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RICS: Surveyors sense a downturn of commercial property market

The Brexit impasse is contributing to perceptions that the commercial property market is in the downturn phase of the property cycle, the RICS UK Commercial Property Market Survey has revealed.

Figures for Q3 2019 showed that 62% of surveyors sensed the overall market is in a downturn phase of the property cycle.

Brexit was suggested as having an increasingly detrimental impact on market activity.

Tarrant Parsons, economist at RICS, said: “Although a clear majority of respondents now perceive the market to be in a downturn, the fact that capital value expectations are still positive in many parts of the country suggests a relatively soft landing for the commercial real estate sector is anticipated overall.

“It remains to be seen what impact the latest Brexit developments have on confidence across the sector, but with the picture unlikely to become clear until into the New Year it may well mean hesitation continues over the near term.”

Tenant demand reportedly fell at the headline level with the net balance slipping to -19%.

Interest in the commercial property market fell at a faster pace last quarter with -15% more surveyors seeing a fall in investment enquiries.

By Michael Lloyd

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Demand for commercial property at lowest level since 2012, says industry report

Demand for office space in the South West has slipped to its lowest reading since September 2012, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ UK Commercial Market Survey has revealed.

The survey added that the current impasse over Brexit is contributing to perceptions that the South West commercial property market is in the downturn phase of the property cycle.

The RICS report for Q3 2019 said that enquiries from investors are down at headline level and that 53 per cent of respondents believe that the market to be on a downward trajectory.

Occupier demand in the South West fell at the headline level once again, with the net balance slipping to -19 per cent, the lowest reading since June 2012.

Once again, the retail sector continues to drive the overall decline (net balance -62 per cent, compared to -54% in Q2).

However, demand for South West office space also fell during Q3, with a net balance of -8 per cent compared to -1 per cent in Q2.

Demand for industrial space has a net balance in the region of +12 per cent.

The region’s retail sector continues to have large numbers of vacancies coming to market, prompting another increase in incentive packages on offer to prospective tenants.

Inducements are also on offer in the office sector with 17 per cent of respondents reporting a rise in the packages.

South West respondents to the survey project that rents for the coming three months are expected to rise in the industrial sector, the only sector to see any notable interest from tenants.

Unsurprisingly, the retail sector isn’t expected to improve, some 63 per cent of respondents in the region expect to see further reductions in rents across the market.

Across the UK, retail rents are reading at the lowest level since the financial crisis (Q1 2009).

Looking further ahead, local respondents expect prime and secondary retail rents to fall for the year ahead.

The outlook has turned negative for secondary office rents in the South West, driven by weakening expectations in London.

By way of contrast, the industrial sector continues to return rental growth projections for the coming 12 months in the region.

Interest in investing in the local commercial property market fell again this quarter, with -5 per cent more South West respondents seeing a fall in investment enquiries.

Overseas investment demand also declined across the sectors with a net balance of -9 per cent of respondents seeing a fall.

Tarrant Parsons, RICS Economist, said: “Although a clear majority of respondents now perceive the market to be in a downturn, the fact that capital value expectations are still positive in many parts of the country suggests a relatively soft landing for the commercial real estate sector is anticipated overall.

“That said, the fallout for retail is altogether more severe. It remains to be seen what impact the latest Brexit developments have on confidence across the sector, but with the picture unlikely to become clear until into the New Year it may well mean hesitation continues over the near term.”

Martin Smalley of Gleeds in Bristol added: “Brexit unsurprisingly has created an atmosphere of uncertainty in the regions.

“There are however hotspots around areas of significant infrastructure investment like Hinckley Point C which is fuelling growth across the commercial, retail, industrial and residential sectors.”

By James Young

Source: Punchline Gloucester

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Brexit impasse ‘impacting Scottish commercial property market’

THE Brexit impasse is contributing to perceptions that the commercial property market in Scotland is in the midst of a downturn.

The latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors commercial property market survey has found anecdotal evidence suggesting that the process to leave the European Union is having an increasingly detrimental impact on market activity, with inquiries from potential investors in the third quarter lower than during the previous three months.

The latest results show that half of respondents in Scotland sense the overall market is in the downturn phase.

The highest proportion of respondents in Scotland since 2016 in the investment market said that inquiries from potential investors were lower than in the previous quarter.

The net balance for overall investment inquiries in Scotland during the period was -34%, meaning that 34% more respondents said that investment inquiries fell than said they rose.

The retail sector continues to drive the overall decline, with the weakest reading since 2008, showing a net balance of -70%, which is the weakest across the UK.

