Our second look at BT9 of 2017, and probably covering most of what the average person pictures when they think of “The Lisburn Road”. Starting at Wellesley Avenue this week, and tracing a vaguely ‘kidney-shaped’ boundary – when we get to Lower Windsor Avenue, we’re looking solely at the right-hand side of the road, all the way up to Rathgar Street / the end of Great Northern Street.
This section of the Lisburn Road is no doubt the one most densely populated by renters – and we should know, as our office is slap bang in the middle of it! Lots of HMOs, very popular with students and young professionals alike, and probably one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse parts of the city.
There has been a sizeable Asian - primarily Chinese - community in this part of Belfast for several decades and they have enriched the area immeasurably.
To say it’s a vibrant part of Belfast is an understatement, although it’s also fair to say property development has – up until very recently – been somewhat stagnant. You can always judge when an area is on the up when you see signs of building and renovation – skips, ladders, scaffolding – and since the credit bubble burst, we’ve seen more tumbleweed than tradesmen on the Lisburn Road.
We are now starting to see those green shoots of development once more – and there are one or two potentially very exciting opportunities for the eagle-eyed and ambitious investor…
This gargantuan development sprang up seemingly overnight at the top of the Lower Windsor Road. With its underground car park and gas supply on each floor evident from a nosey at ground floor level, I suspected this was to be a massive block of flats – but its sheer size and inoffensive design meant really, it could have been anything from a residential home to an office development. A builder on-site confirmed they will be apartments.
A prime slice of the Lisburn Road to get your hands on as an investor or landlord – students, families, young professionals and tenants on benefits: absolutely everybody interested in living in Belfast would be happy to live on these streets. We think it’s therefore worth exploiting its price inelasticity and going very high-end with buy-to-let properties in this area – I’d be confident of a healthy return on investment.
Running parallel to the Lisburn Road, this stretch of road may see a shift in demographics if plans go ahead to close and merge Fane Street Primary School with Blythefield School in Sandy Row and Donegall Road Primary School.
Several families – particularly those from ethnic minorities – live in and around the school, favouring the proximity to the school and the generally quiet and neighbourly community. It’s not clear if or when the change will happen, but this would be a prime site for development if the school does close.
Northbrook Street provides an excellent example of what smart money can do in this area. Little terrace 2-up 2-downs sit cheek to cheek with 4-bed HMOs; the former will command around £550 per month in rent, the latter nearly double this at around £1000.
Fane Street Primary School
I spotted this tasty little development opportunity recently – at the Malone end of these streets, tucked in behind a little alleyway off Malone Avenue is this sprawling potential-goldmine. The current owner has had the foresight to fence off the small section of grass at the entrance to the site as well.
They obviously boned up on their land ownership small print, and want to prevent someone establishing an easement on their land – that is, a right benefiting one parcel of land (known as the dominant tenement) that permits the rightful users (not necessarily solely the owner) of that land to perform specified actions over a neighbouring parcel of land (known as the servient tenement).
In other words, if you leave your little strip of land open to use by people who own land right beside it, it’s entirely possible they could start using it (for parking, etc) and when the time comes to sell it, if they’ve been doing it for long enough, you might have no legal power to stop them using your land.
Just across the road at the end of Malone Avenue is a stunning apartment block – and we’d recommend a similar development on this land to maximise your investment return.
It’s been a shame to see this building, in a prime location on the Lisburn Road, lie empty and unloved for so long. An unusual hybrid of traditional Art Deco bank building, and 1970s Brutalism, it’s on the market for £400,000, and I believe at one point there was a price tag of £800,000 on it. It’s 5,780 sq ft and we think it is crying out to be converted into apartments.
A word to the wise: if you have a fairly ornate-looking but dilapidated old property you’re dying to tear down - best to check if you’re allowed to. We heard these former flats on Malone Avenue were mid-demolition when work was halted and swiftly reversed, because the façade is listed. Not a mistake you would make twice!