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Investment Sentiment in Greater Bay Area Residential and CRE Markets Remains Cautious

Rosanna Tang • 20/07/2023

Development Projects, Industrial Parks and REITs Gain Traction

  • Primary market residential sales in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) strengthened in 1H 2023 compared to the same period last year, with the improvement mainly seen in Q1, while the secondary market experienced downward pressure
  • Total investment volume in the GBA commercial real estate (CRE) market reached RMB28.2 billion in 1H 2023, accounting for 31.5% of total mainland China CRE investment volume in the period
  • Local capital and self-use buyers are the key drivers in the GBA investment market, with industrial/business parks and China Real Estate Investment Trusts (C-REITs) gaining traction.
Cushman & Wakefield today published its Greater Bay Area Residential and Investment Market 1H 2023 Review and Outlook. The pace of economic recovery in 1H 2023 fell short of expectations, and investors in China generally adopted a cautious view. GBA primary market residential sales strengthened compared to last year, despite the overall residential market exhibiting an uncertain upwards trajectory in the period following China’s border reopening. Given the high global interest rate environment, the CRE investment market (large-sized deals at >RMB100 million) also slowed, with total investment volume dropping significantly compared to last year. Looking ahead to 2H 2023, there are possibilities for some city and local governments to relax residential-related control measures, and such actions will help stabilize the GBA housing market. As for the investment market, it is expected that real estate funds and institutional investors will focus more on investment opportunities related to C-REITs.
GBA Residential Market
The GBA primary residential market recorded approximately 222,000 transactions in the first half of 2023. The sales figure was an improvement of 16.1% y-o-y and 4.7% q-o-q, with the increment mainly seen in Q1, although this performance is in the context of the relatively low base in 2022 under the pandemic restrictions, coupled with a spike in new residential launches in 1H 2023. 
Alva To, Cushman & Wakefield's Vice President, Greater China & Head of Consulting, Greater China said, “At the start of the border reopening period in Q1 2023, residential transactions in the GBA recovered, and the traditional peak season during March and April was also more active compared to last year. However, the boost from the border reopening could not be sustained, and the previous pent-up demand has yet to support the market sufficiently to rebound further. Since April, residential transactions have again slowed, with transaction numbers in June falling by more than 40% compared to March’s peak, exhibiting a lack of upward momentum. The 2H 2023 transaction volume will hinge upon overall economic development. Various GBA cities have recently been relaxing their housing market policies, including easing measures on "reference prices" and "purchasing restrictions." Consequently, we believe that the GBA market will stabilize somewhat in 2H 2023, with monthly residential transactions expected to reach around 35,000 to 40,000 units, bringing the 2023 full-year total transaction volume to around 430,000 to 460,000 units, a rise of 7% to 15% compared to last year."
As for residential price levels, some GBA cities did record increases in primary home prices in the 1H period, although these rises were mainly skewed by a few high-end new projects. In the secondary market, home price movements better reflect the current underlying trends. In Shenzhen, for example, Cushman & Wakefield’s price index for mid-to-high-end secondary housing for Q2 2023 has fallen by 8.9% from its prior peak in Q2 2021, reflecting the downward pricing pressure seen in the secondary market. Nevertheless, price adjustments can be favorable for end-users choosing to enter the market. Under the government’s direction that “houses are for living in, not for speculation,” any further policy changes for the residential market will likely be conservative, helping to bring market stability in 2H 2023.
GBA CRE Investment Market
The slow global economic recovery, coupled with high interest rates and consequent elevated borrowing costs, has prompted investors to remain cautious, with the investment market primarily supported by local capital. The GBA 1H 2023 CRE investment market (large-sized deals at >RMB 100 million) slowed, with total investment reaching RMB28.2 billion, down 10.5% y-o-y. However, GBA transactions still accounted for 31.5% of the overall mainland China investment market — setting a new record high and representing a significant jump from 18.0% in 2018 when the GBA initiative was first introduced. Within the GBA’s mainland cities, the Guangzhou and Shenzhen investment markets were the most active, with Guangzhou recording total transaction volume of RMB13.2 billion, exceeding its 2019 full-year transaction level and setting the highest 1H period performance of the last five years.
GBA CRE Investment by Transaction Value and Asset Type
The 1H 2023 period recorded a total of 32 CRE transactions. Eleven transactions were at more than RMB1 billion, accounting for 34% of the total transaction number, a slight drop compared to last year’s 39%. The balance of 21 transactions were at less than RMB1 billion. Over the last six months, the average transaction value per deal has showed signs of falling, as owners adopt more pragmatic views and become more willing to sell at a discount amid the current economic uncertainties.
In terms of property type, traditional office and R&D-focused office assets continue to dominate the CRE investment market, accounting for over half of the total investment volume in 1H 2023.
Charli Chan, Cushman & Wakefield’s Executive Director, Capital Markets, China commented, "This has been an opportune time for end-users and investors to enter the market amid the current attractive pricing, while developers have allowed more room for negotiation to close deals and boost their cash flow.”
Charli Chan added, "The China government continues to actively promote the development of C-REITs, providing alternative ways for investors to source capital, which is increasingly attractive for foreign investors and institutional funds. With policy support, the C-REITs market is developing rapidly, and interest is growing in high-end manufacturing business parks and industrial parks, while rental housing apartments, and warehouse and logistic properties are also attracting investors’ attention. In the industrial park sector, tenants are chiefly from emerging industries such as electric vehicles, biopharmaceuticals and renewable energy, attracting investors for their growth potential. 
"Rising demand for rental housing, and the accompanying government policy support, have propelled this sector to take a 24% share of total investment volume in 1H 2023. The recent expansion of the C-REITs pilot scheme to include consumer infrastructure is also expected to help drive more transactions of neighborhood malls, shopping centers, department stores and other related retail properties. Looking ahead to 2H 2023, more properties are expected to come onto the market for sale, with developers and owners setting more flexible prices that meet market expectations, and in turn, shortening the negotiation process between buyers and sellers."
About Cushman & Wakefield
Cushman & Wakefield (NYSE: CWK) is a leading global commercial real estate services firm for property owners and occupiers with approximately 52,000 employees in approximately 400 offices and 60 countries. In Greater China, a network of 23 offices serves local markets across the region. In 2022, the firm reported global revenue of US$10.1 billion across its core services of valuation, consulting, project & development services, capital markets, project & occupier services, industrial & logistics, retail and others. It also receives numerous industry and business accolades for its award-winning culture and commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and more. For additional information, visit or follow @CushWake on Twitter.

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