Demand for office and industrial space in Scotland was reported to be broadly flat.

Interest in investing in retail was the weakest according to respondents, but investment inquiries were also reported to have fallen in the industrial, where there wasa net balance of -14%, and office, where it was a net balance of -20%, sectors.

In the occupier market, tenant demand reportedly fell at the headline level in Scotland for the fourth consecutive quarter, with the net balance slipping to -22%, from -3% previously, RICS said.

Scottish surveyors are cautious looking ahead about rents in over the next quarter. The overall net balance for three-month rental expectations is its weakest since the second quarter in 2016 at -23%.

However, this is driven by pessimism regarding retail rents, with a net balance of -65%. Expectations for office and industrial rents are broadly flat.

RICS said Scottish respondents are more positive about the value of industrial and office property, with the balance of respondents pointing to modest growth in capital values in both sectors in the near term.

Richard Smith, of Allied Surveyors in Inverness, said: “The market over the last three months has been affected by political uncertainty. Clients tell us that they will invest when the uncertainty is removed, regardless of how that is achieved.”

David Castles, of Ian Philp Glasgow, said: “Office and industrial sector capital values will improve but supply of prime office developments is restricted, and more investment is required which hopefully will improve once market uncertainty is reduced.”

Tarrant Parsons, RICS economist, said: “Although half of respondents in Scotland now perceive the market to be in a downturn, the fact that capital value expectations are still positive suggests a relatively soft landing for the commercial real estate sector is anticipated overall.”

Meanwhile, research from Grant Property has shown investors from South East Asia are cashing in on the opportunities provided by a drop in the value of the British pound and increasing yields and rents in the UK buy-to-let market, especially with student flats.

The firm reported a surge of interest from Hong Kong and Singapore as new and existing investors are purchasing more buy-to-let properties to add to their portfolios. An increase in rents as high as 15% over the last 12 months alone, combined with steady long-term capital growth on average 7% per annum, are factors which are making UK property an appealing investment prospect, it said.

Peter Grant, founder of Grant Property, said: “In the last year we have sold over £38 million worth of properties to overseas investors and we are currently dealing with 25% more enquiries than this time last year.

“Investors see the uncertainty of Brexit as an advantage and are capitalising on the opportunity to snap up traditional flats in UK cities, particularly where there is a student population.”

By Brian Donnelly

Source: Herald Scotland

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An alternative future for commercial property

DIVERSIFICATION throughout commercial property portfolios, by private and institutional investors, is a long-standing tactic but has tended to centre around a select number of core commercial real estate classes.

That has changed in the post 2008 environment, as the industry has seen a growing appetite from investors in ‘alternative commercial property assets’ and the rise in levels of investment in these asset classes across the UK and Ireland is starting to be felt north of the border here in NI.

Figures announced for the UK mainland at the start of this year show that in the first quarter of 2019 investment in these alternative real estate assets, such as hotels, private residential, student accommodation and care homes, reached a record 42 per cent share of the overall UK investment market for the quarter. Analysts report that this has been the highest share on record following 29 per cent and 35 per cent growth in this sector in quarters three and four 2018.

The proportion of Northern Irish investment transactions that fall into the alternative category doesn’t presently come close to this level, but there is no doubt that alternative property assets are increasingly piquing the interest of those investing in the province.

The proliferation of hotel investments in Belfast city centre across the past 24 months is well documented, in parallel with heightened investor interest in student accommodation as the Ulster University campus takes shape on Royal Avenue.

Unfortunately, the unexpected delay of construction at the university campus served to cool the later for a time, but several significant student accommodation schemes are now nearing completion with others coming online as the construction of this vibrant new part of Belfast city centre proceeds.

Other ‘alternatives’ including build-to-rent schemes that facilitate city centre living as well as alternative uses of traditional retail spaces that incorporate leisure facilities, entertainment and community alongside healthcare provision are becoming increasingly attractive to investors in the province as the The Belfast Agenda strives to make Northern Ireland’s capital home to an additional 66,000 people by 2035.

Residential letting schemes in Belfast with concierge services, gyms and residents’ lounges may be a novelty today but based on the wider UK and Irish markets the time when these represent a solid investment, even for the risk-averse institutional investor, might not be too far away.

Markets are changing, as are attitudes, incomes and the priorities of the people in general. Almost 25 per cent of UK households are expected to be living in rented accommodation by 2030, so it is unsurprising as models like build-to-rent start to become more common other ‘alternative’ investment options will follow suit.

