According to MSCI Real Assets, European commercial real estate investment experienced a significant decline in the first quarter of 2023, reaching its lowest point in 11 years. This drop can be attributed to apprehensions among investors regarding elevated interest rates and the uncertain economic landscape, prompting them to postpone their acquisition plans.
Europe’s office sector, the largest segment of the region’s real estate market, experienced an unprecedented decline in sales, with the number of transactions reaching a record low. Additionally, the transaction volume plummeted to its lowest point in 13 years, totaling 10.8 billion euros ($11.94 billion).
While the United Kingdom maintained its status as the largest commercial real estate market in Europe, Paris emerged as the region’s most dynamic investment destination, surpassing London. The three largest property deals in Europe during the first quarter of 2023 occurred in the French capital.
The commercial real estate sector has sparked new anxieties regarding financial stability, primarily driven by steep interest rate hikes, apprehensions of a recession, and the decrease in office occupancy and retail footfall resulting from the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. These factors have exerted significant pressure on property values.
A recent investor survey conducted by JPMorgan singled out commercial real estate as the leading candidate for triggering the next financial crisis. Major banks in the United States have highlighted commercial real estate as a potential area of concern, while European banks have comparatively less direct exposure to this sector, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund.
Tom Leahy, MSCI’s head of real assets research for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, stated that despite concerns about real estate financing availability after the banking turmoil in March, there has not been a widespread increase in distressed sales.
Blackstone, a leading asset manager, experienced a decline in first-quarter earnings due to the slowdown in commercial real estate, which hindered some asset sales. In response to a significant rise in redemption requests, Blackstone has limited withdrawals from its real estate income trust.