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The Covid-induced surge in house prices has reached a tipping point, get ready for a drop

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The property cycle has three distinct phases: boom, slump, recovery. The slump phase, the one we’re about to enter, typically tends to be met with denials. We’ll be told that prices can’t go down, not with the current demand demographics backing them up.

We’ll be told that Ireland’s chronic undersupply makes it an exceptional case internationally. But these old tropes have never trumped the boom and bust dynamic.

The industry also has a vested interest in talking up the sector to entice investment. As we saw in 2007-2008 this can continue quite late in the day, in the face of conspicuously deteriorating metrics.

Rules

The economic case for a downturn in values doesn’t make sense, not if you believe housing is a simple case of supply and demand. But property doesn’t fully adhere to those rules. People tend to buy, developers tend to build, when prices increase.

The converse is true when prices decline. Perception plays a big role. Increasingly economists are coming around to the view that price expectations may be the single biggest determinant of headline inflation.

Property is also a highly financialised asset, driven by trillions of euros of speculative cash. Most of the current development in Dublin is being financed by international funds chasing returns in the build-to-rent sector. And underpinning these funds is the great financial experiment of the era, quantitative easing (QE) and low interest rates.

That said, there are now clear signs that the current dynamic is ending and that the Covid-induced price surge has reached a tipping point with higher living costs and higher interest rates now likely to act as a restraint on buyers.

In Toronto, one of the hottest property markets on the planet, real estate prices fell for the second straight month in April .

The average price of a home in Canada’s largest city declined 6.4 per cent to C$1.2 million (about €885,000), according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.

Drop

That was the biggest monthly drop since April 2020 when the market was largely frozen because of Covid-19 lockdowns. The number of houses sold in Toronto declined 26 per cent. Vancouver exhibited similar declines.

The about turn appears to the linked to the Bank of Canada ’s aggressive interest rate hikes. Since the beginning of March, the central bank has lifted the benchmark interest rate from 0.25 per cent to 1 per cent in a bid to rein in runaway inflation, and markets expect the rate to rise to at least 1.5 per cent in June. New Zealand, which saw one of the biggest price surges in housing during Covid, is experiencing a similar retreat, also on the back of interest rate hikes.

The same dynamic is emerging in the US. And remember these countries are experiencing severe housing crises, marked by a dearth of supply and unaffordable price metrics. Declining rates of homeownership in New Zealand has become a major political issue.

The only thing we’re missing here is the interest rate hikes but they’re on the way. With euro zone inflation at a record high 7.5 per cent, nearly four times the European Central Bank’s 2 per cent target, pressure is growing on Frankfurt to act and several policymakers are already pushing for faster “normalisation”.

Increases

The European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and our own Central Bank governor Gabriel Makhlouf, have indicated that a sequence of interest rates increases could beging as early as July. Markets are pricing in 90 basis points of rate hikes for the rest of the year, in other words between three and four 25-basis-point moves between now and Christmas.

But there’s another weave in the tapestry, one that is arguably more germane to Ireland, that will also act as a cooling agent. After a decade of near-dormant construction, homebuilding is taking off.

The number of new homes built in the first quarter of 2022 was the highest since the Celtic Tiger era.

The Central Bank is forecasting that about 25,000 new housing units will be built this year, rising to 30,000 in 2023 and 35,000 in 2024. The 35,000 figure is roughly the estimated level of demand in the market, although some maintain it is higher. This should exert further downward pressure on prices.

Dynamics

Most estate agents here haven’t recalibrated for these new dynamics and are still forecasting healthy price growth for remainder of the year and beyond. But they were also the ones that thought Covid would see the market tank.

A cooling of some sort is perhaps inevitable given the appreciation of values and the fact there are limits to affordability . The slump phase of the cycle is typically determined by how big the boom phase was.

The bigger the climb, the bigger the fall. Despite what you might think, Ireland hasn’t had as big a Covid bubble in house prices as other countries so the climbdown may be more moderate, but it’s coming.


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Barings and HBD secure planning for London logistics scheme (GB)

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Barings and HBD have secured detailed planning for a strategic logistics scheme in Rainham, London, transforming a 20-acre brownfield site. The new development, Momentum London, is being delivered by Barings and HBD in a joint venture partnership. It will create 381,814ft² of new logistics and industrial space across four units ranging from 41,000 -171,000ft².

