The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the property sector as companies decide they no longer need as much office space, staff call for permanent homeworking and lending rates fall. So what are the immediate ramifications for the corporate and residential real estate markets?
At the height of the lockdown in May, an unnamed Russian billionaire paid £15.45m to buy a five-bedroom townhouse overlooking London’s St James’s Park, complete with – as you might expect for that money – rooftop terrace, champagne store and private rear garden.
It was the biggest single residential transaction to take place during the lockdown. And it showed that the impact of the pandemic on the real estate sector might not be quite as straightforward as many think.
In real estate, when there’s a crisis, one person’s distressed asset often turns out to be another person’s buying opportunity – as investors and asset managers in the property sector may well be finding out in the coming months.
And while some sectors of the property market have undoubtedly been hit hard by coronavirus – think retail and hospitality – others, including much of the residential market, may come out looking relatively unscathed.
The coming months will be a time of opportunity for some in the commercial property investment sector. Sales of distressed assets will mean keen pricing for those who have cash, so long as they can find tenants who can pay in future or find a different use for the building.
“People will be looking further out in cities and they will be looking for more outdoor space, and possibly for properties that have an office where you can work,” says Jack Goguelin, Principal Representative in Jersey at mortgage broker Enness, which specialises in high-net-worth clients.
“They won’t necessarily move out of cities like London, but certainly if they have a second home they are more likely to look outside city centres.”