In the midst of an overall real estate slump in China, certain pockets of demand are emerging within the commercial property sector. One such area experiencing growth is the capital city of Beijing, where rents for prime retail locations are on the rise. According to a report by property consultancy JLL, rents in Beijing increased by 1.3% during the first three months of this year compared to the fourth quarter of 2023. This marks the fastest pace of rent growth since 2019. The increased demand is being driven by new food and beverage brands, niche foreign fashion offerings, and electric car companies, all of which are showing interest in shopping mall storefronts.

Commercial Real Estate Trends in China

Commercial real estate, which includes office buildings and shopping malls, represents only a small fraction of China’s overall property market. However, sales of offices and commercial-use properties have seen a notable increase in contrast to the significant drop in residential property sales. According to data from Wind Information, sales of offices and commercial properties rose by 15% and 17%, respectively, in January and February compared to a year earlier. On the other hand, the floor space of residential properties sold saw a decline of nearly 25% during the same period. This shift in demand reflects the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on movement and the subsequent economic recovery.

Despite the recent challenges faced by China’s commercial property market, some investors see potential opportunities for growth. Joe Kwan, a managing partner at Raffles Family Office, believes that commercial real estate prices in China are approaching an attractive buying point. Kwan mentioned in an interview that his firm has identified a timeline for when valuations may become favorable for investment. He anticipates starting to make deals in the second half of this year and into next year, with a focus on properties in Shanghai and Beijing. While this approach may suggest a positive outlook, Kwan also acknowledges the need for caution, as market conditions are still stabilizing.

Looking ahead, investors like Joe Kwan maintain a positive long-term outlook on China’s real estate market. Despite the current challenges and uncertainties, factors such as the country’s large population, demographics, and consumption patterns are seen as favorable for future growth. Kwan emphasizes that there may be an overcorrection in the market in the short term, but well-located, high-quality assets could prove to be valuable in the mid to long term. As China continues to recover from the pandemic and economic slowdown, investors are keeping a close watch on potential opportunities for growth and development.

Companies like Hong Kong-based Swire Properties are also positioning themselves for growth in mainland China. Swire Properties has announced its intention to double its gross floor area in mainland China by 2032, demonstrating confidence in the market’s long-term potential. The company’s high-end shopping complexes, branded “Taikoo Li,” have shown promising signs of recovery, with foot traffic improving significantly and retail sales surpassing pre-pandemic levels in many of their malls. Looking ahead, Swire Properties anticipates that 2024 will be a year of stabilization in retail demand, further underscoring the positive sentiment surrounding the commercial property sector in China.

While China’s commercial property sector faces challenges amidst an overall real estate slump, there are signs of emerging demand and potential opportunities for investment. As the market continues to evolve and recover from the impact of the pandemic, investors and companies are cautiously optimistic about the long-term prospects of China’s commercial real estate market. By carefully assessing market trends and staying attuned to shifting consumer behaviors, stakeholders can position themselves for growth and success in the dynamic Chinese property landscape.


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