 

The scheme will target Net Zero Carbon, BREEAM “Excellent” and an EPC “A+” rating. This is being achieved by dynamic design, careful consideration of materials, zero use of fossil fuels, maximizing photovoltaic solar panels, battery storage and intelligent building systems. The units will be 100% EV ready, including passive fleet charging to the yards.

 

The logistics park will be set in landscaped environment with picnic and public areas, as well as direct access onto the Thames Cycle Path, so that it brings further social benefits to the area. Positioned on the River Thames, with potential for jetty access, Momentum will offer an easy stepping stone into Central London and out via the A13, just minutes away.

 

Darren Hutchinson, Head of UK Real Estate Transactions and Managing Director at Barings, said: Momentum London will be a strategically located logistics scheme with strong environmental and social credentials, beneficial both to future occupiers and the communities around it. Logistics is one of Barings’ preferred investment sectors and Momentum London exemplifies the kind of developments we’re seeking, with a keen interest in exploring joint ventures like this one with HBD.”

 

Simon Quine, Senior Development Surveyor at HBD, said: “Industrial and logistics space remains in very limited supply across London, particularly larger distribution units. Momentum will plug that gap within the M25 and provide modern, sustainable logistics and distribution space to serve London and the wider South East market. Landscaping and wellness have been thoroughly considered, with careful design considerations and enhancements to the Thames Foot and Cycle path, which we hope will help occupiers to attract and retain staff.”

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Mirrored furniture trend can create the illusion of space in your home

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Mirrored furniture provokes strong emotions. Some see it as the epitome of bad taste, flashy and bling. Others know that mirrors have magic powers.

A mirrored table or cabinet makes a room or a hallway appear more swish and spacious. It’s a trick that bars and restaurants employ to ensure their establishments appear roomier and more inviting — and they can add lustre to your home, too.

Choosing a piece of mirrored furniture also sends out a sign that you are aware of one of the year’s trends — the return of Art Deco, the influential style that emerged in the 1920s. 

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

It blended forms that celebrated modern machinery with decorative elements drawn from Greco-Roman culture and nature. 

The mirror was a favourite material, used on the surfaces of furniture and walls to supply a shimmering silver and gold effect.

Probably the most famous piece of Art Deco architecture is New York’s Chrysler Building. Completed in 1930, its sunburst-patterned stainless steel spire remains one of the key elements of the Manhattan skyline.

Art Deco console tables, drinks trolleys and other items from the era of the building’s construction sell for thousands on auction sites such as 1stdibs underlining the growing appeal of this aesthetic. 

Jamie Watkins, the co-founder of fabric and wallpaper company Divine Savages, explains Art Deco’s allure for a new audience.

‘Art Deco, with its bold geometrical patterns was such an iconic period for design: it’s synonymous with glamour and luxury.’

The resurgent popularity of Art Deco is also based on its practicality: a mirrored piece works with almost any interior, adding interest and depth.

The power of the mirror to create a wow impression has been recognised for centuries. 

Examples of this technique include the round mirror on the wall behind the bride and groom in Jan van Eyck’s 1434 Arnolfini Portrait in the National Gallery. It sends out the message that the couple are discerning — and wealthy.

Cheers: B&M's £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

Cheers: B&M’s £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

The hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles was designed to be a place of beauty, but also to display the financial resources of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Mirrors were a luxury item until an inexpensive manufacturing process was invented in the 1830s.

In 2022, it is possible to pick up mirrored pieces for under £100. B&M has a £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves that would lend an air of Thirties elegance to any gathering. The £94.99 Ellison serving cart (a U.S. term for drinks trolley) from Wayfair has a similar vibe.

If you believe that the right mirrored trolley would save you money on trips to bars, the larger £144.95 gold oval mirrored trolley from Melody Maison could be the thing.

A mirrored cocktail cabinet will dazzle guests. The £1,200 Primrose & Plum champagne and gold cabinet has a Jazz-Age feel.

