2013 marked a turning point in the North’s commercial property market with investors starting to take a fresh look at opportunities, according to the latest Outlook 2014 annual report from property consultants CBRE, today.
It expects improving economic conditions to bolster demand for new office accommodation in the Northern Ireland market in 2014 with demand expected to emanate from the expansion of existing occupiers as well as from new entrants.
Although there are a number of new office developments planned, which will ultimately ease the shortage of Grade A office accommodation in Belfast, it will be some time before these schemes come on stream, it said.
CBRE therefore expect to see rental growth emerging in the office sector in Northern Ireland over the course of the next 12 months.
The property consultants expect prime office rents in Belfast to increase by 20pc to reach £161.46 per square metre (£15 per sq. ft.) by year-end. This anticipated rental growth will in turn boost demand for office investment properties in core locations.
In addition to new development, CBRE expect to see increased focus on office refurbishment projects in the Belfast market although this will obviously be dependent on the availability of funding.
While discount retailers were the most active occupiers in the Northern Ireland market over the last number of years, CBRE expect to see more high-profile retail brands coming to the fore during 2014. In addition to existing retailers expanding and relocating, CBRE expect to see several new retailers entering the Northern Ireland market in 2014, including the Apple premium reseller iConnect, which is expected to open two new stores in Northern Ireland this year.
While prime high streets and major shopping centres accounted for the greatest proportion of activity in the retail property market in Northern Ireland last year, CBRE expect to see this momentum filtering down to secondary streets and provincial locations to some degree during 2014.
No rental growth re-emerging in the retail sector in Northern Ireland this year but there was an increase in the number of restaurant and coffee shops opening new stores this year.