The COVID-19 case count was out of control so the Federal Government decided to take further action. The number of customers per square meter in shops has been reduced, there is a two-household rule for private meetings and restaurant visits, and now there are various restrictions for ski resorts. In addition, the Federal Government continues to advocate working from home.
Net yields for Swiss residential properties have remained stable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vacancy rates in major cities such as Zurich and Geneva remain very low with stable average rental prices of CHF / sq m 330 in Zurich and CHF / sq m 370 in Geneva. Interest rates are expected to remain low until at least the end of 2021, which makes residential properties in sought after locations still a profitable investment for pension funds, other institutional investors, and wealthy private investors.
The office markets in Zurich, Geneva and Basel remained stable during 2020. Prices fell slightly in the middle of 2020 but jumped again towards the end of the year. The vacancy rate in Geneva remained the same (5%), office space in Basel increased slightly from 1.8% to 2.2% and in Zurich the vacancy rate fell from 1.4% to 1.1%. The median rent per square meter is CHF 360 in Zurich, CHF 240 in Basel and CHF 470 in Geneva. In suburban locations and locations with weaker infrastructure, the impact of COVID-19 is visible. Economic prospects as well as the increasing demand for a modern work environment make this location less desirable. Potential tenants at peripheral locations are very price sensitive, which causes prices to drop.
The rental price for retail space on the Zurich highways increased to CHF / m2 440 from CHF / m2 400 at the start of the year. Retail properties in the cities of Basel, Lausanne, Berne and Geneva also saw a slight increase in rental prices. Non-food retail spaces that are located within walking distance of the highway and on the outskirts are experiencing a decrease in demand resulting in lower prices.
In short, the demand for real estate with stable cash flow in a good location remains high among Swiss investors. Net yields for residential, CBD offices and highway retail properties were almost unchanged. The results for offices and retail in secondary locations have increased markedly.
The number of new COVID-19 cases has increased almost exponentially over the past few weeks, and to date, the federal government in Switzerland has decided on some additional measures that will have a drastic impact on everyday life.
Meetings in public spaces and private events are now limited to 15 and 10 people, respectively, and masks have to be worn almost everywhere.
Sports and cultural activities are limited to some extent which makes them largely impossible. Nightclubs must be closed and there is a curfew from 23.00 to 6.00, universities should switch to distance learning, and working from home is strongly recommended.
The appetite for real estate investing remainshigher, also driven by Swiss pension funds and insurance companies whose cash surpluses increased during the first lockdown.
We’ve seen a lot of traction on transactions related to property types including:
Investors still look at the core office, but currently there are only smaller properties on the market. We expect most of the ongoing deals to close before the end of the year – now that being used to the pandemic situation most investors have experience on how to deal with it.
The demand for office space from occupants fluctuates, with some companies still securing large spaces for the foreseeable future, while others are now focusing on more flexibility.
The pandemic COVID-19 outbreak caused the most serious decline in economic activity in Switzerland in more than four decades. Although there are signs of easing in the business situation, there is still a measurable drop in demand.
Swiss economic development will continue to depend on the pandemic. In the updated scenario, the leading Swiss Institute of Economics predicts that output will shrink by 4.9% this year, based on the assumption that the possible increase in new infections in the winter months can be contained.
However, the Swiss economy weathered the crisis relatively well compared to other European countries, with the GDP growth rate for 2021 estimated at 4.1%. Residential real estate and certain core products are crystallizing as safe havens for investors, and the importance of new asset classes such as Data Center be elevated.
Switzerland has had very few new COVID-19 cases since mid-May, so by June most of the restrictions had been lifted. As the number of cases increased slightly in July, it is mandatory to wear masks on public transport and self-quarantine for ten days after entering Switzerland from high-risk areas. Business continues as usual.
The corporate invaders are bringing people back to their offices (with and without social distancing) and there is debate as to whether they will try to reduce their existing footprint. While we have several examples of companies placing excess space in the market, this appears to be related to the difficult economic situation and decreased business turnover compared to implementing alternative workplace strategies.
Office and retail activities are on the rise again as tenants with expired leases are looking for attractive opportunities. Even with slightly less than usual demand, due to low supply, the main German-speaking Swiss centers show a paradoxical increase in market rents in certain sub-markets (eg Zurich CBD). However, the disparity in office vacancy rates and market rental rates is expected to widen between city and suburban locations.
The funding situation of Swiss institutional investors has not changed, and they are still looking to invest in both core and core + real estate with a home bias. The big deal that started before COVID is now continuing, with the sale of the 53,000 square meter Glatt Center in Zurich and other significant deals having been announced recently.
Last Thursday, the Federal Council announced plans for a ‘way back’ to a ‘new normal’:
April 27: some shops can be reopened, such as: hairdresser, DIY / garden center, flower shop
May 11: all retail stores can be reopened, schools too
June 8: the university will reopen, as well as a museum and zoo
The borders are still more or less closed, people are still told to stay at home and work from home. There is no set date for reopening the restaurant, bar, coffee shop and sports facilities. This says about 75% of Swiss companies are still working normally.
The commercial real estate market began to react to the economic slowdown. Landlords with restaurants and shops in their portfolios face a lot of pressure to reduce rents or even waive rents. We see that the retail real estate sector and the hospitality and leisure industry are temporarily near ‘dead’. In the office market, we see transactions go further as if nothing has changed and others are delayed or even stopped. In the investment market we see that the transaction process has not started, some are postponed, some transactions are still closed.
Since last week, lock entry Switzerland has extended to 26 April. Schools, universities, shops (grocery store, gas station still open) and restaurants remain closed.
In Switzerland, the lockdown was announced on March 13. Schools, universities, shops (grocery store, gas station remain open) and restaurants are closed at least until April 19. People were told to stay at home. Offices, construction sites and factories are still functioning – although everyone is asked to work from home whenever possible.
The authorities have developed several packages to try to help those affected by the actions being taken by the Federal Council (Bundesrat). As:
The commercial real estate market began to react to the economic slowdown. Landlords with restaurants and shops in their portfolios face pressure to reduce rents or even waive rents – at least until the end of the closure.
Although some landlords are already facing difficulties obtaining leases for commercial space, the real estate industry has not reacted so far.
There is no clear vision for the future, but the retail sector appears to be ‘dead’ for now, especially as all shops are closed now.
There is also uncertainty in the office market. Some transactions are running as normal while others have been postponed or even stopped completely.
In the investment market we see transaction processing not starting, some being delayed, some being closed. The pricing still looks quite high and unchanged.
Cushman & Wakefield plc publish this content on January 14, 2021 and take full responsibility for the information contained therein. Distributed by the Public, unedited and unaltered, at 14 January 2021 20:37:02 UTC