Ben and his wife work in the City - but this only makes them warier of stocks and shares. "We've got enough risk to worry about in the day job," he laughs. After a protracted search process, they have opted to funnel their savings into two Manchester flats that, geared up with mortgages, offer a net return on equity of roughly 10 per cent. "I think there's an opportunity in the big Northern cities. The downside is fairly minimal and the upside is pretty good," he reflects.
Ben, who preferred to remain anonymous, is typical of a new breed of property investor. Before the crisis, the market was motivated mainly by fast-rising house prices – a trend many assumed would continue indefinitely. Now the principal driver of investment is the low return on cash and the volatility of shares. Property seems to offer an appealing compromise between the two, without the obscurity and complexity that taints other so-called 'alternative' investments.