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A report page including Tanya Elmaz and her insights.

'Opportunities and Outlook The Future of Commercial Property' insights from Tanya Elmaz.

31 Jan 2024 | 4 min

On the release of our Opportunities and Outlook report looking at the future of commercial property, we caught up with Tanya Elmaz, Together’s Director of Intermediary Sales to get her view on the findings.

What’s the health of the commercial property market?

Our brokers tell us that, despite a turbulent economic backdrop which has brought its challenges, there are still sizeable opportunities in the commercial property market.

It’s not been a particularly unhealthy year but rising interest changes and the difficult economic backdrop have made it unpredictable. Fortunately, what we are seeing now is organic recovery with increased demand in some key sectors.

Players have had to change and we have seen developers and landlords continue to innovate to offer property solutions that customers want. Our strength is working with investors to understand what property trends are coming up so we are ready to help our customers diversify.

Where are the particular areas of opportunity?

The need for housing has never gone away and building affordable housing continues to be important. On the commercial side, we are seeing ‘change of use’ and ‘permitted development’ as growing sectors to satisfy this need. The repurposing of commercial buildings into residential sites breathes new life into buildings, especially in city centres where there has been rapid population growth.

The strong demand for HMO’s and holiday lets proves that Buy to Let still has opportunity also, with landlords diversifying their portfolio. In particular, we’ve seen that in the Student accommodation sector. Although the cost of renting continues to increase and at some point will reach a plateau, more land is still needed to build new complexes for students to fulfil a growing need.

The appetite for more office space has been changeable. We are seeing funding applications for smaller, more flexible spaces alongside contracts that enable tenants to get in and out of tenancies more easily. This could be put down to a continued reluctance from some industries to commit to returning to the office en masse after the pandemic, with employee behaviours changing to favour working from home or hybrid models.

Other areas of growth include logistics and industrial sectors as increasingly people live life online and order goods to be delivered from fulfillment centres instead of visiting physical stores. An example can be seen in the restaurant industry where “dark” kitchens fulfil online takeaway orders without the need for a physical restaurant area for customers.

The health sector, as our community ages, is also providing opportunities for both wellbeing sites as well as research labs.

What’s in store for next 12 months?

Our community of brokers are optimistic despite the challenges ahead. Investors are going to have to continue to reinvent themselves to overcome affordability challenges. Many banks are tightening up on the asset classes that they will lend on meaning that access to funding could get tougher. That’s where it is important to seek out a lender that can fully appraise the opportunity and its viability, even if it does not tick the standard criteria.

We will continue to see the need for cost mitigation going forward and ESG will continue to be a theme in the market. And while there is a substantial appetite to create environmentally friendly buildings, the knowledge and cost of materials to repurpose existing buildings or build from scratch is still a challenge. Yet, good tenants need assurances in place that any site they rent meets certain sustainability standards.

What Policy changes would Together like to see to further support the Commercial Property market?

A boost to the commercial property market has so many positive ramifications for the economy. These include building homes for those that need them, creating jobs constructing and renovating buildings, and creating workplaces to provide goods and services that are needed in communities.

The real change that is needed is in planning. Processes need to be easier and quicker, with skilled resource in place to make sensible decisions.

Subsidised taxes and grants to encourage the adoption of regulations will support the refurbishment of existing stock. Currently, the task can just be too onerous for a landlord to contemplate so more streamline, accessible processes need to be put in place to encourage adoption.

A renewed focus on improving transport links is also needed, helping to make travel into our towns and city centres easier. In turn, these improvements would be a boost to urban based office, leisure and retail businesses and local economies.

The housing crisis continues to loom as targets for new properties have stalled, further set back by a rental shortage and higher interest rates which have restricted first time buyers’ ability to make the move onto the ladder.

What action is the industry calling for?

In this climate, many brokers need to diversify their offering and don’t always have the knowledge on what types of funding are out there. In order to access funds to help realise customers’ property ambitions, a broad knowledge on the flexibility of products and different asset types is needed.

Customers need to find partners who can get close to the detail and respond quickly with funding in place so that opportunities are not missed.

We have a responsibility to educate not just the specialist brokers, but a wider field of brokers on how they can diversify their offering and widen their horizons, such as moving into unregulated lending, business loans and second charges.

That’s why we launched Chalk, a portal that allows us to continually update our broker community with a range of informative webinars and videos. By learning more about the different products on offer, brokers are able to provide the best solutions for their customers’ needs.

Why is access to funding in specialist areas so important?

Our Opportunities and Outlook report finds that one in five property developers are not confident in being able to access the additional finance that they need. Traditional lenders are increasingly taking a much more cautious approach to lending and can take weeks in their decision making process. Such delays not only affect the business's liquidity and ability to progress with a scheme, but can also see opportunities disappear from view.

We found that landlords place value in speed, service and reliability as key factors in influencing who to lend from and High Street lenders are just not set up to deliver this.

With more than two thirds of those questioned stating that they anticipate the need to borrow more to support their investment strategy, there is a need to work with lenders that can fully assess the opportunity and ability to take on risk and not be constrained by a tick-box approach.

 

For more insights and research, please download our full Opportunities and Outlook: The future of commercial property report.

All content factually correct at the time of publishing.

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