Investment interest in the Northern Ireland commercial property market at its lowest since 2009, report suggests

Research from RICS suggests investment enquiries into the north’s commercial property market are at the lowest levels since 2009
Ryan McAleer

INVESTMENT enquiries into the north’s commercial property market are at the lowest levels since 2009, a new survey out today suggests.

The research, conducted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in association with Ulster Bank during the fourth quarter of 2019, found interest from investors continued to wane between October and December.

The survey, which is based on feedback from property industry professionals, also found occupier demand for commercial property fell for the third successive quarter at the end of last year.

The report has also once again highlighted the struggle within the retail sector. It found that the expectation for rents to increase in the retail sector is at the lowest point for more than five years.

Demand for industrial space is increasing at a slower rate than in previous quarters, while demand for office space was flat, the report found.

However the significant slump in retail pulled the overall sector down. The availability of retail space also continues to climb, the survey suggests.

Brian Henning, chair of RICS in Northern Ireland, said: “Overall, the findings reflect a subdued commercial property market in Northern Ireland during Q4 2019, with uncertainty impacting on activity by occupiers and investors.

“Activity was more muted in Q4 across the office and industrial, and retail was reported to be continuing to see demand decline.”

But he said expectations for the sector have improved following December’s general election.

“With the perception of more political certainty, it appears that surveyors expect some pent-up demand in the market to be realised this year.

“However, it should be remembered that there is still much to be negotiated in relation to Brexit and uncertainty on that front is not done.”

Gary Barr from Ulster Bank’s commercial real estate division, said: “Some potential occupiers and investors were certainly taking a bit of a wait and see approach towards the end of last year when there was considerable uncertainty in the wider economy.

"But deals continued to be done by a range of buyers for good assets. Retail aside perhaps, it would not be surprising to see activity that had been put on hold starting to come through now that there is some more political certainty in Northern Ireland.”

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