Commercial property specialists CBRE today released their OUTLOOK 2020 annual report containing their predictions for each sector of the Irish property market in the year ahead. The property consultants say 2019 proved to be another strong year for the Irish commercial property market, both from an occupier and investor viewpoint with record investment volumes of over €7.2 billion recorded during the year and real estates’ attractiveness to investors increasing as a result of easing monetary policy.
Speaking at the launch of the 31st edition of their annual Outlook report at the RDS, this morning, Myles Clarke, Managing Director at CBRE Ireland said, “The new decade promises to offer challenges and opportunities in equal measure for the real estate sector. Interest rates remaining lower for even longer combined with equity volatility at elevated valuations will force further investor diversification in favour of alternatives. Real estate is positioned well to provide both yield and capital performance. However, society’s complex relationship with the built environment will evolve as the decade unfolds”.
In commenting on expectations for the Irish commercial property market in 2020, Marie Hunt, Executive Director & Head of Research at CBRE said “As a new decade commences, there are a myriad of cyclical and structural risks that have potential to impact the performance of the property market, not only during the year ahead but over the next ten years. These include economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological risks. The changing nature of cities, workplaces and technology will continue to influence how people ‘work, live and play’ and shape the direction of the market. In addition to lines blurring between alternative and traditional real estate sectors, we expect to see greater blurring of lines between individual market sectors from this point forward, with mixed uses within buildings and schemes becoming increasingly commonplace and greater focus on placemaking & the public realm in this new paradigm. While the issues of affordability and viability that dominated the agenda in 2019 have clearly not gone away, key themes in 2020 will include resilience, repurposing and sustainability.”
- Real estate will remain highly desired by investors, but investment returns are likely to continue to stabilise over the course of 2020 in line with an easing in global growth expectations. Investors will, in many cases, be looking to take more defensive positions at this particular point in the cycle, particularly those investors that have concerns about further Government interference in the sector.
- CBRE are expecting to see some high-profile investment trades occurring in the Irish market during this year but coming off such a record high of more than €7.2 billion in 2019, overall investment spend in the Irish market in 2020 is expected to be somewhat lower than last year.
- The office sector will continue to attract most interest in 2020 (having accounted for 51% of investment spend last year), with investors particularly encouraged by the strong occupier story and the ability to acquire new stock. Industrial investments will also be highly sought after by investors due to the sectors’ superior rental growth expectations, but a lack of scale will clearly limit opportunities in this sector of the market. Some investors will see retail as a buying opportunity where assets have been sensibly priced and offer repurposing or asset management angles.
- CBRE expect to see continued appetite from both Irish and European institutional funds for Irish real estate investment opportunities during 2020, encouraged by the scale of liquidity demonstrated last year. They also expect to see increased appetite from Asian investors this year albeit there is likely to be a shift in the nationality of Asian investors focussing attention on Ireland in 2020 with an increase in investors from Singapore and Hong Kong and a decline in appetite from Korean investors anticipated.
- Several overseas funds started to make their presence felt in the Irish healthcare sector last year, acquiring both individual properties and platforms using a myriad of different structures in order to access opportunities. CBRE expect to see other funds following suit in 2020.
- Over 300,000m2 of office leasing activity occurred in the Dublin market in 2019 in 199 individual transactions. However, due to the size and complexity of some of the office transactions negotiated in 2019, some of last year’s leasing activity had not signed by year-end and will instead provide a welcome boost to activity in the first half of 2020. In addition, CBRE expect to see some indigenous location decisions that were put on hold in the latter half of 2019, most likely due to continued Brexit uncertainty, reigniting over the coming months and further boosting already healthy volumes of demand for office accommodation in the capital.
- Although 2020 is likely to see continued expansionary activity from the technology sector, which accounted for more than a third of activity in the Dublin office market last year, CBRE are expecting a shift towards a more balanced source of office demand this year with appetite from financial services, business services and the public sector expected to increase during the next 12 months. In 2020, the property consultants expect the State and semi-state organisations to become more focussed on the disposal of non-core property commitments with more seeking to consolidate their portfolios into fewer high-quality assets to update their stock, streamline their operations and improve efficiencies.
- Office demand is particularly strong at over 400,000m2 but encouragingly this is not fuelling significant speculative development. In fact, CBRE say that this has been a very disciplined cycle as far as new office supply is concerned. While there has been a considerable increase in office development activity, almost all the stock delivered in 2018 and 2019 and a large proportion of stock due for delivery in 2020 is already committed. Developers and indeed their funders are expected to remain disciplined from a delivery perspective in 2020 and will remain reluctant to undertake large-scale speculative development at this point in the cycle, particularly in suburban locations.
- Despite the volume of new office supply in development, CBRE believe that accommodating large requirements will continue to remain challenging in 2020 with very little of scale due to complete this year and a large proportion of new 2020 already committed.
