North's commercial property market enjoys 'exceptional start' to 2018

The strong office market performance was significantly boosted by the Northern Ireland Civil Service taking 150,000 sq ft at 9 Lanyon in Belfast city centre

THE north's commercial property market has recorded an "exceptional" start to the year, according to new research.

The Marketview report from property agents CBRE highlights a record-breaking year to date for the Northern Ireland office market as well as a pick up in investment activity. The new figures, which cover the second quarter of 2018 show office take-up totalling 268,336 sq ft across 23 reported transactions, bringing the half-yearly total to 538,646 sq ft from 46 deals. The strong market performance recorded between April and June was significantly boosted by the Northern Ireland Civil Service taking 150,000 sq ft at 9 Lanyon in Belfast city centre - one of the largest office transactions ever completed in the north .

CBRE director, David Wright said given the current political instability in Northern Ireland, the activity in the office market is "incredibly encouraging".

“Considering that the five-year average of performance in the Belfast office market is 385,000 sq ft, the first six months of 2018 have been exceptional, and we expect take-up to stay strong throughout the remainder of the year due to the number of large requirements in circulation.”

Investment activity in the north also showed signs of a resurgence according to the figures, with a number of sales completing as well as a range of opportunities being brought to the market.

There was an estimated £65m worth of deals completed between April and June this year, bringing the half-yearly total to £75m, with a further £125m currently available. The sale of Next and Easons on Donegall Square in Belfast city centre for £16.4m was the most significant of the completed transactions, while the Metro Building is currently available for offers around £21m

Whilst the retail market is currently experiencing a challenging period, there continues to be a healthy demand for office, industrial and alternative sectors, including hotels, build-to-rent, leisure and healthcare.

In terms of new developments, hotels remain the big driver, with with the AC Marriott, Flint Hotel, Hampton by Hilton and Grand Central Hotels all opening in Belfast in the second quarter of the year.

With the ongoing political uncertainty in relation to the lack of a devolved government and the Brexit negotiations the report suggests that the latter could present a "unique opportunity" for Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland's positioning and special circumstances within the UK means that there is a compelling need to provide bridges to the economy, culture and people of the Republic of Ireland," CBRE managing director, Brian Lavery said.

“Providing that all relevant parties involved in the ongoing Brexit negotiations accept that the eventual Brexit deal will have to provide suitable links to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland is well placed to offer advantages to occupiers and investors that are not present anywhere else in the UK.”

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