Mining, finance cuts blamed for fall in leasing

'The underlying market conditions have deteriorated sharply in the past 12 months.' Paul Braddick, ANZ

The weakening mining sector and the flat job market have led to a deterioration of the commercial property market, according to the ANZ Bank's property department.

Although capital continues to flow in from super funds and overseas investors to the bricks and mortar sector, which offers a haven with higher yields, the underlying leasing conditions are tough.

The head of the ANZ Bank's property research team, Paul Braddick, said a weakening labour market and cuts in the finance, mining and public sectors - with little recovery in the near-term - have seen leasing weaken sharply across the capital city markets.

The latest job figures showed the unemployment rate sat at 5.6 per cent for the past five months.

According to analysts, this will start to effect the share prices of the listed real estate investment trusts that focus on the office sector.

There are rumours there will be an improvement in most major cities when the Property Council of Australia releases its half yearly annual vacancy rates next month.

Sydney's vacancy rate stands at 7.2 per cent and Melbourne's is 6.9 per cent. Some of the space left behind from tenants moving into new offices in the next few years - at Docklands in Melbourne and Barangaroo South in Sydney - will be taken off the leasing market as they undergo upgrades.

That will take some of the pressure off the rising vacancies. But the new leases are being completed at lower rates, due to the rise in incentives to get the lease signed.

In the report, Mr Braddick said the broad-based recovery in commercial property appears to have stalled after rebounding strongly since 2010.

"The underlying market conditions have deteriorated sharply in the past 12 months; tenant demand has weakened, vacancies and incentives have risen and rental growth has slowed, particularly for secondary properties," he said.

"While we expect a modest cyclical recovery in physical demand, some market segments face significant structural challenges in the years ahead and the yield gap between prime and secondary properties is expected to continue to widen.

"The clearest valuation risks lie in secondary properties, particularly fashion-based specialty retail with high rent to turnover ratios. While headline occupancy remains high, incentives have risen and negative re-leasing spreads are becoming increasingly common."

But Mr Braddick said a global flood of liquidity, a heightened appetite for yield and the recent fall in the Australian dollar are expected to continue to support investor interest in commercial property.

"REITs (real estate investment trusts) will increasingly return to the purchase market as equity valuations revert to above net tangible asset value," he said.

On the supply side, the report added that underlying commercial property construction activity remained subdued.

"Nonetheless, despite a soft outlook for building activity, lumpy additions to existing supply are expected to challenge some market segments, including the Sydney and Melbourne CBD office markets," the report said.

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