Many new office buildings pre-leased

A sense of strength is coming back into the property market this year, with the bottom of the cycle possibly closing in. And consumer interest, in both the residential and commercial fronts, are on the rise too.

FraserTOwersWith news of Facebook pre-leasing space at Marina One, the upcoming Frasers Tower in the heart of the Central Business District (CBD) has also received leasing proposals for 30 per cent of its 38-storey office building from various interest tenants. Most were from multi-national conglomerates, legal services, technology firms and a serviced-office provider, The Executive Centre who expressed interest in taking up an entire 20,000 sq ft floor space.

New office buildings are gradually filling up even before they are completed or ready for occupancy. There is however some movement from other existing buildings as tenants take the opportunity to relocate or upgrade, as seen in the mix of tenancy in Marina One and Guoco Tower. Frasers Tower has a 663,000 sq ft of total net leasable area. More new office spaces are currently being developed in the CBD, including UIC Building and the new property which will sit on the site of the previous CPF building. Though office rents have been falling, it may be a good sign after all as the market would have picked up by the time these new buildings are

Positive 2017 outlook for retail and office property sector

Despite falling rents for retail and office spaces, analysts are hopeful for a positive performance from this market segment in 2017.

MarinaOneOfficePhoto credit: www.marinaone.com.sg

The last quarter of 2016 saw office rents falling 1.8 per cent, bringing last year’s decline of rental prices to 8.2 per cent. Rents for retail spaces fell 1.2 per cent in Q4, bringing the total year’s decline to 8.3 per cent. Surprisingly, despite a weakening economy and competition from e-commerce, the demand for retail spaces have picked up. Analysts put the easing of pressure on the retail property market to the development of many flagship stores, large food and beverage clusters and gyms. New retail brands and concepts entering the market meant there were tenants willing to take up larger floor areas in prime spots. That said, almost 169,000 sq metres of retail space will become available this year, and there may still be challenges ahead for this sector.

DuoTower

Photo credit: www.duosingapore.com

In the office property front, following announcements of major tenancy deals such as Facebook taking up prime office spaces in Marina One and similarly Distrii, a co-working operator, at Republic Plaza, the market is beginning to stabilise. New and massive working spaces will however add to the inventory soon, taking Duo Tower in Bugis as an example. It was completed last month and has pushed office vacancy rates to 11.1 per cent. Moving ahead,  property players are expecting office rents to continue softening at least for the first half of the year, though newer buildings such as Guoco Tower and Marina One have enjoyed positive take-up rates last year.

Long-term potential of Commercial property in Singapore

Commercial properties in Singapore still hold a special place in the hearts of investors, if the activity in the market last year was anything to go by.

straitstradingbuildingThere were some massive bulk purchases of prime sites from foreign entities in 2016 and developers were actively buying up land sites. Investors are obviously seeing huge potentials of the commercial property market here. The 43-storey Asia Square Tower 1 for example was sold at $3.38 billion to Qatar Investment Authority’s sovereign fund in June 2016. This record sale by investment firm BlackRock was the largest single-asset and office transaction in the Asia-Pacific region. On a smaller but not any less worthy scale, is the sale of the Straits Trading Building to Indonesia’s Mayapada Group for $560 million. At $3,250 psf, it set a record for psf prices in the district.

Investors from all over the world are spotting the potential for long-term positive growth in this region and in extending their reach in Singapore. Large assets here are of particular interest and 2017 may see more such transactions taking place.

sbf-centerNot only are they investing in completed commercial properties, but also in land with developmental potential, such as a white site in Central Boulevard which was purchased by Malaysian plantation and real estate tycoon, Lee Shin Cheng. This Marina Bay mixed-use site was released under the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme. Though the office rental market has not been in its best form last year, there is hope that it will bounce back up by 2021.

 

Prime Marina Bay site expected to lure aggressive bids

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has recently released a 1.1 ha prime site at Marina Bay in Central Boulevard. Coupled with news that Asian banks are expected to strengthen their presence in Singapore, this could be an office development site developers hanker after.

Asia Square

Photo credit: www.thehumanbuilding.com

The last time a site at Marina Bay was put up for tender was in 2007 – Asia Square now stands on this site. With the Central Business District location and size of the site taken into consideration, it will no doubt yield a number of plum Grade A offices. Bids are expected to come from mid- to large-sized developers as well as real estate investment funds, at aggressively too, as the site holds the potential for an impressive building with a huge number of units.

Despite the softening commercial sales and rental market, the successful bidder will be likely to have the project completed by 2020, which allows sufficient time for a market upturn. The bid closes on 8 November and investment entities from China and the Middle East may show particular interest. In fact, China’s Nanshan Group is said to be the ones triggering the release of the site as it was originally on the Government’s reserve list and was said to have been released after a developer committed to bidding at least $1.536 billion. But as more buildings are seeing increased levels of commitment from companies looking to stake a presence in Southeast-Asia, developers may have more confidence taking on commercial projects.

