Thursday 8 December 2016

The right moves: Advice for the rest of the year

Paul McNeive

Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30

Nama's headquarters in the Treasury Building in Dublin
Nama's headquarters in the Treasury Building in Dublin

The first six months of the year has flown by in a blaze of activity and rarely has the property business been so interestingly positioned.

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The improving economy, a raft of new players, the Nama sell-off, returning development finance, new legislation and a housing crisis are all parts of a volatile cocktail of activity. Sometimes it's hard to cut through all the analysis and decide what to do. So here is my blunt advice for the second half of the year, no matter what your viewpoint.

BIG TICKET OR INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR: Continue to buy the prime property that is core to your business as supply is going to get even tighter. For example, unless you get into pre-funding an office development, the chances of buying a completed investment later in the year are very slim.

Buy good retail warehousing parks. There is lots of room for increasing values as they are coming off very low base rents and there are good covenants on most schemes. Consumer spending is rising and that will improve business for your tenants and increase rents.

SMALLER PRIVATE INVESTOR: Don't panic! There is lots of supply coming through in the latter half of the year as private equity funds break up loan book portfolios, particularly in the €1m to €5m bracket. There will be good value to be had in the regions as the equity funds will be most concerned with the prices they get for higher value assets in the cities. Have your money organised and make as "clean" an offer as possible.

DEVELOPER OR HOUSEBUILDER: You're frustrated by the lack of opportunities coming on the market. The key to success this year is to focus now on arranging development finance on the best possible terms. The developers with the cheapest credit lines will be best placed to buy the few sites coming on the market. Site prices will rise again towards year end.

NAMA: To boost the supply of housing, Nama should speedily release 20 to 30 sites to the market using the licensing arrangement they are currently testing.

INDUSTRIAL OCCUPIERS: It's time to make your move: Prices and rents for quality modern buildings have started rising for the first time in eight years. Most good buildings are now going to "best bids."

With no prospect of building for at least 12 months, I'm predicting a surge in prime industrial values by the end of the year.

RETAILERS: Do your deals quickly! The balance of power is shifting back from tenants to landlords, due to the lack of supply. As usual, changes in a market are first seen in the prime locations and then spread into less prime and provincial locations. On Grafton Street, rents are rising, rent free periods have disappeared and "key money" is being paid again.

OFFICE TENANT: In Dublin there is a shortage of space in all size categories but particularly for modern space above 3,000 sq m. Rents will continue to rise. Larger occupiers are now considering space which will not be available for 18 months.

Agree a deal early and hope that your rent reduces at the first review.

HOUSEBUYER: This is the only call that causes me to think twice. Prices won't increase much towards year end, except perhaps in Cork and Dublin commuter land, but it's going to be at least two years before we see significant new supply. In the long run, home ownership is about control and protecting yourself against rising rents and insecurity of tenure.

GOVERNMENT: Tackle the housing crisis by reducing the 45pc tax burden on new homes. Reduce the add on costs of development contributions and abolish the "dual aspect" requirement for city centre apartments. Abandon the mad notion of any further rent controls- they will inevitably reduce supply and increase rents.

The problem of finding accommodation for those at the "bottom end" of the market will worsen in September as students return to the market and outbid others on low incomes.

The flaw in the housing strategy, which relies on the private sector to provide units to local authorities, may become evident in the autumn, especially if there is a poor response to the Dublin City Council scheme to attract landlords to the rental accommodation scheme.

Even I can get it wrong, so you must take your own professional advice in negotiating a fast moving market.

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