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London’s commercial property market experienced the strongest rental growth in 2014 and is expected it to stay in the lead over the next 12 months, according to a new outlook report. The recovery in the UK economy combined with low levels of development means that the balance between demand and supply is now swinging in favour of landlords, the report from Schroders also says. Risks to the positive outlook include the possibility that UK economic growth is much weaker than forecast, so that the upswing in rents stalls rather than accelerates. ‘While rental growth outside London is patchier, some regional markets are definitely coming out of hibernation. Given a reasonably high yield and a further rental growth as the economy improves, we expect that next year will see another solid performance from UK commercial real estate,’ said the firm’s head of real estate Duncan Owen. The report says that 2014 has been a good year for UK commercial real estate and unleveraged total returns are likely to be close to 20%. Most of this year’s performance has been driven by a favourable fall in property yields, as investors seek income. ‘Looking ahead to 2015 we expect that total returns will remain in double figures, but that rental growth will make a larger contribution. The recovery in the economy combined with low levels of development means that the balance between demand and supply is now swinging in favour of landlords and we anticipate that rental growth will accelerate,’ explained Owen. In the office sector, the emergence of central London as a powerhouse for international accountancy, law, media and technology companies has pushed vacancy rates back down to pre-crisis levels, not just in the prime locations of the City and West End, but also in less established areas such as Farringdon, Kings Cross and the South Bank, the outlook explains. ‘In previous cycles this squeeze on space and upswing in rents would have triggered a big increase in development and encouraged companies to move to cheaper offices in outer London, or other cities. However, so far we have seen relatively little new office building in central London, partly because stricter capital adequacy rules mean that banks are now less willing to fund projects and partly because competing residential schemes are often more profitable,’ Owen pointed out. ‘Moreover, central London now has such a deep pool of highly qualified labour that some companies are even re-locating to the centre from outer London or the wider South East, even though rents and business rates are more expensive,’ he added. Similarly, the report says that retail rents in many parts of London are rising on the back of strong population growth. There are also an increasing numbers of young professionals who choose to live in inner London rather than copy their parents and move to the suburbs. This is leading to the rapid gentrification of areas such as Brixton, Hackney and New Cross which were previously relatively poor. While rental… Continue reading →
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