EUROPEAN real estate investment has become cautious, and is focusing on northern Europe, which it perceives as more stable, explains Paul Nearchou, director of the London-based private equity firm Deutsche Finance International.
A Cypriot, Nearchou admits that his firm hasn’t been much interested in investing in Cyprus. “The big pension funds and other major investors who work with us wish us to target northern Europe, which they perceive as more stable and more likely to bounce back fast from the pandemic crisis,” Nearchou explains.
But every country in Europe is different from the point of view of real estate investment, Nearchou points out. “This is why Lisbon, for example, although in southern Europe, has become a target for real estate investment, nonetheless.
“Lisbon is perceived as closer to western Europe than Cyprus, but it still has cheap labour, and that has strengthened liquidity. Many companies moved their back offices into Lisbon and that got investors targeting the office sector quite early. There was a real belief in demand, and capital rose from a very low base to become quite significant. Now the hotel sector is ramping up, with new brands like Citizen M planning a move there,” Nearchou comments.
There are, however, important trends in property management that are affecting the entire commercial real estate sector, Nearchou notes.
One area involves operational risk. Managers are expected to manage this kind of risk with much greater attention to detail than previously, Nearchou says.
Managing properties has shifted from focusing solely on black-and-white metrics like cost and efficiency, to more of an emphasis on creating the best experience for the tenant.
Nearchou points to an example; in the UK, a typical commercial lease would last 16 years in 1990. Today it lasts seven years, typically.
“We are expected to provide a unique experience and a robust one,” Nearchou continues.
“As workplace trends shift, user experience in the form of tenant experience is crucial. If you have a tenant in your building, you want to make their lives better and ensure that they can really see the value of what they’re getting here, instead of wondering what they could be getting at another building next door. A big part of that lies in user experience.”
Real estate managers now must look at the tenant as a consumer to whom they provide services. “Our investors are asking more and more questions about tenant projects, services provided, etc.,” Nearchou says.
“We are asked to consider new structures, like co-working (spaces like WeWork) and co-living (Coliving is a type of community providing shared housing for people with shared interests. This may simply be coming together for activities such as meals and discussion in the common living areas, yet may extend to shared workspace), or hotels in which there are also residential tenants.
“These are truly global trends, Nearchou says. They are happening in North America, the UK, Europe and even in parts of Asia. Everyone is moving into this service-oriented world,” he concludes.