Global real estate firm Savills backing Tele property awards
Industry in Northern Ireland is facing "the perfect storm" with the uncertainty over Brexit, a looming recession and no government in Stormont, it has been warned.
Ben Turtle, who heads up the global real estate service provider Savills, said the situation has led to virtually no institutional investment in Northern Ireland.
Announcing the firm's sponsorship of the Architectural Practice of the Year category in this year's Belfast Telegraph Property Awards, Mr Turtle said: "In commercial property terms, Northern Ireland has suffered from the prolonged Brexit saga more than any other part of the United Kingdom.
"Fund managers are looking post-Brexit and struggling to understand if the withdrawal will have a positive or negative outcome on the province."
While there have been some pension fund investments in Northern Ireland in the alternative sectors, such as student accommodation, overall the market is in the doldrums with CRE investment levels in Northern Ireland at their lowest levels since 2012.
"It's a bit like a perfect storm with Brexit, no sitting Assembly, the retail market going through a seismic structural change and a looming recession," said Mr Turtle.
It is not all bad news, however, and while the commercial property sector is struggling, Mr Turtle pointed to a relatively buoyant residential market with property prices continuing to rise.
He said that if the UK was able to secure a favourable Brexit with a soft border for the free movement of trade and people, it may well create a unique environment where Northern Ireland businesses and markets would very quickly begin to thrive again.
"If Northern Ireland, as part of the UK, was to secure a unique trading relationship with the EU, we have no doubt the commercial real estate market will benefit hugely across all sectors," he said.
His own company, which has handled some of the largest property investment deals in Northern Ireland, has enjoyed a good year.
The firm has just marked its first year in its new offices in Belfast.
The company moved into new state of the art offices in Longbridge House in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.
The Belfast office has a staff of 20 and is a multi-disciplinary team offering a wide range of commercial property services across all sectors.
These include investment and capital markets, agency incorporating retail, office, industrial and residential, management and professional services including valuation and landlord and tenant.
Savills has handled some of the largest property investment deals in Northern Ireland, with recent deals including the leasing of Erskine House to HM Revenue and Customs accommodating over 1,600 new employees on Chichester Street; Northern Ireland's largest ever property transaction, the acquisition of CastleCourt for over £120m; the sale of Bow Street Mall in Lisburn and the purchase of Fountain House on Donegall Place for Primark.
Looking forward to once again taking part in the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards in November, Mr Turtle added: "We are delighted to support the awards again this year.
"A lot of our clients will be there and as a major player in the commercial market we want to support it and celebrate the successes of the past year.
"It is always great for people to get together and showcase the talent within the industry which the Belfast Property Awards does so well."
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