A report has revealed that £316.6m was invested in Northern Ireland commercial property in 2021 - the highest it has been in four years.
Commercial property agency Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) said offices had been the most sought-after asset here, despite the continuing trend for staff to work from home.
Its Investment Transactions Northern Ireland Bulletin said £134m had been spent on office acquisitions, though the £87m sale of the Merchant Square office development accounted for most of that sum.
The speculative office build by developer Oakland Holdings in Belfast city centre was sold to Albilad Capita in Northern Ireland’s biggest ever office deal.
Across all types of assets, the volume of deals done was treble that of 2020.
Jonathan Martin, director of LSH, said: “The Northern Irish investment market performed strongly during 2021, with 44 transactions and volumes at their highest level, across all sectors, since 2017.
“The record-breaking sale of Merchant Square was the year’s highlight and is a strong market indicator of the confidence investors have in Northern Ireland as a region.
“There is reason to be optimistic that 2022 volumes will be robust, with in excess of £50m of deals expected to complete in the first quarter of 2022.”
He said investor appetite was expected to remain strong for properties across all sectors.
In 2021, £107m was spent on assets such as shopping centres and retail parks. English company David Samuel Properties bought Shane Retail Park for £23m from Marathon Asset Management, also the former owner of the Obel building.
DS Properties, which is based in Manchester, also snapped up the Lisnagelvin Retail Park for £9.7m from M&G Real Estate.
Over a quarter of investment was from overseas, mainly due to the acquisition of Merchant Square by Saudi Arabian investment bank Albilad Capital.
Property companies were involved in more than double the number of deals of 2020. Northern Ireland investors acquired £54m in property, which was up 57% on the previous year.
Deals involving Northern Irish investors included the acquisition of Fairhill Shopping Centre in Ballymena by family-owned development company Magell. It’s understood to have been sold for under the £10m asking price.
A separate report by commercial property agents CBRE has found that over £290m was invested across 30 transactions in 2021.