By Declan Flynn

Source: Irish News

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Commercial property sales fall for second quarter but Glasgow bucks trend

Commercial property sales values in Glasgow surpassed those of Scotland’s capital for the first time since 2015, new research has found.

Analysis of Q2 2019 data by the Scottish Property Federation (SPF) showed that the total value of commercial property sales in Scotland continued to fall.

At £614 million, sales were the lowest in five years. While sales values fell, the number of transactions increased, indicating a decrease in higher value transactions rather than a lack of activity.

However, Glasgow broke from the national trend with the total value of commercial property sales rising against both the previous quarter and the same quarter in 2018. Sales in Glasgow totalled £172m for Q2, accounting for 28% of Scotland’s total commercial property sales.

Edinburgh lost its dominance to Glasgow in Q2 2019, following a significant fall in the total value of commercial property sales. At £108m, Edinburgh’s sales values decreased by £156m on the previous quarter and £14m on Q2 2018. The proportion of Scottish commercial property sales located in Edinburgh fell from 35% in the previous quarter to just 18% for Q2 2019.

SPF director David Melhuish said: “Glasgow was very impressive this quarter, outperforming Edinburgh for the first time in four years against a wider Scottish market that saw a reduced value of sales activity.

“Glasgow’s sales increase was fuelled by a number of £5m-plus deals, totalling £129m, whereas Edinburgh only secured £33m in the same category.

“A notable feature of Scottish commercial property investment in the Q2 period was the rise of capital sourced from Asia, which topped £250m for the first time on record, according to CoStar data.

“Ryden reported a standout £48m transaction for a Korean client of Knight Frank Investment Management.”

Source: Scottish Construction Now

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Commercial property: Build-to-rent is a growing family affair

Research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests that owning their own homes is no longer a priority for younger generations, particularly those in the 25-to-34-year-old bracket.

But renting is not just for singles or couples. Families are increasingly turning to the private rental sector, with a five per cent rise in Scotland over the last last year and three and four-bedroomed houses generating the steepest growth in rent.

This is where build-to-rent (BTR) comes in – homes which are built to a high standard specifically for the long-term rental market.

Up until now, BTR developments have captured a completely different market, but if it continues to deliver only for young professionals it will not achieve its full potential.

Families who cannot afford to buy their own homes are looking for security and are much more likely to settle for longer periods, providing a steady income stream for large-scale investors.

This is ideal for BTR developers who offer greater security to renters, with specialist operators rather than local factors managing accommodation.

On the regulatory side, there have been some notable moves in the last few years to support the case for family-friendly BTR.

Local authorities were given the power to create Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ) in December 2017, capping rent growth at four per cent per annum in areas where rents were at risk of overheating.

This is particularly important for Scotland’s cities showing strong growth – including Edinburgh – with population growth forecasted at 7.7 per cent by 2026.

Perversely, by smoothing out the inflation and deflation cycle, RPZ provides greater levels of security for tenants and specialist landlords relying on a long-term investment.

The balance of risk between tenant and landlord has also shifted, with all leases in Scotland now based on a lifelong security of tenure.

Landlords can no longer terminate a lease on “no fault” grounds. Again, specialist landlords see this as underpinning the case for providing suitable and family-appropriate private rental accommodation.

Developers and investors should also take heart in the fact that a tax incentive, whereby six or more dwellings can be treated as non-residential thus exempting them from LBTT, is now in force.

This, coupled with economies of scale and efficacious modern methods of construction, is strengthening the business case for BTR in Scotland.

Some 6,300 BTR units are currently at various stages in the planning process, with developments such as Candleriggs Court in Glasgow and Lochrin Quay in Edinburgh, already complete.

A successful and inclusive BTR sector in Scotland is a win-win-win for policy makers and the Scottish Government, which is keen to meet ambitious housing targets; for developers and investors, who are seeking to capitalise on the growing demand for larger private rental accommodation, and especially for the growing family of Scotland’s renters.

By HEATHER PEARSON

Source: Scotsman

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Commercial property investment surpasses £100m in 2019

COMMERCIAL property investment in the north has surpassed £100 million this year, according to a new industry report.

The latest data from Lisney reveals a better than expected last quarter, with the recorded £60m investment between April and June 9 per cent up on the same period in 2018.

The resilient performance brings the total value of transactions in the market for the first half of 2019 to £101m.

The largest deal completed in the second quarter was Citi’s purchase of its Belfast office in the Titanic Quarter for £34m, with other notable transactions, including the sale of Antrim Business Park of £12.5m and the £5.25m acquisition of Timber Quay in Derry.

