15 February 2022

More than 18 months ago, in the June 2020 edition of this publication, I asked a simple question: “Is common sense the key to success in the new normal”?

With the benefit of hindsight this was perhaps slightly overly simplistic and naïve but fundamentally the question was borne out of our then fledgling experience of attempting to operate a local business in a pandemic environment. Frankly, at that time none of us could have imagined the tumultuous challenges and endless complications that would dominate every aspect of our lives in the months ahead.

However, in the same article perhaps more astutely, I stated with optimism that “pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical, which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social, when the epidemic of fear of the disease subsides”. It seems to me now that as we peer hopefully into 2022, these circumstances have indeed occurred. We have seen the clear benefits of medical interventions particularly in terms of the vaccine roll-out and perhaps more importantly our psychology as a society has changed as our fear of the virus ebbs slowly away.

From a business perspective the evidence of this is clear with client enquiries at their strongest for many years and significant investor requirements in particular from local private buyers. We are and have always been a cash rich region and our local savvy and aggressive entrepreneurs are very much back in the market and raring to go. Demand continues to outstrip supply making good quality product hard to buy, although arguably this is nothing new given the size of our market.

Increased market confidence as we transition from pandemic to epidemic will certainly mean that there will be few bargains and our experience to date indicates that the position has been accepted by buyers, driving pricing forward.

In terms of market activity, 2021 finished strongly with notable investment transactions including Shane Retail Park at Boucher Road in Belfast for a reported £23m to DS Properties and a run of smaller retail transactions such as Merchants Quay in Newry, De Courcy Centre, Carrickfergus and the Linen Green in Moygashel all sold to local private buyers.

Encouragingly, retail enquiries are also up albeit that we have a significant oversupply of available accommodation across Northern Ireland and sadly many of our towns and cities now require massive regeneration. Again, this is nothing new and the pandemic has merely accelerated change in a challenged sector. Significant ‘blue sky’ thinking from private and public sector minds alike is required in order to square this circle.

The office sector remains in flux. There is certainly renewed appetite but given the seismic market adjustments in the past two years or so, occupiers will need time to establish exactly what their requirements look like and how they match new hybrid working models.

Given the path of the coronavirus pandemic to date, there will likely be many a bump in the road ahead but for now at least there is genuine optimism and for that we must all surely be thankful.

Get in touch with us today

If you have a query then you can get in touch with us by calling the Osborne King office, email or leave an enquiry below.

Top ↑