The Properties High Interest Rates Can’t Touch
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The Properties High Interest Rates Can’t Touch

Competition to buy the world’s most exclusive stores is intense despite modest rent growth. Even Blackstone is ogling the market.

By CAROL RYAN
Mon, May 20, 2024 9:04amGrey Clock 3 min

Don’t expect any fashion bargains on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or New York’s Fifth Avenue. And property on these famous luxury shopping streets looks as overpriced as the clothes.

While the average commercial building is worth 20% less than in 2022, the world’s most exclusive shops have barely been touched by the highest U.S. and European interest rates in two decades.

Cartier’s Swiss owner, Compagnie Financière Richemont , recently bought a property on London’s Bond Street at a rock-bottom 2.2% rent yield. Similar to the way bonds work, the lower the rent yield, the richer the price paid. The Bank of England’s base rate is around double this level. Most investors these days wouldn’t buy real estate that generates less income than the cost of debt that might be used to purchase it.

Last month, Blackstone sold a luxury store on Milan’s Via Montenapoleone to Gucci owner Kering for a similarly eye-catching price. The building was part of a portfolio of 14 properties that Blackstone bought in 2021 for 1.1 billion euros, equivalent to roughly $1.2 billion. Kering coughed up €1.3 billion, or about $1.4 billion, for the Via Montenapoleone building alone, equivalent to a 2.5% rent yield.

The private-equity firm is understandably eager to do more deals like this, and has since bought another luxury store in London. It is a surprising focus for Blackstone, which for years steered clear of retail property.

Luxury rents are resilient, but they aren’t rising fast enough to justify such hefty price tags for the buildings. Last year, rents increased 3% on Rodeo Drive and were flat on Upper Fifth Avenue, according to data from Cushman & Wakefield .

What luxury retail properties do offer is scarcity. London’s Bond Street has 150 individual buildings, according to real-estate consulting firm CBRE . But because luxury brands are fussy about where they will open a flagship store, only around two-thirds of the street is considered posh enough, limiting their options.

Supply is even tighter on New York’s Fifth Avenue, where just four or five blocks of the six-mile avenue are ritzy enough to lure the world’s most expensive brands. The luxury shopping district of Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles has fewer than 50 individual buildings.

This creates intense competition for both space and ownership. The world’s biggest luxury company, LVMH , has more than 70 brands that need a foothold on prominent shopping streets. Increasingly, LVMH’s answer is to buy the best locations. The Paris-listed company owns at least six properties on Rodeo Drive and six on London’s Bond Street.

Luxury brands see their flagship stores as marketing tools. Counterintuitively, e-commerce has made its physical locations more important. Labels including Christian Dior have opened restaurants and mini museums in their boutiques to give shoppers an experience they can’t find online.

When they are investing this much money in refurbishments, it makes more sense to own than to rent . Luxury brands have spent more than $9 billion buying boutiques since the start of 2023, according to a Bernstein analysis, and they control increasingly larger tracts of major shopping districts. Back in 2009, brands owned 15% of the buildings on London’s Bond Street, says Phil Cann, an executive director at CBRE. Today, their share has jumped to 30%.

Luxury labels also need to avoid being kicked out of a property by a rival-turned-landlord, which is happening more often. British handbag maker Asprey was given its marching orders by Hermès on London’s Bond Street. The French brand bought the building that Asprey occupied since the 1840s and wants to convert it into an Hermès flagship. Rolex recently bought a store that is rented out to Patek Philippe, although its competitor doesn’t need to move out any time soon as there are still several years left on the lease.

Most luxury stores are still in the hands of sovereign-wealth funds or rich families who might have owned the buildings for decades. Given the enticing prices that brands are willing to pay despite high interest rates, more are considering cashing out.

Landlords from Hong Kong, who began parking their cash in luxury stores around 2010, are among those selling up. New York real-estate investor Wharton Properties also sold two Fifth Avenue buildings to Kering and Prada this year at very high prices that were equivalent to 2% rent yields. Wharton is experiencing some distress in other parts of its portfolio, so it might have needed to raise funds.

Luxury brands made huge amounts of money during the pandemic. Richemont currently has more than €7 billion of net cash sitting on its balance sheet. Merger and acquisition activity has been quiet, so real estate might be the next-best thing to pour their riches into.

Property deals on the world’s most expensive streets will continue to operate in their own twilight zone, no matter what central bankers do next.



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Property values have experienced strong growth around the country, but there are two highly desirable areas where oversupply is putting downward pressure on sales

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While property values are rising strongly in most markets across Australia, it’s a vastly different story in Victoria and Tasmania, new data from CoreLogic shows. Over the 12 months to May 31, the median house price lifted just 1.8 percent in Melbourne and fell 0.6 percent in regional Victoria. The median dipped 0.1 percent in Hobart and ticked 0.4 percent higher in regional Tasmania. This is in stark contrast to Perth, where values are up 22 percent, and regional Western Australia, up 14.8 percent; as well as Brisbane, up 16.3 percent, and regional Queensland, up 11.8 percent.

CoreLogic Head of Research, Eliza Owen says an oversupply of homes for sale has weakened prices in Victoria and Tasmania, creating buyers’ markets.

On the supply side, there has been more of a build-up in new listings than usual across Victoria, even where home value performance has been relatively soft,” Ms Owen said. Victoria has also had more dwellings completed than any other state and territory in the past 10 years, keeping a lid on price growth. The additional choice in stock means vendors have to bring down their price expectations, and that brings values down.”

Melbourne dwelling values are now four percent below their record high and Hobart dwelling values are 11.5 percent below their record high. Both records were set more than two years ago in March 2022. The oversupply has also affected how long it takes to sell a property. The median days on market is currently 36 in Melbourne and 45 in Hobart compared to a combined capitals median of 27. It takes 55 days to sell in regional Victoria and 64 days in regional Tasmania compared to a combined regional median of 42 days.

Changes in population patterns have also contributed to higher numbers of homes for sale in recent years. Since COVID began in early 2020, thousands of families have left Melbourne because working from home meant they could buy a bigger property in more affordable areas. While many relocated to regional Victoria, a significant proportion left the state altogether, with South-East Queensland a favoured destination. Meantime, Tasmania’s surge in interstate migration during FY21 was short-lived. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the island state has recorded a net loss of residents to other states and territories every quarter since June 2022.

Record overseas migration has more than offset interstate migration losses, thereby keeping Victoria’s and Tasmania’s populations growing. However, the impact of migrants on housing is largely seen in the rental market, so this segment of population gain has done little to support values. Growth in weekly rents has been far stronger than growth in home values over the past year, with rents up 9 percent in Melbourne and 4.8 percent in regional Victoria, and up 1 percent in Hobart and 2.7 percent in regional Tasmania.

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