And so it was this week when the Daily Telegraph proclaimed ‘Appetite grows for London real estate as 2016 jitters ease’. It cited new sources of investment from Asia as being a major driver behind this positivity but also predicted that UK funds – for so long outgunned by their overseas counterparts – would be active in the capital this year. The global appetite for London commercial property does seem insatiable – it attracted capital from 26 different countries last year.
However, another global-orientated news story which aired this week was more sobering.
The FT reported property funds globally suffered their worst year of fundraising since 2013 as ‘investors shunned real estate over fears that the market is at risk of overheating’. Figures from Preqin showed that closed-ended property funds raised $109bn in 2017, the lowest level in four years and down 13.5% on 2016. In stark contrast, private equity and private debt fundraising reached an all-time high, at $453bn and $107bn, as investors sought other sources of yield in a low-interest rate environment.
Of course, the good news for commercial property is that as fund allocations are, from a macro perspective, modest then it only takes a relatively minor change in sentiment to the sector to create a substantial uptick in investment.
For example, the Japanese Government Pension Investment Fund has announced it will start investing 5% of its portfolio into real estate and infrastructure. This equates to potential global spending of around $65bn which, of course, will not be spread equally across the world. The UK commercial property market still offers the kind of structural, legal and transparency which resonates with investors and, as such, attracts disproportionately high inflows of capital.
That’s good news in terms of sustaining volumes but worrying to those who already feel that many UK asset values are overheated and that more buying will only exacerbate the situation.
With so much difference of opinion out there it should be a fascinating year ahead.