Commercial real estate proving a popular choice for foreign buyers

While much of the recent focus on foreign real estate investors has been on their activity in the residential sector, it appears Australian real estate of all shapes and sizes is popular with offshore buyers.

According to figures from real estate services firm CBRE, the sale of office, industrial and retail property valued at over $5 million totalled $28.4 billion through the 2015 calendar year.

That figure was just 4% shy of the record $29.6 billion tally set in 2014, with demand from foreign investors helping to drive the high level of sales.

“Rising volumes of offshore investment reflect the relative attractiveness of Australia’s commercial property yields in a period when interest rates have been close to 2% points above major developed markets globally,” CBRE’s Australian research head Stephen McNabb said.

“The level of activity is also consistent with the trend towards globalisation and diversification.  As a result of this, Australian investors are also beginning to export more capital offshore and we may see more of this in 2016, particularly as interest rates rise in overseas markets,” McNabb said.

According to CBRE’s analysis, offshore investors accounted for $11.7 billion, or 41% of the total commercial sales - the highest market share for foreign investors on record.

Office blocks in particular were a popular destination for offshore money, with foreign buyers accounting for 54% of office turnover through 2015.

The strong overseas interest in Australia’s commercial real estate market is expected to continue, as it provides a more attractive returns than many other markets.

“At the beginning of 2014 the expectation was that foreign investment activity might ease however it’s only grown stronger, with the available returns in Australia still more attractive than in the other gateway cities offshore,” CBRE capital markets executive managing director Mark Granter said

“The underlying property fundamentals in Sydney and Melbourne are helping to drive activity as occupier demand improves and vacancies decline, with these markets also benefitting from the fact that not too much new supply is being delivered,” Ganter said.

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