It was a robust opening half of the year for the Irish development land market with approximately €490m transacting across the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), and the regional centres of Cork, Limerick and Galway according to the latest research by Cushman & Wakefield. This represents a 16% increase year-on-year. However, it is worth noting that the number of transactions did contract from 112 transactions in H1 2018 to 54 transactions in H1 2019. Interestingly, the decline in transactions was most prevalent in the sub €5m price bracket.
Market insight suggests the decline in transaction volumes may be linked to rising development costs and tight macroprudential policies, leading to increased prudence from purchasers. Purchasers will be particularly cognisant of the outcome of reviews of the Help to Buy and SHD planning application schemes, both of which are due to end this year. While speculative land purchases are still a feature in certain cohorts of the market, a strong premium applies to sites with planning permission and a low-risk route to delivery and exit.
Commenting on the development land market, John Donegan, Divisional Director, Development Land, Cushman & Wakefield, said: “With almost €500m transacting in the development land sector in the first six months, 2019 should record turnover in excess of €1bn. Results in H1 2019 are particularly impressive considering the emerging strength of forward commit deals in the private rented sector. Despite increased prudence from purchaser’s competition remains strong for prime opportunities. NAMA’s H2 2019 offering of the former Irish Glass Bottle site in Poolbeg, which has capacity for 3,500 homes and 1m sq ft of commercial space, will test the strength of the upper end of the development land market. “
The largest transaction in the second quarter was Lone Star’s acquisition of approx. 118 acres of land in Cherrywood, Dublin 18, for a price reported to be in the region of €127 million. The land has capacity for approx. 2,600 homes. Another transaction of note in the second quarter was Marlet’s sale of their 10-acre site at Cabra Road, purchased by Tristan Capital Partners and The Royalton Group. The site has full planning permission for 420 apartments.
The dominance of the residential sector as evident in 2018 continued into the first half of 2019, comprising four of the top five development land sites to trade. Residential development sites accounted for 76% or €371m of total turnover in H1 2019. This is particularly reflective of the continued growth of the PRS sector, which is rapidly increasing its share of Ireland’s residential market.
When analysing by location, it is of no surprise that Dublin attracted by far the largest amount of capital spent in the first six months of 2019. Total capital spent amounted to approximately €316 m over 19 transactions. Following the Dublin market, Kildare saw €68.7m of total turnover transact in the equivalent period, boosted by the sale of Project Arrow, Kildare, for approximately €50m.
Dublin and its neighbouring counties of Kildare, Meath and Wicklow together accounted for €405.5m or 83% of the overall value transacted in the period.
Outside of the GDA, Cork continues to be the most active regional market, attracting 12% of total investment in the first six months. With investment capital deriving from both local and national developers, the opening half of 2019 has seen a healthy improvement in the total value transacted in Cork. By the end of June, circa €61m transacted in the Cork development land market across 15 deals. This represented an increase of 32% from the comparable period in 2018 where €46m transacted.
Both the Galway and Limerick development land markets experienced a slight uptick in the value of transactions recorded in the six months to June 2019. Combined, a total of approximately €24m transacted across the two regional markets, compared with just €11m over the same period in 2018.
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