By Louis Montegriffo, CEO, BMI Group
High value clients (CAT 2 / HEPPS), and other applicants relocating to the Rock, continue to represent a significant part in the growth of the property sector. With new startups in the gaming industry, with substantial investments which suggest a long-term presence in Gibraltar; the FinTech sector and the Finance Centres’ foresight in regulating the industry at technology level is already proving to be hugely successful and has the markings of developing similarly to the online gaming sector, which has, over two decades been responsible for substantial growth.
There are numerous fundamentals surrounding the Gibraltar economy which will underpin further consistent growth. We are therefore optimistic and side on a real prospect that prices will hold at current levels and may see further growth, particularly within the upper-tiers and owner occupier driven sectors.
Re-sales and off-plan resales in completed developments such as Quay 31 and Midtown continue to be a good indicator of confidence. There is a strong indicator that re-sales in certain developments are seeing significant growth margins of up to 25%. There is a great deal of importance on the impact of off-plan sales and the quality / profile of buyers; the simple logic is, “Owner occupiers” will always drive the sector – “Let the market drive the market”.
A sensible 4 tier market
The developing 4 tier market (low, mid, high, ultra-high) as has been seen over the past six years, are now firmly accepted, and more than serves as a positive indicator of the potential of the market. The very fact that Gibraltar is attracting a new ultra-high segment is the clearest sign of confidence from a new emerging market.
Therefore, the Rock has a healthy property sector, split sensibly between the four tiers. Few Finance Centres / Finance Services jurisdictions can boast such a cross section of the market.
With respect to current availability / stock, it is safe to say that there are options in various locations, but particularly so in older commercial developments. The offering is generally lower quality and in certain areas, compromised in terms of layout flexibility and sizes.
There is no question that an element of decanting from the older commercial properties into the newer and better designed office schemes has been the order of the day over the last four years. Worthy of note, is the fact that letting rates/sqm have not been compromised at the higher end due to the decanting, in fact quite the opposite; applicants are prepared to pay high-end prices for high-end specs.
New modern office options will serve to improve the commercial offerings in the market and will generate new business steered by new expectation, which serve to underpin the positive future for the Rock!
Considering the recent Covid pandemic and the advent of a greater volume of employees working from home, there is a case to be made in less demand or a request for reduction in office space, particularly for the larger office users. This has not directly affected the high rates for Grade A offices being achieved, but there may be some circumstances where negotiations on rent reviews, may now favour the tenant.
New off-plan developments
Currently in Gibraltar, there are a number of off-plan developments ongoing, such as Eurocity, E1, Forbes, etc. It would be fair to say that there isn’t enough to go around when one considers the demand and the impact this has had on pricing levels.
Thankfully, due to a thriving economy, with new entrants across the board (Financial Services, Gaming, DLT & Cryptocurrencies, Private Clients), the jurisdiction finds itself in a not uncommon situation of serious lack of supply and over-demand for properties, leading to a hike in prices that had not been seen since 2007, and then again in 2013.
There is clearly a need and demand for new off-plan projects, and this will be met with the Victoria Keys reclamation and Eastside project, but these are still a while away. This will continue to harden the market at the levels and potentially at the pace Gibraltar has experienced over the last few years.
Fundamentally however, when it comes to sensible planning and knowing your market and your profile buyers, we have always maintained that a mix of owner occupiers, seasoned investors and a small measure of speculators is healthy – any overdose of the latter and you run the risk of exposing the market to an oversupply trend and in turn a property bubble.
Property values as indicated have grown enormously in most sectors, although these increases have not consistently mirrored GDP growth as in the past; it would be unrealistic to expect as much. The future very much depends on new business for Gibraltar, but more importantly the ability for our economy and financial services sector to continue to strive, compete and attract new entrants from other jurisdictions.