A total of £45m worth of commercial property was on the market in the last quarter, including the Great Northern Tower and Boat in Belfast, along with Clandeboye Retail Park in Bangor.

PwC’s decision to acquire additional space and occupy the entirety of its new 155,000 sq ft Merchant Square Belfast headquarters pushed take-up within the sector to 75,171 sq ft in the three months to June. That being said the total is down on the previous year, while a shortage of Grade A office space within Belfast city centre continues to be a challenge for the market until new stock comes online later this year.

The struggling retail sector was boosted by Primark’s opening of a second city centre store at Fountain House on Donegall Place and the expansion of its Abbey Centre outlet. In relation to the industrial sector, the biggest letting of the year was a 113,550 sq ft site on the Lisdoart Road in Ballygawley.

Declan Flynn, managing director of Lisney Northern Ireland, said the local market continues to perform admirably in spite of the uncertain political climate

“We’re continuing to see healthy levels of local activity at a smaller lot sizes with pricing remaining resilient. That said the appetite of external investors is undoubtedly hampered in the current climate,” he said.

“This is understandable as the capital markets reflect the risk associated with Brexit. The retail sector continues to be a major talking point as the sector remains in the midst of a correction, given how our volumes have been traditionally dominated by retail this is a particularly pertinent for the Northern Ireland commercial property market.”

By Gareth McKeown

Source: Irish News

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Commercial property: Lack of supply demands developments

There is no shortage of investors and developers looking to gain exposure to the Edinburgh office market.

However, as many landlords opt to hold on to their investments – attracted by rental growth and yield compression, there is a growing appetite to refurbish or redevelop older buildings in the Capital to meet the demand for quality office accommodation.

Edinburgh is experiencing historically high levels of occupier demand from a wide variety of sectors, with employers attracted by the city’s talent pool and the quality of life in the Capital.

However, the office market faces dwindling supply and we anticipate seeing a spike in rents as tenants compete for limited space.

Rents for grade-A offices in the city centre are currently around £35 per sq ft and could top £40 next year.

At present, there is little more than 250,000sq ft of prime office space available in Edinburgh and the two speculative developments currently in the pipeline – 
62 Morrison Street and 
20 West Register Street – are mostly or completely pre-let.

The Capital has lost more than 1.2m sq ft of office space to alternative uses in recent years, while take-up is running at 1m sq ft a year.

This poses two big questions: where will the money go? And where can thriving businesses house their growing numbers of staff?

Professional and legal services, the burgeoning tech sector, and a financial industry that continues to thrive – the market has rarely looked so good from an investor’s perspective.

Companies don’t want to relocate, even partially, because the city and lifestyle are key attractions for the talent that is the lifeblood of these service sector businesses.

But there are few – if any – sites in the city for large-scale speculative development still available.

Where possible, landlords are either substantially refurbishing older buildings or selling up, thereby avoiding construction and letting risks.

Competition for refurbished space is likely to hot up as the shortage becomes more acute; we are starting to see businesses actively competing for the best office locations.

Beyond that, the obvious escape valve for city centre-based companies lies to the west, around South Gyle and Edinburgh Park.

With excellent connectivity to the city and available space, we anticipate increasing demand and more interesting developments.

However, the city centre remains the most prized location for wealthy and ambitious, people-focused companies, and – where possible – older buildings will make way for more contemporary offices.

The re-development of Haymarket has been a start, but with investors poised and firms demanding more space, the next few years should see more interesting developments appearing.

Demand for office space around Edinburgh is likely to keep outstripping supply. As a result, rents look set to keep moving higher, especially as the city’s tech start-ups mature into larger companies, with a need to attract talented people.

By ELLIOT CASSELS

Source: Scotsman

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Investor enthusiasm for UK commercial property slumps

Investor enthusiasm for commercial property in the UK has slumped further as sentiment swings towards France and Germany.

Only 27 per cent of international professional real estate investors said the UK is their preferred market, down four per cent in the last 12 months as Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh on investor sentiment.

Meanwhile support for the French market saw a 20 per cent year-on-year increase and appetite for German investments rose by seven per cent, according to the latest commercial property investment barometer by real estate platform Brickvest.

There was also a drop in the volume of assets under management that investors are planning to plough into real estate over the next year according to the quarterly survey of 6000 international professional investors.

Investors are planning to commit 2.5 per cent of their total AUM, a drop of 33 per cent on the planned amount of 3.7 per cent in the second quarter of last year.

