Property outlook & market update 2018/19
2017 was a hugely successful year for high and mid-range end sales in Gibraltar. Louis C. Montegriffo, Managing Director, BMI group, reports on the future property outlook
Gibraltar experienced an unprecedented and unexpected growth in sales after the Brexit referendum result in June 2016. Although some thought the market would see a downturn in 2017 due to the uncertainties of a looming Brexit and the invoking of Article 50 in March, Gibraltar actually had a strong, bullish year for property sales in terms of volume that remained consistent throughout 2017.
Why the confidence?
Investment in Gibraltar is underpinned primarily by the Gibraltar Finance Centre, with the strength in regulating financial services. It is importantly a jurisdiction that is subject to British Law and the English language as the firm basis of Gibraltar’s success.
“It is evident that the last ten months have resulted in a good volume of sales across all the segments in the market.
An element of this strength has predominantly been driven by off-plan re-sales in developments nearing completion. Prices over the period have been stable with average growth in some areas of between 3-4%. The rental market has been extremely buoyant over the period with significant increases in rents, particularly in newer developments such as Midtown, where some one beds have rents of £2,000 pcm and two beds reaching £3,000 pcm. This is mainly driven by new business (DLT / Gaming sectors) and the continued growth in HNWIs.”
What’s in store?
Gibraltar will continue to see increased off-plan stock for re-sale driven by pending developments set to complete in 2019/20. This will be primarily influenced by the volume of speculators wanting to flip their investment.
Existing stock may also be influenced by the arrival of new developments, as well as the release of ex-MoD (now GOG) stock.
In the middle tiers or upper low to mid-end of the market, prices have seen increases of approximately 9% in the 12 months leading into mid 2018. There has been a great deal more movement in the mid-end sector and we believe this is fundamentally due to the continued strength of the economy and a new wave of purchasers, both local and ex-pat first time buyers.
The upper end has seen a slight lapse and settling compared to previous years, but this is not surprising. High end clients are no doubt keeping a cautious eye on the upper end before committing to the £2 million + market, owing to the uncertainties surrounding Brexit.
West One, The Arches, Midtown, Ocean Spa, Quay 29, Imperial Ocean and Quay 31 amount to approximately 750 units under construction and coming to market over the coming months and into the next few years. Most are underpinned by the owner occupier market which usually drives the market – most have apt mixes that are spacious and are balanced between 1-4 bedroom layouts, reducing risk of over-exposure to one segment.
Further new projects have been launched and sold off-plan with more to be released. The Hub, Marina Club and Eurocity, Forbes and E1 have been launched this year and all are geared to the “buy to let / speculative investor” markets. In total there are approximately 800 units being constructed / proposed with completion dates from mid-2020 onwards.
I maintain that a mix of owner occupiers, seasoned investors and a small measure of speculators is healthy – an overdose of the latter and there runs the risk of exposing the market to an oversupply trend and in turn a property bubble.
The first large scale development scheduled for completion before the end of 2018 is Midtown phase 1. Ocean Spa and Quay 29 are both scheduled to be completed by early 2019, and others will follow during 2019/20
There has been a strong indicator that re-sales in certain developments are seeing significant growth margins and these continue to be a good indicator of the confidence or lack of on assessing whether the market has over-exposed
itself to weak speculators, and which developments may be more adversely affected by this. There is a great deal of importance on the impact of off-plan sales and the quality / profile of buyers, and the simple logic of this is, “Owner occupiers” will always drive the sector – “let the market drive the market”!
The World Trade Centre (WTC) was completed on schedule last year and has been a huge success. The fully occupied building has added a new dimension to Grade A office space in Gibraltar, and there are talks of a possible WTC 2.
Midtown Commercial is already fully subscribed and provides a Grade A office environment in the heart of Gibraltar, with immediate access to Midtown Residential, a high end residential scheme (fully sold out) and Midtown Retail which completes this mixed use development.