- Last year saw increased appetite for offices in regional cities – a trend that CBRE expect to see gaining further momentum in 2020. CBRE are confident that 2020 will see increased activity in the office occupier markets in Cork, Galway and Limerick. A number of new buildings are on schedule to reach practical completion during 2020, which will focus occupier attention.
Industrial & Logistics
- CBRE are anticipating another busy year for the Irish industrial and logistics occupier market in 2020 following take-up of more than 330,000m2 being achieved last year – the second highest volume of annual take-up achieved in the last decade. Demand is strong and could increase further once there is further clarity on the direction of Brexit. The property consultants expect the focus of both occupier and investment appetite this year will be along the N7 corridor and within proximity of Dublin Airport. Take-up activity in 2020 is likely to be dominated by logistics and to a lesser extent pharmaceutical uses and food manufacturing. Ecommerce will also continue to evolve with Ireland’s first pure play online retailers likely set up operations in-country during the next 12 months. CBRE expect prime industrial rents to increase by as much as 5% during 2020.
- While established developers have numerous planning consents in place to develop new industrial stock in both North and South Dublin, there are no new 10,000m2 facilities currently available for immediate occupation. CBRE say that it is encouraging that there will be some new supply coming on stream in due course to satisfy some of the requirements that are currently in the market in addition to some new mandates that are likely to materialise over the course of 2020.
- As retailers focus on creating experiential and ‘instagramable’ spaces in order to attract and retain customers, they are likely to require fewer physical stores throughout the country. For this reason, the repurposing of some retail accommodation is going to become increasingly topical during 2020 and beyond.
- Although retail yields in the Irish market softened over the course of last year in line with trends across Europe, prime retail rents remained relatively stable and CBRE are not expecting any significant change to prime quoting rents in the Irish market in 2020. However, despite the fact that the Irish retail market is performing at a different pace to the UK, the generous incentives being given to retail tenants in the UK has, and will continue to have, an impact on their expectations in other markets such as Ireland.
- Several new schemes are due to come on stream in the Irish retail market during 2020, giving an opportunity for new retail brands and concepts to emerge.
- For a sector that was deemed alternative only a few years ago, multifamily is now increasingly considered mainstream, with many investors encouraged by the attractive return profile from a sector that is generally less susceptible to cyclical movements over the medium to long term – a trait that is particularly attractive at this late point in the property cycle. Over the course of the next 12 months, CBRE expect to see more Irish investors looking to deploy into this sector alongside a greater array of European funds and some Asian capital also.
- Regulation is exercising the minds of many multifamily investors across EMEA, with discussions on rent control pertinent in cities such as London, Barcelona and Berlin and now being discussed in the context of the Irish market. According to CBRE, imposing a rent freeze in Ireland would only hamper supply and further compound affordability issues for both purchasers and renters.
- As labour shortages become more acute and speed of delivery becomes ever critical, CBRE expect to see a notable increase in demand for modular construction in the multifamily sector in 2020 and beyond.
- Although the number of land sales in 2020 is likely to be broadly similar to last year, the overall volume of transactional activity could be more muted due to stabilisation of land prices. The structure of land sales in 2020 is expected to be considerably different to last year however, with more forward-fund and forward-commit structures anticipated.
- Supply in the development land sector in 2020 is likely to be boosted by landowners looking for exit options on some of the land they have accumulated over recent years and in advance of more onerous vacant site taxes coming into force. Vendors will largely comprise private landowners and both public and private bodies seeking to maximize the value of landholdings and put their lands into production – or in the case of privates, trading sites that they don’t have capacity, or indeed funding, to deliver themselves in the short to medium term.
- The market will continue to underdeliver in terms of required housing units for the foreseeable future, which in turn will continue to fuel demand for new forms of living including multifamily and new hybrids of same including co-living and microliving. Planning policy will need to adapt to facilitate new ways of living. Meanwhile, CBRE expect to see increased focus on the height and density issue during 2020.
- CBRE expect a good pipeline of hotel properties to be formally offered for sale in the Irish market during 2020, including some Dublin hotel properties. The property consultants expect to mirror the volume of transactional activity witnessed last year (more than €665 million), with the vast majority of hotel transactions expected to comprise single asset sales as opposed to portfolio sales. A number of the hotels that will be offered for sale during 2020 are likely to be re-trades of properties purchased in recent years.
- According to CBRE’s research, there are currently approximately 5,000 new hotel bedrooms under construction in the capital of which approximately 2,200 are due to open for business during 2020. Despite the new supply that has come on stream in a relatively short period of time and the volume of construction that is underway in the Irish capital, CBRE believe that Dublin city centre is well positioned to effectively absorb new hotel room supply without significant market disruption.
- Some vendors will see 2020 as an opportune time to capitalise on the volume of demand prevailing for pub properties in the capital. CBRE believe that the prices being achieved at the moment will certainly encourage publicans that are close to retirement to consider their options. We may see an element of ‘profit-taking’ from some strategic sellers during the year but the main source of supply will be sole traders opting to exit the trade.