Brickvest chief executive Emmanuel Lumineau said: “The latest figures of our Barometer reveal the continued negative effect of Brexit uncertainty on the UK commercial property market among international investors and particularly those based in France and Germany.

“We can expect this to continue over the third quarter and the October deadline at the very least.

“In the meantime, France and Germany are becoming more attractive destinations for international real estate capital.”

By Jess Clark

Source: City AM

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Post-Brexit binge in commercial property?

Pent up demand could see a boost to the commercial property market post-Brexit, according to new analysis of the commercial property market from Shawbrook Bank.

The ‘UK Commercial Property Market Report1, produced by Shawbrook Bank and compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) assesses the state of the current commercial property market, exploring the various sub-sectors comprising the market, historic and future trends, and the impact of the changing political landscape.

The Shawbrook report shows that uncertainty over Brexit has weighed on the commercial property sector in recent quarters, as owners and tenants take stock. But despite activity slowing, the market remains a profitable place to invest and deliver a solid income over the medium to long term. Over the past 18 years, the commercial property market has returned 308% to investors compared to 209% for the FTSE100, and yields have remained stable; average yields across the commercial property sector have stood nearly unchanged at 5% since 2015.

Rob Lankey, Director of Commercial Property Investment, Shawbrook comments: “Although uncertainty is present, the commercial property market remains fundamentally resilient in terms of both yield and capital growth. Despite investors taking a wait-and-see approach, we believe many are stockpiling cash and simply postponing activity until we have a definitive Brexit outcome.

“With the long-term view and fundamentals of the commercial property market still compelling, I would go as far to say that we will see a ‘post-Brexit binge’ from professional investors looking to utilise the cash they have stockpiled to take advantage of investment opportunities in the post Brexit landscape. However, not every commercial property investment will automatically generate great returns. Doing your homework on potential investments is more important than ever. There are good and bad opportunities within all sectors.”

Factories, warehouses and other industrial properties have shown the most resilience

Underpinning the resilience of the commercial property market are factories, warehouses and other industrial properties, which over the past few years have become the best performing sector over one, three and five years, with yields in line with the commercial sector more broadly2. Stockpiling activity and strong demand for warehouses from online retailers have helped the sector to withstand economic headwinds to date, however, the unwinding of the stockpiling effect poses a risk to this asset class as does a no-deal Brexit, which would severely harm many of the manufacturers that are the current tenants of the industrial assets.

Table 1: capital value growth across industrial, retail and office properties

Capital value growth
Cumulative capital value growth Industrial Retail Office
One year: Jan 2018- Jan 2019 12% -8% 3%
Three years: Jan 2016- Jan 2019 31% -11% 5%
Five years: Jan 2014- Jan 2019 71% 1% 37%

Table 2: (Initial) yields across industrial, retail and office properties

(Initial) Yields
Industrial Retail Office
Jan-19 4.6% 5.7% 4.5%
Jan-16 5.4% 5.3% 4.0%
Jan-14 6.6% 5.7% 5.1%

 Growing popularity of serviced offices

In the office sector, demand has been strong following the recovery from the last recession. The increasing importance of professional and business services for the UK’s economy provides a strong macroeconomic background for assets in this category and growing popularity of serviced offices is becoming particularly important as new business start-ups and smaller businesses struggle to keep up with rising rents in cities such as London and Manchester and as a result are looking for more flexible spaces.

Retail needs to adapt to remain relevant

For retail properties, a number of factors have come together to create a ‘perfect storm’. On the back of a decade of very low real wage growth, consumers have turned away from the high street and increasingly do their shopping online. Recent research on high streets in Great Britain by the ONS shows that over half (56%) of addresses on high streets are now residential.3

Rob Lankey adds: “The challenges faced by retail won’t be solved by a shift to residential, but the trend will be a significant boost to opportunities for property owners. Irrespective of broad capital value trends, retail property can continue to provide strong rental returns for landlords where the combination of tenant and property location are meeting modern consumer demand. For investors of mixed-use space to realise the full benefits that can be had, there will have to be a level of collaboration in the property sector moving forward. Another beneficiary of the declining high street will be for shared office spaces, such as WeWork which would likely use former retail premises in UK town and city centres”.

Shawbrook Head of Products & Markets, Daryl Norkett adds: “Broadly, if we look at the sub-sectors that are performing today and consider the analysis brought to life in this research, there is opportunity for experienced investors to grow and diversify their portfolios. However, it is important to highlight that the current market requires a certain level of expertise, knowledge, understanding and commitment of time in order to make the right property investment decisions but if you do your homework, it can be a great investment.”

Source: Property 118