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Research reveals a surge in residential investment in Lisbon

Lisbon has seen a surge in residential investment and development activity in the last two years, according to new research. The city is emerging from economic difficulties in a nation which underwent an European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout in 2011 and various initiatives are helping to revive its property markets, says the report from international real estate firm Savills. It points out that reform of Portugal’s residential tenancy laws, coupled with inward investor incentives, has spurred wide scale regeneration of the built environment, helping Lisbon to foster economic recovery faster than other parts of the country. Indeed, some €1.56 billion has been injected into Portugal’s residential markets since the golden visa programme was launched in 2012 and the bulk of this has gone into Lisbon. New apartments are being constructed and historic buildings are being redeveloped to meet modern day occupier demands. The report also points out that Portugal is now emerging from recession and the national economy grew by 1.5% in 2015, and is forecast to grow by a further 1.4% in 2016, just below the Eurozone average of 1.6%. Unemployment now stands at 12%, down from a high of almost 18% in January 2013. As part of its bailout package, Portugal was required to implement structural reforms to improve long term growth, productivity and competitiveness while reducing its deficit. Portuguese companies have increasingly focused efforts to grow their business abroad. This has fuelled exports, which are up 29.3% since 2010. New incentives for inward investment into Portugal’s residential markets were developed, helping to revive the residential sector and one effect of the financial crisis was to foster greater entrepreneurship, and Lisbon has emerged as a centre for tech companies and start-ups. The report explains that historically Portugal’s leasing market was protectionist, pro-tenant and gave little incentive for landlords to enter the market. As a result, Portugal’s home ownership rate is high, with an owner occupation rate of 75%. In 2012, the government introduced reforms to the leasing market, leading to greater flexibility in lease terms and, making the investment market more appealing to investors. This quickly attracted the attention of new developers and institutional investors. Improved market conditions have also fuelled big ticket commercial investment volumes. In total, $1.96 billion (€1.71bn) was invested into Lisbon’s commercial markets in 2015, of which $1bn (€0.87bn) came from the United States. Investors from the UK, Spain, Singapore, Switzerland and Germany, among others, have also been active in the last four years. Portugal launched one of the world’s most successful golden visa schemes in 2012. A minimum investment in real estate of €500,000 grants the non-EU buyer a visa and, in the longer term, a route to an EU passport. Foreigners need only be resident in Portugal for seven days in the first year of residency. By January 2015, the scheme had brought €1.56 billion of new investment into Portugal’s residential markets, the bulk into Lisbon. Some 2,697 golden visa residence permits have been… Continue reading

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Investment in rural land in the UK seeing weakening returns

A weakened investment performance suggests that confidence in the rural land market in the UK is cooling after years of great returns. The IPD UK annual rural property index shows that total return recorded in 2015 was 5.5%, down from the 10.4% recorded in 2014. It is the most subdued return since 2008 and reflected a market cooling after several years of very robust returns in line with other investment classes. Sentiment was tempered by weakening commodity prices, and more recently by political discussions around Britain exiting the European Union. The report says that this caution around future market uncertainty was most reflected in rural land capital growth, which slowed to 4.1% in 2015 from 8.9% in 2014. This marked the lowest growth since 2008 when values depreciated. The decrease in the rate of capital growth contributed the most to the decline in the total return. The restraint in capital value growth was most pronounced in South East, where growth declined to 5.8% from 17.9% in 2014. There was also significant moderation in capital value growth across Eastern England, East Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humberside regions. Northern England and Scotland recorded the slowest value growth at 1.1%. Rural income return, however, held relatively steady at 1.3% compared to 1.4% in 2014, the figures in the annual index also show. ‘The weakened investment performance suggests confidence in the land market is cooling down after years of great returns,’ said Colm Lauder, MSCI vice president. ‘Moreover, the uncertainty created by discussion over Brexit and the potential effect of such a move on agri-food exports hit the confidence of farmers to increase rental holdings or invest further,’ he explained. He added that investors were concerned that it will be some time before there is a clear picture for the agricultural economy. MSCI also recorded a total return of 10.8% in 2015 in the IPD UK Annual Forestry Index, which marked a decline from a total return of 18.6% in 2014, the most subdued return since 2008. The index report points out that the decline is despite healthy demand for timber and wood products. However, a strengthened pound sterling versus euro and Scandinavian currencies put British wood products at a disadvantage in export markets. And it explains that British timber is heavily dependent on the exchange rate value of the pound. The significant gap between Euro and Swedish Krona denominated import prices and home grown prices denominated in the British pound narrowed significantly, which rendered Scandinavian exported sawn timber more competitive in 2015. Consequently, imports from mainland Europe rose at the expense of UK timber growers, whose timber sale returns in turn declined due to weakening saw-log prices. Subsequently the medium term run of forestry property price returns were impacted as investors and analysts made the adjustment. ‘The total return from UK Forestry of almost 11% is… Continue reading

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Buy to let landlords face paying more for a mortgage in the UK, it is claimed

Buy to let investors could face paying an extra £10,000 to get a mortgage after a crackdown on dangerous debts by UK lenders. Watchdog the Prudential Regulation Authority is concerned that some landlords are overstretching themselves and will face difficulties when interest rates rise and it is expected that the banks and building societies will start making new hefty charges from September 2016. As a result, it is forcing lenders to run stricter tests to see whether an investor can afford the loan. Currently, investors have to prove they would earn enough from the rent to cover their repayments, but the new plan demands proof they would still be covered if rates rose by at least 2%. Under the new tests, banks and building societies will want evidence of a yield of at least 5.2% to qualify for a 25% deposit loan. This would mean earning £7,800 a year from rent on a £150,000 home before paying the mortgage. To pass the tests, investors will have to either raise rents to ensure they would be covered if interest rates soared, or reduce borrowing. However, according to Peter Armistead of Armistead Property, savvy investors can absorb these new charges by buying cheaper property with higher yields. ‘Clearly the investors most at risk are those with smaller deposits who buy property in parts of the UK where rents are low compared with house prices. This is a particular problem in places such as London and the South East where the average annual returns between 2010 and 2015, was just 4.86% in outer London and 4.71% in the City, according to LendInvest,’ he explained. He pointed out that house prices in London are about five times what they are in parts of the North West, but salaries are only 30% higher. Manchester and Liverpool deliver some of the best rental yields, with Manchester recording average annual rental yields of 6.02% over five years, followed by Liverpool with 5.15% yields. He also said that an average residential property in Manchester is just £155,000, while a flat in a good area, costs as little as £120,000. A property in Manchester can provide a 5% minimum cash rental yield and a typical 12% total cash yield, including 7% capital appreciation. Demand for rental accommodation is strong and by comparison with other regions, housing is cheaper. ‘Landlords will find the best returns in urban areas, with a concentration of students and young professionals. If investors can purchase cheaper properties with better yields, they will have the opportunity to protect and boost their profits in the longer term,’ added Armistead. Continue reading

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