By Caroline Robinson, Commercial Real Estate Business Development Manager, Search Acumen 
Contrary to some doom-laden headlines we’ve been seeing in the last year, our new data-driven study found that the commercial real estate sector is healthy across England and Wales.
In June 2019, we published our commercial real estate report examining the trends in transactions in non-residential properties in England and Wales using HM Land Registry’s (HMLR) public Price Paid Data (PPD).
On the one hand, the results were unsurprising– London boroughs dominate the list of high-value transactions both in terms of sales and growth – but there were some welcome surprises too: Looking at the league of 13 cities that saw over £1bn of real estate investment in 2018, cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Nottingham all made the list, a clear sign that commercial real estate sales are buoyant outside of the capital.
But for many real estate lawyers, the interest in the figures will be in the volumes of transactions, not their values – and here we can see a very interesting story indeed.
Commercial Real estate volumes tell a story of growth
For three years now, business news in the UK have been dominated by reports on speculations about the impact the Brexit referendum had on investment in the UK, usually coming to the conclusion that amid the ongoing uncertainty, investment into nearly every sector has ground to a halt.
But the commercial real estate sector in the UK has been more nuanced. Although there has been a muted dip in volumes from 2017 to 2018, non-residential transaction volumes have grown by 20% since 2016, and nowhere faster than in the North: In 2018, the top five cities with the highest commercial real estate volumes in England and Wales, are all part of the Northern powerhouse. With projects like HS2 already underway, we’re expecting this growth in the North only to accelerate, as businesses and investors look for viable options north of the Watford Gap.
The Northern Powerhouse driving volumes
Birmingham and Liverpool were found to hold the top two spots for most commercial real estate volumes each year since 2016. But developments have been gearing up across the North in the past couple of years, with Leeds, County Durham and Manchester with high numbers of commercial real estate transactions from 2016 to 2018.
As plans for improved infrastructure links between Manchester and Leeds begin to shape up and HS2 continues to progress it’s likely that we’ll continue to see strong transaction numbers come out of the North of England. For commercial law firms looking to diversify their regional portfolio, this is great news – and a clear call to action on where to look for future opportunities.