Yes, as is now customary from our end, we are late on this next edition, our apologies! Nevertheless, we are still here and you happen to be reading our 45th edition of the BMI Group property magazine, after well over a decade of publications; and given that we are on dates and milestones, we proudly offer you our advice, guidance and humble opinions (from an estate agent..:) on this, our 20th year anniversary trading as Gibraltar’s most established Estate Agent and Development Consultant…..how’s that for a start !
So 2017 by all accounts was in fact a hugely successful year across the board, with numerous high value sales and a consistent volume of mid-range sales which further underpinned the market in all four tiers.
A clear growth in prices across the mid end region principally the £300,000 to £700,000 price ranges, which we had expected, has led to an increase in prices across this sector of approx. 9%. or an average house price of approx. £510,000.
The overall average on prices at the top tier market has (in our view) seen a slight decline; this is due to a levelling off in prices at the 4th tier (Upper high end) where the rate of top end sales has decreased slightly. This therefore shows a total average house price level of approx. £625,000 or an approx. growth of 5% which is in our view consistent with what we had expected and had forecasted. This was mainly driven by the middle end market performing in a far stronger manner during 2017.
We continue to take the view that the upper 4th tier in the market has a great deal more to offer, but uncertainties surrounding Brexit negotiations will no doubt impact any immediate growth and further increases at price ranges of above £1,750,000.
Our view and forecast for 2018 remains uncertain as was the case in 2017, given external affairs relating to Brexit and the impact that this may have on Gibraltar from a political and economic perspective. Indications however, and the fact that we have continued to see growth over the period since June 2016 are that Gibraltar could benefit from the uncertainties in Europe but particularly the chaos and instability throughout European economies. We are also encouraged by recent news with respect to Gibraltar and confirmation that the UK Government will guarantee continued access to the UK financial services / online gaming markets. Certainty and stability are crucial and despite concerns we continue to position ourselves favourably against the odds.
High value clients (Cat 2 / Hepps) and other applicants relocating to the Rock continue to represent a significant part of our business and growth in the property sector. We are seeing new start-ups in the gaming industry, with substantial investments which suggest a long-term presence in Gibraltar; the DLT sector and the Finance Centres’ foresight in regulating the industry at technology level is already proving to be hugely successful and has the makings of developing similarly to the online gaming sector, which has, over two decades been responsible for substantial growth.
We believe that there are numerous fundamentals surrounding our economy which will underpin further consistent growth. We therefore remain cautiously optimistic and side on a real prospect that prices will hold at current levels and may see further growth in certain sectors similar to 2017 of circa 5%+ (average of all four tiers).
Off-plan re-sales continue to be a good indicator of confidence or lack of and our focus will be on assessing whether the market has over-exposed itself to weak speculators, and which developments may be more adversely affected by this. We have already seen a strong indicator that re-sales in certain developments are seeing significant growth margins.
As has been the case in so many of our previous updates, we place a great deal of importance on the impact of off-plan sales and the quality / profile of buyers; we do not tire in repeating simple logic, “owner occupiers” will always drive the sector - “let the market drive the market”!
A sensible 4 tier market…
Our thoughts on a developing 4 tier market (low, mid, high, ultra-high) as described over the past 48 months are now firmly accepted. We believe that this more than serves as a positive indicator of the potential that the market continues to enjoy. The very fact that we are attracting a new ultra-high segment is the clearest sign of confidence from a new emerging market.
It is our firm view that we have a healthy property sector, split sensibly amongst four tiers. Few Finance Centres / Financial Services jurisdictions can boast such a cross section of markets, catering for an array of demands from various profiles, this in our view once again shows the maturity of the market.
A buoyant lettings market is an indicator (in part) to a prelude in rising prices as was the case in 2000 (due to the huge growth in new gaming entrants at the time) and we believe that existing new letting entrants, will continue to translate into new purchaser applicants, thereby adding to the prospect of growth.
Increases in prices (as has been the case) are clearly driven by demand but are also good indicators of economic activity. Due to the delivery of new developments and a supply of properties on to the market over the period 2018 into 2019 we expect to see a possible softening in recent letting price increases and take a view that rental prices are more likely to remain settled, certainly leading up to the completion of the recent new "off-plan" schemes. We had expected 2017 to show a levelling off in prices, this was not the case due to delay in completions of some developments now due for completion in 2018.
Landlords will no doubt be pleased to see their existing ROI doing well across the board and gross yields generally ranging between 4.5%-6.0%. We expect this to remain the case over the next 12 -18 months. Some of our portfolio Landlords are achieving up to 7.5% yields and continue to invest sensibly in the market.
World Trade Centre was delivered to market very much on time and has been a huge success adding a new dimension to Grade A office space in Gibraltar. The development is well over 95% occupied and has been welcomed massively by the market. More news to come on a possible WTC II
Midtown Commercial is scheduled for completion during Q2 2018 and is already fully subscribed and provides a Grade A office environment in the heart of Gibraltar, with immediate access to Midtown Residential a high value residential scheme (fully sold out) and Midtown Retail which completes the original phases of this high end mixed use development. We expect the last phase (Liberty) to be officially launched soon – for further information on this, please feel free to call us.
Marina Club 147 units, Eurocity up to 360 units, The Hub 143 units. These are the most recent of launched / to be launched developments. All are aimed at the same segment in the market, primarily studios / 1 bed units, and generally targeting the buy to let and speculator sector given the sizes and distributions of the layouts.
We remain very vigilant in this segment of the market, particularly given the volumes in play. If you are looking at property investment opportunities with a #zerohype #seriousadvice edge, we would be delighted to talk to you and guide you accordingly.
Finally, please look out for our annual Market Update, due out soon. In this review, we look at and consider the market and its performance over the past year, we have also delved into our database and records going back over a decade, offering a great snap shot of what the property sector has done during this period, from all angles; sales, lettings, off-plan and other - all in the hope of trying to best forecast where we might be heading in these interesting times.