Brisbane’s apartment vacancy rate fell to just 1.6 per cent in March, driven lower by a slowing decline in supply and continued population growth.
Brisbane’s vacancy rate tightened by 0.6 per cent from the previous quarter according to a new report by property consultants Urbis.
Comparatively, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) recorded a vacancy rate of 2.1 per cent for the total inner Brisbane rental market over the same period, down 4 per cent from the previous quarter.
The figures from Urbis quarterly Inner Brisbane Apartment Rental Review highlights a market in transition, with many in the residential sector continuing to shift focus from investors to owner-occupiers.
“The combination of a slowdown in new rental stock hitting the market, as well as solid demand drivers such as population and infrastructure investment will continue to result in a tight market,” Urbis director of property economics and research Paul Riga told The Urban Developer.
“Considering both our in-house data and the total market data provided by the REIQ, the rental market in inner Brisbane is looking healthy.”
Brisbane, which saw unprecedented construction and sales several years ago, has since seen both rates rapidly decline, resetting to the pre-investor-boom market of the early 2010s.
Responding to market changes, many developers have had to downsize the scale of projects to meet the market and achieve pre-sales requirements, with many less likely to pursue high density projects in the coming years.
“Demand for quality projects certainly outweighs supply with a number of these projects registering growth in rental rates over the current quarter,” Riga said.
“This is likely to remain the case for the next six-to-12 months as purchaser activity remains subdued due to access to finance.”
Brisbane inner city vacancy rate new and established
“At the same time, any loosening of lending constraints should see the investor purchaser number start to rise, particularly with yields and rental rates strengthening and economic drivers remaining stable.”
Despite recent oversupply, Brisbane’s situation looks positive compared to the southern markets, with interstate interest continuing. More than 24,000 residents migrated to Queensland over the 12 months to September 2018.
Comparatively, New South Wales saw more people leave the state than arrive, registering an interstate migration net loss of 22,100 residents.
“Whilst there are a number of challenges in the development space, opportunity exists across multiple Brisbane sub-markets,” Riga said.
“We have seen boutique projects that have targeted a wide spread of buyers at affordable price points launch successfully, with buyers attracted to the price points, amenity and inclusions.”
Brisbane’s premium market is also seeing a flurry of activity, however Riga warned of risks for buyers in this market generally take longer to transact.
“This market of premium buyers is expected to sustain growth moving forward as our Brisbane market matures, and acceptance of the apartment lifestyle spreads across multiple demographics,” he said.
“Ultimately it comes down to ensuring that each development aligns the potential buyer market with the pricing and inclusions that they expect.”
Predictably, a significant portion of buyers spending $2 million-plus on apartments continue to be down-sizers, swapping the family home for a large inner-city apartment.
At the lower end of the market one-bedroom apartments have continued to remain popular with inner Brisbane renters.
Urbis found that one-bedroom, one-car space apartments had the highest average number of rental applications per apartment with the inner south and CBD recording higher rents on average.
Hopes are growing for the apartment market in the Queensland capital. A separate report by JLL earlier this year said Brisbane apartment prices and rents would stabilise over the next 12 months.
For now, conditions in Brisbane, the apartment construction market that was first to boom and also the first to decline, remain weak.
Three Arnott’s Factories Sell for $633m
Asset-hungry Centuria Funds has rounded out a year of high transactional activity by snapping up two Arnott’s Biscuits factories in Queensland and South Australia for $236 million.
The Arnott’s assets were put up for sale after US private equity giant KKR bought the Tim Tam maker from food giant Campbell’s Soup in a $3.2 billion deal earlier this year.
The 150-year-old Arnott’s business is famous for its Tim Tam and Scotch Finger biscuits.
The first of the two properties, Arnott’s main base in Queensland located at 46 Robinson Road East in Virginia, was picked up for $211.8 million in a deal negotiated by CBRE and UBS.
The factory sits on a 7.18 hectare site the factory has a gross lettable area of 44,785 square metres and will be added to Centuria’s Industrial REIT.
In the leaseback arrangement Arnott’s signed a 30-year lease on the industrial asset. The deal was realised an initial yield of 5.8 per cent.
The second location, a smaller 23,593-square-metre Adelaide factory in the suburb of Marleston was acquired for $24.4 million on an initial yield of 5.8 per cent with a 12-year lease.
“The acquisition of these two high quality industrial assets materially increases CIP’s portfolio WALE and overall scale,” Centuria head of funds management Ross Lees said.
“Arnott’s is an iconic Australian brand with the leading market position in the manufacture and supply of Australian biscuits.
“The assets contain significant ‘mission critical’ infrastructure that is core to the tenants ongoing operations.”
Centuria highlighted its portfolio value would now increase to more than $1.5 billion, securing its position as Australia’s largest pure play industrial REIT and increasing its near-term prospects for inclusion in the ASX index.
The factory acquisitions will increase its portfolio WALE from 4.4 years to 7.2 years and introducing a new national tenant customer to the REIT.
Centuria noted that the Arnott’s assets were consistent with the fund’s focus on identifying quality real estate located within infill markets with close proximity to major infrastructure.
The Sydney-based fund manager has also independently revalued nine of its existing 46 properties, leading to an increase of $19 million or 9.5 per cent on prior valuations.
