UK falls behind Germany in real estate activity after Brexit vote

The UK has fallen into second place behind Germany in a ranking of Europe’s most active markets for commercial real estate investment, according to Real Capital Analytics (RCA).

RCA said it was the first time Germany had occupied the top spot since 2012, as uncertainty following the 23 June vote to leave the European Union weighed on the UK market.

Over the third quarter, the UK market registered a 51% slide to €10bn of completed commercial property transactions in July through September compared with a year earlier, RCA said.

Tom Leahy, RCA director of EMEA analytics, said the uncertain outlook following the Brexit vote had compounded the slowdown in the UK market, which peaked a year ago.

“Across Europe,” he said, “the investment cycle has reached a stage of maturity after the record year in 2015, causing investors to shift their focus towards second-tier locations or ‘alternative’ real estate sectors such as hotels, student accommodation and healthcare.

“This is taking place against a backdrop of ultra-low interest rates and caution in the face of a number of global economic, financial and social risks that have caused overall investment activity to slow.”

The pound’s depreciation amplified the drop.

The third quarter marked the weakest three-month period for the British market since the second quarter of 2012, while the UK’s share of Europe’s transaction activity was the smallest by value in six years.

Germany’s investment volumes totalled €13.6bn over the period, a 34% drop from a year earlier.

The total value of commercial property transactions completed in Europe during the third quarter was €46.bn, a 38% drop from a year earlier.

That took overall investment volumes to €163bn for the first nine months of 2016, 29% lower than for the same period in 2015.

London, Europe’s top investment destination, suffered a 55% decline in investment in the first nine months of the year to €16.7bn.

This stemmed from concerns that companies, particularly those in financial services, would lose their access to the single market following the UK’s exit from the EU, reducing demand for office space and depressing rents.

Prices fell for the second successive quarter in the central London office market, according to RCA/PD Commercial Property Price Indices, with the index showing an 8% drop versus the first quarter of 2016 peak, while quarterly average yields rose by 50 basis points to 4.71%.

“This is not a blip,” Leahy said, “We are at the onset of a readjustment in central London office values. The drop in prices only takes us back to mid-2015 levels, which is still substantially above the long-term average.”

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