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Brexit, multifamily growth key issues for European CRE experts – Real Estate News EXchange

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Investors considering the European real estate market received insights from a panel of experts at the Global Property Market conference recently at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Following are highlights of what the representatives from six companies, all active in European real estate investment, had to share with the audience.

M&G Real Estate

Panelists discuss European real estate investment opportunities and strategies at the Global Property Market conference in Toronto on Dec. 3, 2019. (Steve McLean RENX)

“U.S. investors tend to look for high risks and high returns when they go overseas,” said Tony Brown, global head of real estate for London, England-based asset owner and manager M&G Real Estate. “Japanese do the same. It depends on what part of the world you’re from what your attitude is toward international real estate.”

London is still the top city for real estate investment in Europe, but Brexit has had a negative impact.

Brown said there had been almost no overseas investment in London this year due to Brexit uncertainty, but he believes the city presents the “biggest single opportunity in Europe right now.”

The election of a majority Conservative government under Boris Johnson is likely to ease that uncertainty, adding to London’s appeal.

M&G’s focus is the United Kingdom and Europe is part of its international allocation. Brown said there are pockets of strong office rental growth in Europe because not much new space has been created in many CBDs during the past 10 years. In addition some older office buildings are being converted to hotels, or residential uses due to housing shortages in the U.K. and other major cities in continental Europe.

JLL EMEA

Matthew Richards, chief executive officer of capital markets for commercial property and investment management services provider JLL EMEA, said:

* there’s a “massive focus” on Germany due to capitalization rate compression;

* the story in Nordic countries remains positive, as there are opportunities in Stockholm, Sweden and rental growth remains very strong;

* and France is the “real darling of the market right now” due to macro-economic issues.

Richards said investment in student housing is more than US$10 billion in the United States, US$4 billion in the U.K. and US$1.5 billion in continental Europe. There’s accommodation for just 10 per cent of 19 million European university students, according to Richards, creating an area of opportunity.

Richards said investors looking for opportunistic returns in Europe are focused on development. Sustainability is also becoming more important in European real estate, and should be an investment consideration.

Canadian investors have a close community of people who’ve already invested in Europe. Richards said they should try and use those relationships to learn more about it.

Ivanhoe Cambridge

Ivanhoe Cambridgé head of Europe and Asia-Pacific Karim Habra said a common theme in gateway cities in Europe is a shortage of quality space, especially in the office sector.

“Whenever someone’s looking for class-A office space, the vacancy is almost zero. This is true for all of the cities. It’s true for Milan, Madrid, Berlin, Paris and every single city.”

Habra said Montreal-headquartered Ivanhoé Cambridge can invest and create value in different ways in Europe, including buying properties directly, setting up platforms and doing joint ventures.

“We wouldn’t do small investments if we didn’t see any growth. In some sectors you’re not going to find critical mass from Day One, so we bet on platforms with operating partners that we can help to grow in the future.”

Ivanhoé Cambridge invests in operating businesses as well as real estate in Europe.

“We will not buy stand-alone hotels because we don’t feel that they capture the full value,” said Habra. “So we go and buy the whole company. We buy the know-how, the rent, the people, the assets and the pipeline. In this way we capture the whole value-creation chain.”

Habra emphasized foreign investors must go into Europe with passion and conviction or they’re wasting their time in the competitive real estate market. He suggested focusing on fewer strategies and ensuring they have the right partners early in the process.

Habra’s final recommendation was to see Europe as a diversification play; and not compare returns and investment strategies with their home markets.

Apache Capital Partners

Apache Capital Partners co-founder and managing director Richard Jackson said Brexit concerns have left some potential investors sitting on the sidelines.

The London-headquartered private real estate investment management firm has multifamily, single-family and seniors living platforms. He said they’re supported by long-term demographic trends, and an increasing number of people are renting for affordability and lifestyle reasons. Jackson believes these defensive investments are recession-proof because people will always need a roof over their heads.

Apache has a pipeline of 6,000 multifamily units and is developing class-A-type products, which hasn’t previously been done in the U.K. Jackson said 14 million people rent housing in the U.K., and that will increase to 17 million by 2025.

Jackson noted just one per cent of residential rental properties in the U.K. are owned by institutions, although that is beginning to rise. Large-scale multifamily residential owners in the U.K. have a lot to learn from their counterparts in North America, where the sector is more established.

“We’ve set up our own operational platform where we’ve trained our own staff that come from a range of property backgrounds and hospitality backgrounds to try and instil that culture and genuine service,” said Jackson.

MARCOL

Rebekah Tobias is the head of business development for MARCOL, a family office that’s acted as an owner, operator, developer, asset manager and joint venture partner in the U.K. for 44 years. She said the firm, which has four European offices, has flexible capital without return criteria and doesn’t need to deploy funds within any set period of time, which allows it to be extremely selective.

“We can take a lot of risk on the operational side of the business, which is where we really find value and where we can create value. We’re not buying stabilized assets. That’s never really been a strategy of ours.”

Tobias said MARCOL didn’t sit back and wait for Brexit the situation to become more clear.

