Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 18:28 UK

New flats sold without mortgage

Dave Harvey
BBC West Business Correspondent

Harbourside flats Bristol
Every flat has been sold for cash

They have been a developer's dream for 20 years. The revival of Bristol's historic docks in the heart of the city has been paid for by them. But when the luxury harbourside apartments finally came to market, the credit crunch hit.

"It's not a great time to be selling, I admit", says Richard Pidgeon, from the developers Crest Nicholson.

On Thursday the final 67 apartments go on sale. Mostly two-bedroomed, all with south facing views of the harbour, they would have been a yuppie dream at 350,000 a few years back. But today, those young professionals in Bristol's financial district are not as flush as they were.

"We've sold sixteen so far this year," says Mr Pidgeon, "and not one buyer has had a mortgage."

It is a fairly astonishing statistic. Every sale has gone for cash. Some have gone to people in their 50s or 60s, trading down from big houses with gardens after the children have gone.

I was Bristol born and bred, used to be a sea scout on the water here, and now I want to retire here
Dennis Hedges, cash-buyer

Others have been bought by baby-boomers buying for their children. In other words, the very young professionals who developers were targeting have been bailed out by their parents, unable to secure mortgages themselves.

"It's not a property problem," insists Mr Pidgeon, "it's a mortgage problem. The banks just aren't offering mortgages like they used to. People who have the cash are paying the prices we're asking."

Pat and Dennis Hedges were the among the first buyers, and they could not be further from the young professionals developers imagined would be living here.

Mr Hedges said he is 81, and his wife, "about ten years younger".

"We don't exactly want to be part of the action," Mrs Hedges smiles. "But we like having it going on around us."

They sold their family house with a large garden, and did a straight swap. No mortgage, no fuss.

"It's great to come home," said Mr Hedges.

"I was Bristol born and bred, used to be a sea scout on the water here, and now I want to retire here - and go out in a black box."

'Earn our money'

Oliver Paine stands in a hard hat amongst the diggers, watching a new office complex going up.

It cost 45m and will be home to Bristol's most successful investment house, Hargreaves Lansdown. A year ago, city banks would have been queuing round the corner to lend money for a property like this.

"We had three or four big city institutions interested," says Mr Paine, "then last July, everything suddenly stopped."

"That's when we earn our money. We looked all round the world, and in the end we did a deal with a Danish Local Government Pension Fund, would you believe."

As the flats go on sale, Bristolians will be able to stroll round the waterside on a new wooden walkway.

There are new moorings for boats, and a new ferry will take people over to Brunel's SS Great Britain.

Regeneration like this doesn't come cheap, but who would have guessed it would have been paid for by the people of Copenhagen?

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Bristol flats up for sale




SEE ALSO
Harbourside artwork commissioned
09 Nov 05 |  Bristol/Somerset
Archaeology work draws to a close
07 Apr 04 |  Bristol/Somerset
Harbour plan is given approval
12 Feb 04 |  Bristol/Somerset

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