Commercial property looking for investors

Mixed messages from the commercial property market.  In the same day that the Bank of England and Savills report declining interest from foreign investors in the UK market for office, retail and industrial space,[1], Northern Ireland and Wales issue gleefully upbeat tales of demand at its strongest for a decade and property selling for double the reserve price.[3][4]

Savills remains cautiously pessimistic and anticipates a decline of 40% across the UK – and 50% in London – with returns for investors rising by a mere 0.4% this year.   But in Kent, the signals are quite different.  Commercial property rentals are 6% above pre-recession highs and house prices have been rising faster than in the capital.[4]  Demand outstrips supply for offices with start-ups unable to find space in local innovation centres and small businesses unable to find anywhere to grow.   Developers like Gallagher, that have deep enough pockets to finance industrial units, are able to sell them all before they are finished but companies that need to access funding are finding lenders reluctant to part with money.

[the banks] “ have gone from being lunatics to being ultra-cautious”

Says Pat Gallagher, Chairman of Gallagher.

As building societies like Nationwide pull out of commercial property lending to “focus on their core business”, it seems that the gap in the market for underwriting this sector is widening.[5]

Mark Quinn of Quinn Estates thinks and hopes that local government will provide support for smaller building firms that lack Gallagher’s financial muscle.  A sort of “help to buy for development” is how he sees it.

Back in Wales, they seem to have heard his plea.  The Ammanford Regeneration Development Fund in Carmarthenshire has just announced a series of grants designed to stimulate local supply and encourage re/development of vacant premises [6]

The Welsh Government, however, has long been beholden to the European Commission for economic development and the Ammanford Regeneration Development Fund is part-financed by EU Structural Funds.  Grants will be available until 2020 but, with the UK outside the European Union by that date, this could be the last funding round of its kind.

Whether alone or via joint venture with local authorities, it looks as though it might fall to the private sector, once more, to prop up the commercial property market.

[1] Brexit could delay half of central London commercial property developments – Savills
[2] Commercial property weathering the storm
[3] Commercial buildings hot property as as Newport ex-day centre sells for twice original reserve
[4] ‘Buoyant’ property market in Kent not helping businesses or meeting housing demand, warn experts
[5] Nationwide pulls out of commercial property lending
[6] Commercial property owners in Ammanford are being urged to take advantage of grants