Belfast Telegraph

Uncertainty in Northern Ireland's commercial market 'holding back sellers'

By Rachel Martin

Commercial property sellers holding off due to uncertainty are creating a lack of supply on the Northern Ireland market despite high demand from buyers, an industry expert has warned.

Property consultant Gavin Weir said the commercial market here remained strong despite a lack of availability, and that Brexit had not put inward investors off Northern Ireland.

He said there had been a slowdown in the number of large commercial transactions over the last nine months, but put this down to a lack of property available, rather than a lack of interest. "Sellers are holding off because of uncertainty. They know when there's more certainty, there's likely to be more bids so a lot of them are holding off."

He continued that access to the EU market was now high on the wish-list for foreign direct investors (FDI).

"The number one factor is the quality workforce and the sector specialism, particularly in IT and research and design. Another important factor is the availability of funding, grants and financial support to set up there."

He said Belfast was already more attractive than Dublin in many ways, partly due to the high cost of housing: "Those looking to Dublin, particularly office occupiers, are finding it difficult, because they know their staff will find it hard to find houses to live in."

Mr Weir's firm GVA NI has recently worked on a number of large acquisitions including the sale of the site which became Bullitt Hotel in Belfast, the sale of the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown, and consultation work advising on the expansion of Ten Square Hotel in Belfast city centre. His firm has also helped pub giant J.D. Wetherspoon secure key properties, but also works with smaller, rural hospitality businesses such as the Thatch Inn in Boroughshane.

In 2016 GVA NI advised banks and lending institutions on more than £40m worth of pub and hotel assets.

Mr Weir said that plots of commercial zoned land were still proving popular as a slow recovery in the housing market continues.

He added: "There's still a lot of demand among developers for residential zoned land and land with planning permission at the moment which shows a lot of confidence going forward. The demand is mostly around the Belfast commuter belt, but there is also a lot in less obvious areas such as Magherafelt, Coleraine and Newry."

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