Commercial property staging a recovery as lockdown is eased

Mark Bamber

Both office and industrial teams at Knight Frank in Manchester have reported a marked increase in online inquiries since the announcement of COVID-19 lock down rules easing.

The regional spike tallies with analysis released by real estate search portal Rightmove which reported activity was six per cent higher in May this year than it was in May 2019.

The industry sectors performing most strongly are industrial and logistics, land and development, retail and offices.

Mark Bamber, partner, office agency in Manchester, said: “While we are not yet back to pre-lock down levels, there has been a big jump in inquiries in the last 2-3 weeks.”

The sentiment was echoed by industrial and logistics partner Rob Tilley who said: “The Rightmove data echoes what we are seeing on the ground.

“In addition to a surge in COVID-19 short-term requirements, we have started to see an increase in longer-term enquiries across all size bands, specifically in the last 10 days.”

The Knight Frank teams will begin a staged return to their Marsden Street offices from Monday, June 8, with around 25% of staff returning initially.

Head of office, David Porter, said: “The truth is that, thanks to the adaptability of colleagues, the volume of work has been maintained throughout lockdown with deals completing and clients still committed to searching for new space.

“It has been a huge learning curve out of which have come some great initiatives and some of the new working practices will stay, such as a dedicated Knight Frank YouTube channel hosting video tours of commercial and industrial premises.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how quickly markets can change, and, therefore, timely, granular data is more important than ever. The Rightmove analysis provides a clear indication that interest in commercial property remains intact, which we expect to only increase throughout the year.”

Alex Solomon, director of Rightmove’s CRE portal, said: “We saw an initial recovery in late March driven by email leads, and an acceleration in mid-May when there was a rapid return of telephone leads.

“Email leads recovering first seems logical as applicants assumed their requirements were less urgent given the end of lockdown was not in sight and viewings were impossible.

“However, when the Prime Minister set out a three-step ‘conditional’ plan to begin easing lockdown restrictions on 10th May, we saw phone call volumes return rapidly.

“Now that lead generation has returned to pre-lockdown levels, the challenge for agents and landlords is being able to respond to this uplift in leads.

“It’s good to see all sectors recovering following the dramatic fall in demand during March. The relative recovery also makes sense as we see demand for industrial leasehold properties that help service the retail warehousing sector forge ahead at the fastest rate as home delivery makes a huge contribution to the UK population during lockdown.”