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Regions drive record high for investment; Commercial property investment in the UK reached PS54.9bn in 2014 ? UK regions have become an increasingly attractive option for domestic and foreign investors ? The future path of interest rates remains the most important factor impacting property investment ? 'Unprecedented' levels of investment in Birmingham.

DDTZ presented it's '2015 Outlook' for the property market at an event yesterday, providing key insights for both occupiers and investors for the year ahead.

The breakfast presentation held at Austin Court in Birmingham revealed that UK commercial property investment reached an all-time high in 2014, with PS54.9 billion transacted, with the increase driven by investment outside of London, which increased from PS25.4bn in 2013 to PS34.4 billion in 2014.

The UK regions have been an attractive option, given the higher yields on offer than in London, and with occupier markets underpinned by increasing demand and ongoing limited supply. DTZ also observed a dramatic increase of the flows into domestic retail funds during the second half of 2013 and over 2014, boosting institutional demand.

Overseas investment continued to dominate in London, representing over 68 per cent of transactions in 2014, but the real increase in overseas investment was again in the rest of the UK. This increased significantly from a 28 per cent share of the total in 2013 to 36 per cent in 2014, driven by significant surges in investment from the US, China and, in particular, Europe.

Ben Clarke, head of UK research at DTZ commented: "DTZ has tracked an upward trend of new global capital targeting the UK for the year ahead, reaching PS28bn in 2014. Inflows to retail funds also remain strong, so we expect downward yield momentum to continue into 2015, with secondary continuing to move in faster than prime. However, as pricing in the UK gets ever keener, some of this capital could be diverted to Europe, where there is more opportunistic investment for distressed assets."

Looking ahead, DTZ downplayed some perceived risks to UK property markets, including the impact of the general election and volatility in energy prices. A possible EU referendum may lead to a significant pause in investment and occupier market activity in the lead up to any vote but this would not be for several years.

The most important issue impacting property remains the ongoing ultra-low interest rate environment that has almost certainly been prolonged into 2016 with the release of record low inflation figures. This is especially relevant since DTZ expects more UK property markets to be overvalued than undervalued by early 2015.

Ben Clarke explained: "The longer the yield spread between property and bonds is, and is expected to be favourable, the further property yields will be compressed. The UK all-property total return for 2015 is set to again be a double digit, though we expect it to fall short of 2014's near-20 per cent return. However, front-loading returns in this way comes at the cost of a more painful correction to commercial property down the line when the interest rate environment eventually normalises."

The DTZ event also revealed that whilst the main drivers of returns have been on the investment side, there has also been a significant turnaround in most occupier markets. Office take-up in the key UK centres outside of central London was a record 5.7 million sq ft in 2014. A record volume of grade B lettings reflected the extreme shortage of grade A stock. However grade A pre-letting made a resurgence at the end of the year in response to a much-needed, albeit historically small, increase in the development pipeline.

David Tonks, senior director and national head of office agency at DTZ based in Birmingham commented: "Now is a great time to be promoting Birmingham. The unprecedented levels of investment in the City, both private and public, and the diversity of office development that is in the pipeline suggests that the Birmingham will continue to attract new employers wishing to benefit from the improving environment and communications that the City has to offer. It is especially encouraging to see the broad range of employment sectors that are planning to expand in the region or relocate into the City over the next three years."

The Industrial market had a record volume of grade A take-up in the first half of 2014, and overall 2014 take up was the highest since 2008.

Simon Lloyd, DTZ's Birminghambased head of industrial and logistics commented: "In part, this is down to the manufacturing sector which has shown solid growth during 2014, largely because of the automotive sector, although general manufacturing activity has also generated a good level of demand, DTZ has also tracked an increase in demand for large distribution hubs as retailers adapt their strategies in response to ongoing increases in online spending.

This robust level of demand has helped kick-start industrial speculative development in the Midlands and the South East, most of which has been let before the building has been completed, thereby encouraging more buildings to be constructed. Lloyd added: "Investors are happier to look at speculative construction projects given the level of demand and the better returns it offers."


Simon Lloyd and David Tonks

Last year's Outlook event
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 12, 2015
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