As a result of these revaluations, the portfolio’s weight average capitalisation rate firmed six basis points to 6.41 per cent prior to the acquisitions.
Centuria said its portfolio value would now increase to more than $1.5 billion, securing its position as Australia’s largest pure play industrial REIT and increasing its near-term prospects for inclusion in the ASX index.
A third Arnott’s facility located in Huntingwood, New South Wales was captured by Charter Hall for $397.8 million with a weighted average lease expiry of 32 years.
The Charter Hall managed Charter Hall Prime Industrial Fund (CPIF) has acquired a 50 per cent interest in the Arnott’s facility while the other 50 per cent interest will be acquired by the ASX listed Charter Hall Long WALE REIT.
“We are delighted to welcome Arnott’s as a tenant customer of Charter Hall, Charter Hall industrial and logistics chief executive Richard Stacker said.
“With a portfolio of iconic products [Arnott’s] can be found in 95 per cent of Australian households commanding about 61 per cent share of the Australian biscuit market.”
Brisbane’s $3.6bn Queen’s Wharf: Construction Update
Construction on Brisbane’s $3.6 billion Queen’s Wharf development is well under way, with five levels of basement closing nearing ground level.
The giant hole in the ground, which drops down 26 metres, is fast being transformed into Queensland’s largest basement and underground car park, set to provide up to 2,000 car parks.
More than three Olympic pools worth of concrete has already been pumped into the basement build with six satellite concrete pumps across site pouring more than 8,300 cubic metres of concrete into the foundations.
The number of on-site construction workers also is beginning to rise with the ranks of its current 250-strong workforce expected to increase to 500 by the end of the year and at peak be up to 2,000 workers on site.
Privately-owned Destination Brisbane Consortium—which includes the Star group, developers Far East Consortium and Hong Kong-based Chow Tai Fook—is responsible for the integrated resort after being selected by the Queensland Government to transform the historic yet underutilises site.
“We are now at level four of the car park basements under the east end of William Street and expect to reach street level around Easter 2020,” Destination Brisbane Consortium project director Simon Crooks said.
“This means William Street will be reconstructed and used by construction traffic to build the remaining basements and podiums levels.”
“This time next year the podium levels will be well and truly sitting above George Street as we work towards completing the tower shells for fit out in 2022.”
Builder Probuild began excavation on the site in 2017, removing close to 400,000 cubic metres of material from the site, much of which has gone to Brisbane Airport for reclamation work and to build the BNE auto mall.
In July 2019, Probuild handed over the massive task of building what is Queensland’s largest construction project to construction giant Multiplex.
The Queen’s Wharf precinct, which has taken more than a significant footprint of the CBD, will include four new luxury hotels, more than 50 new bars and restaurants, along with 2,000 residential apartments for the completed major development.
Fifth and sixth apartment towers have been approved for the site, offering 1,360 apartments, but the construction timing has not been confirmed.
The 500-metre foreshore, including the newly created Mangrove Walk and upgraded Bicentennial bikeway, opened in October of this year while the wharf precinct is expected to open in late 2022.
There is significant public space integrated into the design of the development as well—the equivalent of 12 football fields.
This public space will help to accommodate the additional 1.39 million visitors expected in Brisbane as a result of the project. The development has also earned a 6-star Green Star Communities rating.
In addition to the main works, attention in 2020 will turn to the public realm as construction of the pedestrian bridge to South Bank will commence and works for The Landing will continue. Piling at South Bank is expected to start mid-way through the year.
“The Neville Bonner Bridge works are expected to kick-off with site establishment at South Bank in February 2020,” Crooks said.
Victorian company Fitzgerald Constructions, responsible for Melbourne’s Jim Stynes Bridge and Seafarers Bridge, will oversee the construction of the Neville Bonner Bridge, named after the Queensland federal MP.
University of Queensland Buys Historic Chambers Building for $47m
The 130-year-old Chambers building and an adjoining eight-storey office building located in Brisbane’s golden triangle has changed hands for $47.4 million.
The University of Queensland snapped up the two Brisbane assets from a Primewest fund with plans to occupy both the historic building and boutique A-grade building as part of its CBD campus.
The Primewest fund purchased the buildings, at 308 Queen Street and 88 Creek Street in 2016 for $37.4 million from Unity Pacific Group. The assets were listed in August this year with the aim of hitting the $50 million mark.
Brisbane’s golden triangle has seen major assets in play amid demand in the Brisbane office market sector.
German funds giant Deka Immobilien is understood to be exploring 66 Eagle Street, a $370 million move.
While RG Property listed its 410 Queen Street office tower in September, with hopes of hitting north of $50 million for the asset.
Sydney-based development group Kyko Group purchased the 201 Charlotte Street office tower for $126.7 million in May.
The sandstone Chambers building transaction marks the third time the Italian Renaissance-inspired asset has changed hands in its 130-year history.
Primewest director David Schwartz said the assets had provided investors in the fund with strong cashflow and capital growth since the 2016 purchase.
Combined the buildings, which span 3,516sq m of office space and 985sq m of retail, currently return a net income of $3.32 million and sit at 98.5 per cent occupancy.
Primewest has more than $4 billion of assets under management across Australia and the USA’s west coast.
The Chambers building was completed in 1885 and designed by Queensland colonial architect Francis Drummond Greville Stanley. It was also the long-time home of the National Australia Bank.
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