“We’ve seen yields in London that look incredibly cheap compared to the rest of Europe,” she said.

Tobias said multifamily residential is becoming a much bigger asset class in the U.K. MARCOL is also now backing a co-living platform, which bridges the gap between student housing and the multifamily residential market.

MARCOL is doing more in the healthcare real estate space to diversify its portfolio and realize growth opportunities. It’s backing a self-storage operator in Germany and building new sites in growth markets there.

“You just have to be able to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty with a lot of these platforms, and obviously back the right people to be able to deliver the strategy,” said Tobias. “If you have a unique skill set in a growing sector in the U.S., there’s a significant opportunity to bring that to Europe.

“But you have to be very mindful of the nuances and cultural changes and mentality, in particular as it relates to city, country and Europe as a whole.”

AXA IM – Real Assets

AXA IM – Real Assets provides investment capabilities in equity and debt, across different geographies and sectors, via private or listed instruments. It manages €15 billion in residential assets including student accommodations, multi-family residential and seniors housing in 11 countries.

Global head of research and strategy for real assets Justin Curlow said these defensive housing investments are underinvested in Europe. This “provides an attractive opportunity to build scale and build on the inefficiencies and build relationships with those standing operators, to really grow this sector into what we see is already a well-established sector in the U.S.”

European real estate investment is fragmented, less transparent than in North America, and difficult from regulatory and legal standpoints. That makes having a local presence, knowledge, and relationships all the more important, Curlow said.

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Calgary housing market sees best Q3 since 2014, says real estate board – CBC.ca

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Calgary had its strongest third quarter for housing sales since the price of oil plummeted in 2014, according to the latest report by the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB).

There were 6,628 sales in the third quarter of this year, a sign that even as the pandemic is continuing to dampen the local economy, Calgary’s housing market remains resilient, says CREB’s quarterly update report released on Wednesday.

The report says much of the growth in demand has been driven by the low interest rates and the fact that many buyers’ incomes were not impacted by the pandemic and in fact saw their savings grow.

Overall, residential prices in Calgary rose by one per cent over the previous quarter and are about nine per cent higher than prices recorded in the third quarter of last year, the report said. 

CREB’s chief economist, Ann-Marie Lurie, says much of the upswing in activity was driven by detached and semi-detached home sales. And she said while supply has risen, it’s still somewhat of a seller’s market in Calgary. 

“Supply-demand balances improved for buyers compared to what we saw in the spring, but the market continued to favour the seller in the third quarter,” she said.

The report says the benchmark price is $538,700 for detached homes. That’s up 10.5 per cent from last year.

In the semi-detached market, the benchmark price is $427,767. That’s up 9.3 per cent from 2020.

For row housing, the benchmark price is $299,933 — 8.5 per cent higher than last year.

And in the apartment-condo market, demand rose in the third quarter, but to a lesser extent, the report says.

“The condominium market never entered sellers’ market conditions like other property types, but at five months of supply, this market is considered relatively balanced,” the report said.

The benchmark price in this sector is $253,533. That’s up by roughly 2.5 per cent year over year.

CREB also notes that, aside from strong resale figures, the newly built side of the market is also doing well, with housing starts up by more than 70 per cent in Calgary. 

CREB says in its report that the boost in the local housing market activity is contributing to an economic recovery that’s also being driven by the uptick in oil and gas prices. 

“This has contributed to employment growth in not only the finance, insurance and real estate sectors, but also the construction industry,” the report said. 

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Why people are paying real money for virtual real estate in the metaverse – Financial Post

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These virtual properties could be vacant parcels for creators to build on, or structures that reflect real-life properties and completely original creations

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Location, location, location. That’s the common phrase for success in the real estate market, and it’s no different when these properties are listed in an alternative virtual reality, called a metaverse.

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The metaverse is a growing topic in tech and some crypto circles, describing a virtual reality space into which users can log in and interact with one another using avatars to represent their real selves. It has been growing particularly in the gaming space with titles like Fortnite, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Roblox, and many others fostering a metaverse community for players. Social media websites such as Facebook are also pushing into the space with Horizon Worlds and is planning to hire 10,000 people in the European Union over the next five years to help build their vision of a metaverse.

It’s no coincidence that this concept has sci-fi vibes to it, the term “metaverse” was originally coined in science fiction writer Neal Stephenson’s book “Snow Crash” in 1992 to describe a virtual world that people would plug into using their own virtual avatars. Online games like Second Life, which launched in 2003, were a pioneers for metaverse economies, allowing users to trade goods and services using their in-game Linden dollars — including virtual real estate.

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It is also taking off among the decentralized finance crowd with platforms like Decentraland, an online metaverse space that calls itself the first fully decentralized virtual world owned by its users where they create, explore and trade virtual goods using smart contracts on the Decentraland marketplace. Along with virtual clothes and accessories you can purchase using the platform’s native MANA crypto, you can also secure virtual land parcels and estates.

These virtual properties could be vacant parcels for creators to build on, or structures that reflect real-life properties and completely original creations. They are represented by co-ordinates on the metaverse platform where users can meet up using their avatars to socialize and decorate their own spaces with collectibles.