Office supply on the rise

As the supply of office spaces, especially in the Central Business District, increases, landlords are lowering office rents to entice new tenants. For the 3rd quarter in a row, CBD office rental prices have fallen.

Eon SHentonProperty analysts are expecting a rise in supply as companies move out of the prime central business district into cheaper regional business hubs and expansion plans for many foreign entities may have been put on hold due to the wavering global economy. Grade A offices were resilient despite the overall fall, perhaps due to the lack of supply of new units in the core areas. But moving outwards from the centre of the CBD, Grade B office spaces in Shenton Way, Robinson Road, Cecil Street, Anson road and Tanjong Pagar fell 4 per cent.

Co-working spaces have gained popularity of late, and demand for these sort of short-term leasing or shared-leasing arrangements may be on the rise. Most of these tenants are start-up firms in the technology and social media fields who need spaces close to their clients and conveniently located to attract and retain talents.

In addition to the off-kilter scale of supply and demand, some tenants may also be looking at subletting existing spaces which they have leased but are not occupying, thus increasing the actual amount of office space available in the market.

Quiet on the Office front

5-shenton-wayIn preparation of this year’s imminent economic turmoil, businesses and companies are finding all ways to downsize, from retrenchments to cutting down on their office spaces or even uprooting to another country entirely. This may pose a spot of trouble for commercial real estate, especially in the more upmarket and expensive Central Business District (CBD).

This plus competition from the soon-to-be-completed Marina One and more available office spaces at the new Marina Bay Financial District such as Asia Square. The Tanjong Pagar and Shenton Way area are also seeing future competition from new office developments such as 5 Shenton Way, Robinson Towers and Frasers Tower. Some tenants have gone into subletting their spaces for lesser, subsidising rents for their sublet tenants so they get better deals than if they were to go to the landlords directly.

Robinsons Towers

Photo: Robinsons Towers (photo by taunsing.com)

But not all of the movement is out of the country. As Singapore remains one of the more established bases for multinational companies (MNCs), international firms may still continue to relocate their regional headquarters here. Hong Kong is the other popular base for MNCs, where housing rentals and costs of living  are comparable.

Technology, media and telecommunication companies  are however beating the odds and growing in numbers and size. Airbnb is now taking up 30,000 sq ft on Cecil Street, expanding from their original 13,000 sq ft. And Uber has also taken up 20,000 sq ft in Mapletree Anson.

 

Hong Kong’s property scene veer towards Commercial

Buyers and investors in Hong Kong’s property market seem to be veering towards commercial as residential property prices decline.

Mongkok Office hOng KongPhoto credit: Office18.com

Offices are at the top of the list as Chinese companies continue to seek out spaces and sometimes even entire buildings. Hong Kong is a city popular with Chinese corporations who hope to elevate their brand globally by having offices in the country. As the economy in China begins to slow, many companies are looking outside of the country for higher returns.

Home prices on the other hand, are not faring as well. Residential property prices are expected to fall by up to 20 per cent within the next couple of quarters. This may impact overseas investors who have previously purchased properties in Hong Kong. But the falling prices may be good news to those who are hoping to snag a few more properties in the city. Investors may very well take the opportunity to purchase and hold on to these  assets whose value might rise in the future not too far away.

Upper East Hong Kong CondoPhoto credit: GoHome.com.hk

There is however certainly no lack of new property launches in Hong Kong; with apartments in Mong Kok, Aberdeen and Yuen Long, just to name a few.

Commercial properties – Promising future?

As the noose tightens around the residential property market, investors may consider shifting their focus onto commercial properties, in particular office spaces. Q3 figures have shown that selling prices and rental of office spaces have been growing at a record pace.

In land-scarce Singapore, the growing number of businesses means the demand for office space will continue to rise. And as space decreases, prices increase. In Q3 alone, office space rental prices rose by 1.6 per cent. Part of the reason could be that major buildings such as the NOL Building and Havelock II have been undergoing renovation and thus the office space crunch has led to businesses having to look for alternative spaces within a short time period.

Havelock 2 OfficeDespite luxury properties in the downtown and CBD areas faring poorly of late, Grade A office rents in these areas have been travelling the opposite direction – upwards. Office spaces in the central region have been more in demand than rentals in other regions despite the higher rental prices. Central districts office rentals have risen 2.8 per cent while those at the fringe of the city have risen 1.9 per cent.

Retail space however, is another creature altogether. As most retail space income comes also from the tenant’s sales and margins have been narrow due to higher operating and labour costs. And with the introduction of many more mixed-use developments come 2016, supply may overtake demand and reduce the rarity of these spaces. Especially as online shopping takes off in a big way locally, retail spaces, unless in high traffic areas or exclusive trendy enclaves, may find themselves fighting for the same audience.