Northern Ireland offices sector 'robust' as interest from Republic builds up ahead of Brexit
Firms from the Republic are making enquiries to take up office space in Northern Ireland following the vote for Brexit, it has been claimed.
And a surge in rental rates and increased demand could help fuel the office sector here.
According to Lisney, investment volumes last year surpassed 2016 to hit £305m.
The firm has predicted that a rise in the number of transactions will see similar levels achieved in 2018.
"We are confident that occupier demand for Northern Ireland will increase throughout the next 12 months, with particular focus on the prime and regionally dominant locations," Lisney managing director Declan Flynn said.
"Retail investment in key Northern Ireland schemes is likely to generate strong results and, with the letting strategies of assets such as CastleCourt, The Junction, The Boulevard and The Odyssey hitting their stride, we expect to see a number of new lettings announced.
"Lisney's annual retail study has shown that the trend of reduced year-on-year vacancy continues apace, with only 9% of prime units remaining unoccupied at the end of 2017, compared to 10.5% at the end of 2016."
In its 2017 report, Lisney said that while capital values here remain "some way off pre-recession levels", the core local markets "remain robust".
It has also pointed to a "sustained period of growth in the retail sector, where vacancy rates for prime Belfast units stood at 9% at the end of 2017".
"Against a challenging economic backdrop, the Northern Ireland commercial property market has remained robust, with investment volumes surpassing the 2016 level to hit £305m," Mr Flynn said.
"This provided a significant boost in the context of both national and local political challenges, and serves to highlight the strong fundamentals that exist locally.
"The largest transaction of the year was the sale of CastleCourt to local asset manager Wirefox, and it is positive that off-shore equity has chosen to invest in Northern Ireland against the backdrop of a challenging retail investment market in Great Britain."
He added: "In what is a welcome development, we have begun to see several Republic of Ireland-based companies making tentative enquiries for office space in Northern Ireland, which we assume is stemming from the potential implications of Brexit."
Alastair Todd, head of property at law firm Arthur Cox, said the "in-depth research and analysis into the local commercial property market is to be welcomed, as it provides a further insight into the level of investment being made and the number of transactions being completed".
Mr Todd added: "The retail and industrial sectors in particular are performing very well at the moment.
"And it is encouraging to be able to look ahead to 2018 with confidence."