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The possibilities are endless

Andrew Kiguel

Monetizing this space is starting to give rise to metaverse real estate companies, the first being Metaverse Property. Being a nascent industry, the company works to secure a wealth of land assets in the virtual real estate space. It focuses on buying and selling, managing business properties, offering rentals in the metaverse, virtual land development, as well as consultation and marketing. Metaverse Property currently operates on platforms including Decentraland, The Sanbox, Somnium Space, Cryptovoxels, and Upland.

Beyond being virtual landlords and developers, Metaverse Property also says it is creating what it’s calling the first “metaverse real estate investment trust (REIT)”, which will trade through a non-fungible token (NFT) that is backed by the company’s virtual land portfolio.

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With a bullish bet on metaverse real estate, crypto and decentralized financial services company Tokens.com Corp purchased a 50 per cent stake in Metaverse Group this week valued at about $1.7 million, reportedly a record equity investment in a metaverse real estate company.

Andrew Kiguel, the chief executive officer at Tokens.com, explained that the company’s goal is to secure as many virtual real estate land parcels as possible to rent them out to clients.

On platforms like Decentraland, which has seen more than $50 million in virtual sales for goods like real estate, clothes, accessories, usernames and avatars, an outlying parcel in an area less travelled could run a user around $5,000 MANA, or roughly over $4,600 Canadian dollars as of mid-October. These prices can jump up quickly in larger built-out properties in popular zones, with the highest-selling virtual plot of land recorded on the platform being a $1.3 million MANA property in June, equal to about US$900,000 at the time.

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Skeptics might find it bizarre to spend any amount of money on a property that they themselves cannot live in, though Kiguel told the Financial Post that there are valid uses for these virtual properties.

“Really, it’s the foot traffic,” Kiguel said. “So, you might want to build a house to invite friends over, you can decorate the walls with your NFTs, it’s a way of socializing…. COVID drove a lot of this: when the world shut down, people turned to their computers as a means of interacting with people, and so the foot traffic in the metaverse continues to grow at a very high rate.”

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Kiguel added that celebrities like Snoop Dogg are getting into the metaverse as well. In late September, Snoop Dogg partnered with The Sandbox to reconstruct his real-life mansion on the platform’s NFT metaverse. Paris Hilton signed a partnership with Decentraland as one of the headline celebrities being featured on the platform’s first-ever Metaverse Festival slated for October 21 to the 24th. Hilton will be using a Genies avatar, which are animated avatars that can speak using the celebrity’s voice.

With this growing adoption and promotion among brands and celebrities, Kiguel expects that more users will flock to the metaverse space.

“The possibilities are endless. There’s museums and galleries, if you want to go in and see some of the most expensive NFTs sold in the world … you can go to Decentraland,” Kiguel said. “So, the possibilities are really endless, here’s all the different things you could do to attract people here.”

• Email: shughes@postmedia.com | Twitter:
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Real estate cooling with fall temperatures, still on record pace – Winnipeg Sun

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The Manitoba real estate market started to cool off in September, but the province is still expected to smash 2020’s record year.

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There were 1,575 residential properties that were sold last month for total sales of $506.4 million. This is down 12.9% and 9.3%, respectively, from September 2020’s record numbers, but Stewart Elston, president of the Manitoba Real Estate Association said these sales still out-paced September 2019 by 15%.

He said the pandemic push for home offices and bigger yards has died down some but is still a factor. There is, however, an even bigger motivation for homebuyers.

“The pandemic is still playing into it a little bit but by and large it’s interest rates, low-interest rates are still driving the market,” said Elston.

He noted there are consumer protections in place to protect homebuyers in case the low-interest rates shoot up, specifically the stress test required for mortgages.

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The sector is still in good shape to improve on the high-water mark set last year for sales, fuelled by a red-hot spring. So far in 2021, there have been 16,013 residential properties sold, up 23.7% over last year and approaching the year-end record of 16,789 sales. The sector has already surpassed total dollars from 2020 with $5.28 billion in total dollars, up 35.3% over the first nine months of 2020, when the year-end total was $5.1 billion.

There have been 20,362 new listings through September, up 0.3%, and the average sale price of $329,998 is up 9.4%.

Elston said the big shift has come in the sale of condos — which includes apartment and townhouse-style dwellings. While single-home sales are still up 21%, condo sales are up 49% as people look for more affordable options.

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The average two-bedroom condo is selling for about $200,000, and one-bedroom condos are even cheaper.

“For a number of years the Winnipeg condo market was a little on the saturated side, listings took longer for a home to sell,” he said. “Now what we’re finding, we’re not getting a lot of bidding wars on condos or multiple offers, but they’re selling faster and they’re selling for closer to list price. There isn’t the excess of inventory on condos now there either.”

The market slowdown is good news for first-time buyers. As the sector cools the prices will also start to calm down as well.

“I think that’s a good thing and I think that should give any first-time buyer there’s hope of getting into something,” said Elston, who also recommended expanding their neighbourhood search and to consider condos as an affordable alternative.

jaldrtich@postmedia.com

Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

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