News - Northern Ireland

Commercial property investment transactions worth £45m took place in Northern Ireland during the three months following the Brexit vote, new research by leading commercial property agents Lisney has revealed. Publishing the findings from its report into the third quarter of 2016, Lisney revealed that there is a further £36m worth of deals currently on the market that include the Mansford-owned Strabane Shopping Park and the Laharna Retail Park in Larne.

The report also found that office take-up from July-September increased slightly to 78,000 sq ft from 75,000 in the previous quarter, bringing the total for the year to 313,000 sq ft, while the retail sector continued to improve, despite the Brexit Vote, amid falling vacancy rates and rents increasing to £125 per sq ft in Belfast city centre.

While noting that investment levels for the period were considerably lower than estimates made at the beginning of the year, Lisney said the return of transactional activity following the lull immediately before and after the EU referendum vote proves that the appetite for higher quality assets, priced to reflect ongoing risks, remains strong and proved Brexit did not herald a repeat of the crisis in 2007/2008 that some feared.

Headline findings from the report reveal that:

·       Investment volumes during the third quarter of 2016 reached £45m, with a further £36 currently on the market.

·       The most notable transaction during the third quarter was the MJM Group’s £30.72m purchase of Damolly Retail Park in Newry.

·       The take-up of office space amounted to 78,000 sq ft during the third quarter, with headline rents based on upcoming transactions likely to complete in Q4 between £20 and £22psf

·       Falling retail vacancy rates in Belfast city centre have placed upwards pressure on rents, with Zone A now trending at £125 per sq ft.

·       Demand for industrial space is predominantly from owner occupiers in established industrial locations.

Declan Flynn, Managing Director of Lisney Northern Ireland, which specialises in office, retail, leisure and industrial property acquisition, disposal and investment, commented:

“Following on from the pre and post Brexit lull in investment activity, the wheels of the NI market have slowly begun to turn and the appetite for higher quality assets, priced to reflect ongoing risks, remains strong despite continued uncertainty.

“Investment transaction volumes for the third quarter of 2016 were considerably lower than our estimates at the beginning of the year, with only £45m transacted compared to £133.5m during the first six months of the year.

“That said, the Brexit vote has created some buying opportunities, particularly from international purchasers given the current weakness of the pound.

“As we move towards the year end we expect investors to continue to proceed with caution. Our outlook for the final few months of the year is that transactions will be limited, with few investors prepared to complete deals, though we would expect to see these investors
taking a fresh look at our market should we, as expected, see a number of good quality assets coming to the market in Q1 2017.

Examining the performance of the local office, retail and industrial property markets in the third quarter of 2016, Mr Flynn added:

“While take-up has increased since the previous quarter, the tone of the local office market has seen little change in recent months, with the well-publicised demand for Grade A office space continuing to outstrip supply.

“There are a number of transactions in Belfast city centre which are still to complete, with headline rents of £20 and £22 per sq ft; up considerably from c. £16 at the same time last year.

On the supply side there are various speculative developments making their way through the planning system which may alleviate the supply gap in the medium term but it is difficult to see how demand will be met in the short term - this will place even more importance on refurbishment projects.

“The retail landscape continues to improve despite the Brexit vote, with falling vacancy rates in Belfast city centre placing further upwards pressure on rents, with Zone A now trending at £125 per sq ft for prime city centre pitches.

“The retail story has been buoyed further by a devalued pound encouraging shoppers from the Republic to venture north. Border towns in particular have seen an upturn in footfall and spend in recent months and this is set to continue for the short term at least.

“Although uptake of industrial space has been less prevalent than in the first half of the year, demand remains strong from Owner Occupiers in for good quality units in established industrial locations

Lisney’s latest report on the Northern Ireland commercial property market can be viewed in full here:

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