The £299 Venetian sideboard from Furniture Market, meanwhile, is a more modestly priced way to conjure up the party spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

The show flats of apartment blocks are often equipped with mirrored cocktail cabinets containing bottles of spirits and crystal glasses. This makes buyers dream of dinner parties, with a prelude of aperitifs, but also serves to make the apartment appear even roomier.

A console table in the hall also creates an illusion of space which can be amplified by the addition of a lamp. HomesDirect365 has a range in the style of almost every era including Art Deco, Regency, the 1960s and the 1970s. Prices start at £233.

The bedroom is often the most cramped room in either a house or flat which is why this can be the best place to experiment with mirrored furniture. 

The desire to preserve family harmony is another reason. The other members of your household may prefer the kitchen and living room to be slick and understated, seeing anything mirrored as excessive.

In the bedroom, however, you can indulge your decor fantasies. Habitat has the one-drawer Hepburn bedside table for £76.

Next offers the antique effect Fleur bedside table which costs £225 for the one-drawer version and £275 for the two-drawer version. 

The Fleur is also available as a six-drawer chest for £599 or a £1,150 double wardrobe if you seek to waft around your bedroom channelling your inner 1930s Hollywood screen siren. 

Dunelm’s Venetian mirrored dressing table also offers a chance to live out your dream of silver screen stardom (£449).

If mirrored furniture has brought out your party animal, kindling a passion for Art Deco in every guise, Divine Savages offers Deco Martini wallpaper whose design is based on the geometric forms, with a hidden Martini glass within the print (£150 per roll).

Some of your guests may not be too busy checking out their reflections on the doors of the mirrored cabinet to notice this subtle and witty detail in the wallpaper.

Savings of the week! water jugs… Up to 52% off 

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon is already delightful. But it is even more enjoyable if you are sipping on a cool drink or an iced coffee from a generously sized jug, or maybe even a Pimm’s. The arrival of the July sales means bargains abound.

If you prioritise practicality, Ocado’s textured lustre plastic picnic jug has 33 per cent off at £8.

The price of the pleasingly geometric plastic smoky-grey Prism jug from Wayfair is 16 per cent off at £10.10. 

If you would like to feel as if you are in the south of France, John Lewis has the plain glass Arles wicker-wrapped jug. It is reduced from £25 to £12, down 52 per cent.

Wanting something more elegant that you can also use for flowers? The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is also half-price at £22.

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VGP acquires French logistics development

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VGP NV and VALGO signed an agreement to purchase 32 hectares of land that housed the former Petroplus refining units in Petit-Couronne, near Rouen. This brownfield rehabilitation project is fully in line with VGP’s core expertise and strategy. Thanks to the six years ownership of the site by VALGO and its expertise in asbestos removal, soil and water table decontamination, in-situ waste treatment and development, this area has now become a suitable site for the development of new industries and business activities.

 

On the banks of the river Seine and close to the A13 highway, the 32-hectare area of land offers its future users a highly strategic location. Following the extensive depollution work carried out by VALGO, the site is now ready for redevelopment. VGP expanded into France only a few months ago and is delighted to start its French business activities in the dynamic Rouen Normandy metropolis area, via this major project. In total, around 150,000m² of land are set to be redeveloped to accommodate industrial and logistics projects, with work due to begin in 2023.

 

Jan Van Geet, CEO VGP, said: “VGP is delighted to begin its business activities in France on a site as exceptional as this one, with strong economic and environmental ambitions that are shared by both our partner, VALGO, and the local authorities. As the rehabilitation of brownfield sites is at the heart of our business, this project is a great opportunity for us to deploy our industrial and logistical know-how. The uncertain geopolitical situation and the rise in transport prices mean that companies are increasingly looking for local support to start their business. In this context, we strongly believe in the relevance of our integrated model with a long-term vision. We are now eager to get to work and bring all the expertise of the Group to the project.”

 

Francois Bouche, CEO VALGO, commented: “We are delighted that this huge piece of land has been sold to a major investor with experience in redeveloping brownfields in Europe. However, I would first like to celebrate the work of the men and women who worked so hard to make this colossal project a success. It took more than 1 million hours and over €60m in investment by VALGO to turn the page on over 80 years of refining on this site, which already employs 600 people.”

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