Tauranga hot with shrewd buyers

By Ingrid Tiriana

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Commercial properties with long-term leases that are providing income security are being snapped up by investors making the most of low interest rates. Ingrid Tiriana reports.

Low interest rates are providing a boost for commercial property investment in Tauranga.

While buyers remain cautious, commercial sites with good tenants and long-term leases are proving to be hot property among investors.

Simon Clark of Colliers International says there has been a marked increase in commercial sales in Tauranga this year, with about half of the sales made to investors from out of town.

He estimates his company has sold 20-25 per cent more commercial property this year compared with last year, and says while properties with short-term leases are proving difficult to sell those with long-term leases provide the low-risk and guaranteed return investors are seeking.

"With interest rates at low levels, we believe there are many people around New Zealand looking for solid investments which could generate a higher yield than that available on bank deposits," Mr Clark says.

"If the yields are 7 to 8 per cent and borrowing is at close to 5 per cent, that's really positively geared for investors."

He says there is a lot of interest in commercial property in Tauranga from people in Auckland, Wellington, Southland and Christchurch, where people are looking to invest money received through earthquake settlements.

"Tauranga is popular because it's been identified as a growth area. Locally there may be some doom and gloom around PSA and the slowing of the residential market, but Tauranga is a really nice place to live and some of these out-of-town investors are looking to retire here.

"They're not people who have borrowed a great deal - they have cash and are looking to invest it and looking for security. They're not willing to take a risk on shorter-term leases."

Commercial buyers are generally more discerning now. Many factor in the location of a site, who the tenant is, whether they think that tenant is viable long-term and what else is going on locally. In some cases, investors will buy based solely on the strength of tenants.

A quarterly investor confidence survey conducted by Colliers International showed Tauranga/Mt Maunganui was among the top four centres in the September quarter.

The survey asks commercial property-market participants about their views on the outlook for commercial property investment over the next 12 months. The average result for New Zealand this quarter was 11 per cent - meaning more respondents thought things would get better for commercial property investors over the next year, by the margin of 11 per cent.

That was up from 10 per cent overall in the previous quarter.

Confidence was highest in Christchurch with 54 per cent, followed by Queenstown (45), Auckland (25) and Tauranga/Mt Maunganui (19).

Alan McMahon, national director of research and consulting at Colliers International, says there are several positive factors at work in the commercial property market. "The market has at last achieved stability and we are now waiting for growth," he says. "There is strong demand from private investors, with syndications proving popular.

"The expectation that the cost of debt will stay low for the foreseeable future is also encouraging decision-making."

Dickie Burman, the manager at Bayleys Tauranga, says investors are definitely risk-averse right now but they are spoilt for choice regarding investment opportunities and are looking for a good price, reasonably high returns, and safe tenants.

While that has always been the case, he says, what has changed is that they want a higher return for their investment than they have previously accepted.

Tauranga remains attractive for investors given its positive long term and growth prospects, good infrastructure with the port and roading systems and holidaymakers ensuring the economy is "trucking along" as well as it is anywhere else in New Zealand, says Mr Burman.

Most out of town investors have an affinity to Tauranga or Mount Maunganui and know the area.

Meanwhile, there has also been a good uptake on commercial property leases in Tauranga recently which is a good sign, Mr Burman says.

"It's mainly been industrial businesses and small office leases with retail still a bit tough but it generally bodes well for the local economy. It's been a mix of new business start-ups and businesses which are growing or relocating who are taking up new leases."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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