's no wonder, with rental returns in Hull averaging eight to 10 per cent compared to places like Leeds and Manchester where they are closer to four or five per cent, or less.  As the city really finds its feet through regeneration, there's great potential here for capital values to continue growing too.

"James Legal did a great job of executing this deal and the whole process went as fast and smoothly as possible, despite the size of the property, the number of lets involved and the international nature of the transaction."

Danny, who has managed the Anchor House lets since Mike first purchased it, added that, together with a corporate letting company, Easy Rooms, they have let out rooms and apartments to 100s of aspirational individuals attracted to the city, in recent years.

"We see a lot of trainees within the technology and energy sectors and the many blue chip companies investing in the area, coming to stay here and then deciding to put down roots because they like it so much," added Danny. "We have apartments in the city centre that now let for £3,000 per month, buildings with onsite gymnasiums', cinemas and more, and it's a place people increasingly want to be, with its transport links, trendy areas like Humber Street, beautiful surrounding countryside and coast, the fastest broadband connections in the country and fantastic employment potential thanks to the rapidly-growing manufacturing and renewable energy sectors."

Established in 2002, MyPad pride themselves on taking a different approach to letting and managing property, with a reputation for being honest, reliable and trustworthy, providing a 24/7, hands-on service to clients. They act as managing agents for most of the high-profile developments in the region, and Danny Gough is Chairman of The Humber Landlords Association.

Kelly Bannister, Director at James Legal, said: "We have had a strong relationship with Mike and MyPad for many years, so we were delighted to assist with this important sale.

"We look forward to continuing to work with them, to help realise their commercial objectives".    

Senior Solicitor Mike Stoney, part of the James Legal team handling the sale, said: "This was a complex transaction which evolved over time and my corporate colleague Byron and I needed to adapt and keep pace with that developing situation, constantly looking for solutions to get this sale across the line as efficiently as possible.

"We had more than a few late night calls and sudden changes of direction but, despite some exasperating moments for all involved, we managed to work closely with our clients, keep up spirits and get the job done, while also having the occasional, pressure-relieving laugh along the way."

James Legal MD, Simon Young, said: "We take great pride in supporting major projects like this which are key to the city's infrastructure and ongoing development. It's the latest example of how our team regularly pull out every stop to get transactions over the line for our clients, even in the most challenging circumstances - in this case, in the midst of a historic global pandemic."

Just Beverley