ECONOMIC indicators such as the housing market, dole queue and the bellwether Ulster Bank purchasing managers' index have all brought relatively good news over the last few months.
The commercial property market – a crucial barometer for the economy as it reflects demand for office space by companies, and the state of public appetite for pubs, restaurants and hotels – is the latest to perk up.
Commercial property agents CBRE's research report for September said the months of July and August showed a significant jump in activity, mainly in the investment sector.
Brian Lavery, managing director of the agency's Belfast office, said: "There has been a marked improvement in transactional activity in the investment sector over recent months and some depth to the market with considerable money chasing prime investment opportunities and a welcome resumption of bank funding for prime assets."
Demand had picked up from UK institutions and Northern Ireland-based buyers, with demand growing for well-let offices, as well as out-of-town retail and supermarkets.
More and more investment properties were coming on to the market, both through decisions by banks and the Republic's bad bank, Nama – but in other cases, borrowers were also willing to sell.
CBRE detailed recent transactions, such as Nama's sale of Invest NI's offices to the agency for around £17m, while Tesco Extra stores in Newry and Craigavon are also being sold.
A B&Q Superstore in Craigavon, the Ulster Bank headquarters building in Belfast and another office belonging to the bank at Danesfort are also attracting the attention of buyers, CBRE said.