Nursery real estate continues to attract interest says Christie & Co report

  • 30th January 2024

The demand for high-quality nursery settings remained strong in 2023, despite economic uncertainty.

According to Christie & Co’s recently-released Business Outlook 2024 report, there was demand for both single assets and larger nursery portfolios.

However, it adds, there is little doubt some of the challenges connected to the sector and the wider economy have impacted the market.

Staffing pressures

Workforce-related challenges continued to prevail and, in some cases, stifled providers’ ability to operate at optimum levels, or to grow their businesses and expand capacity, despite the Government’s childcare expansion initiative as announced in the Spring Budget.

Nurseries need to attract more staff and this proved to be increasingly difficult for many throughout 2023, as wages and costs continued to rise.

In addition, interest rate increases led to borrowing becoming more expensive, which created a challenge for new entrants taking their first steps into the sector and for existing operators wanting to expand.

Yet, despite the increased cost of capital, the UK day nursery market continued to move forward.

During 2023, Christie & Co brought 236 day nurseries to the market and buyer interest was strong, which continued to drive the market.

There was, however, a 27% decrease in the number of day nurseries sold in 2023 compared with 2022, with the average size being 72 places, compared with 67 places in 2022.

And 44 per cent of Christie & Co’s 2023 deals were to corporate/large groups, a 16% reduction on 2022 figures, while 32% were to independent buyers, a 20% increase on 2022 figures.


In 2023, an overall combination of economic shifts, funding challenges, cost pressures, margin erosion, and the increased cost of capital all contributed to a market reset in 2023, resulting in a 3.3% decrease in pricing across childcare and education businesses, which follows some aggressive positive index movements in prior years.

Market sentiment

As part of its annual sentiment survey, the company surveyed childcare and education professionals across the country to gather their views on the year ahead.

Encouragingly, 44% of people said that they are positive about the year ahead – an 11% rise on survey figures reported in the previous year – while just 14% feel negative.

When asked about their sale and acquisition plans in 2024, 71% said they are planning to buy and/or sell this year.

The finance landscape

In 2023, Christie Finance witnessed a 26% rise in the number of childcare and education finance instructions, with a significant increase in leasehold operators seeking funding to purchase the freehold premises, ultimately increasing the value of the business that can be utilised as a springboard to aid future expansion.​

Market predictions

In 2024, Christie & Co expects:

  • Continued demand for high-quality settings across the country
  • Further market consolidation with acquisitions and investment into groups and individual settings
  • The cost of borrowing will become cheaper as rates and inflation fall
  • A continued loss in capacity as a result of smaller settings closing amid continued financial sustainability challenge

Nick Brown, director and head of brokerage for childcare and education at Christie & Co, said: “The sentiment at the start of 2023 was that the year was going to be challenging, which indeed it was, but the market moved forward despite this.

“Key challenges are sure to continue throughout the sector this year, but there is definitely a more-optimistic feeling around the 2024 market as we begin the year as we are already witnessing a healthy appetite and demand for high-quality assets across the country, which has resulted in a strong pipeline of deals agreed already for the first quarter of  2024 and beyond.”

Nick Brown

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