UK Commercial Property Sector Poised for Rebound
UK Commercial 
Property Sector 
Poised for Rebound 

UK commercial property sector poised for rebound

The UK commercial property sector is on the cusp of significant transformation. Amid shifting economic currents, evolving work patterns and Government EPC regulations coming into force, the market for best-in-class assets shows signs of strength and growing potential.

As interest rates stabilise and the economy navigates post-pandemic realities, investors are increasingly optimistic about the future. With prices alluringly low, the time seems opportune, and for many of the UK’s large commercial investors these green shoots are beginning to drive active investment. With the likes of GPE (Great Portland) announcing a rights issue to raise £350m to invest in the market now, the signs are that investors are beginning to realise that the very best assets in the most central locations are about to see a fresh wave of investor attention.

Stabilising values and emerging opportunities

Despite the challenges posed by fluctuating office demand and regulatory changes, the UK commercial property sector is demonstrating resilience. According to recent insights, the sector’s values are stabilising, with indications that the market may be bottoming out. This bottoming out is crucial as it signals a potential turning point, providing a foundation for future growth.

Industry leaders, such as those at Blackstone, have expressed confidence that the commercial real estate market is finding its footing. With values beginning to steady, investors are reassessing opportunities, particularly in sectors poised for growth, despite broader market uncertainties.

However, while the City thrived, the West End experienced a small downturn in activity, this has been attributed to a dwindling supply. Upon closer examination of the West End, each of its submarkets experienced a surge in Grade A space, averaging a remarkable 104% increase in Grade A, compared to Q4 2022, notably with a threefold expansion in King’s Cross-Euston.

The office sector: adapting to new norms

One of the most debated aspects of the commercial property market is the office sector. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of work-from-home (WFH) policies, leading to a re-evaluation of office space needs. Although this shift posed challenges, it also opened up new possibilities for flexible workspaces and hybrid models.

British Land’s CFO Bhavesh Mistry, quoted by Reuters, reported that across their office portfolio occupancy from Tuesday to Thursday at least is at – or above – pre-pandemic levels. However, demand seems focused on prime central London locations, and superior commercial offerings, with the landlord shedding assets in Paddington, Euston and Canary Wharf.

Landlords and property managers are increasingly focused on enhancing building amenities, improving digital infrastructure, and promoting environmentally sustainable practices to secure the best tenancies. Such adaptations are essential as companies seek to balance remote work with in-office collaboration, driving demand for versatile and innovative office environments. However, with sustainability it is not just meeting a tenant’s expectations that landlords need to concern themselves with – it will very soon be part of Government regulation.

Sustainability and regulatory compliance

A critical factor shaping the UK commercial property sector is the need for compliance with new energy performance certificate (EPC) regulations, with buildings requiring a rating of E or higher.

Whereas previously lower performing assets might have been unappealing to some tenants, requiring landlords to reduce rents to make them attractive, now lack of sustainability compliance will make these assets plummet in value if left as is.

The need for landlords to upgrade older properties to meet stringent energy efficiency standards comes at a cost, but it also presents an opportunity for owners to enhance the appeal and value of their assets – or for buyers to buy low and invest in improvements. Last year Blick Rothenberg found in an annual survey that only 80% or landlords were aware of the need for compliance. This, in the last year, has increased to 100%. Previously where 80% of those surveyed in 2023 didn’t know the cost of improvements needed; this year just 10% are still unsure.

Investment insights and market sentiment

The overall sentiment among investors in the UK commercial property market is cautiously optimistic. With interest rates steadying the cost of borrowing is becoming more predictable, which is essential for planning and investment decisions. This stability is likely to encourage a renewed flow of capital into the sector, with investors seeking to capitalise on emerging opportunities in office space, retail, and industrial properties.

Additionally, prime central London remains a focal point for investment. The city’s diverse economy, robust infrastructure, and global connectivity continue to attract both domestic and international investors. As the market adjusts to new dynamics, London’s commercial property sector is well-positioned to lead the way in recovery and growth.

Published: June 19 2024
Author: Byron Baciocchi

UK commercial property sector poised for rebound

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