Netherlands defies downturn

Netherlands defies downturn
Image: Adobe Stock

The Netherlands is punching above its weight In Europe’s league table of economic statistics.

A relatively small country with a population of just under 18 million – compared to France’s 68 million and Germany’s 84 million – it was nevertheless, in absolute terms, the second-largest importer and exporter of goods in the EU in 2023, after Germany.

One reason is that Holland plays a major role as a distributor of goods from outside the European Union to other EU countries and it was the primary trading partner of both Belgium and Germany in 2023, according to Statistics Netherlands.

Dutch gross domestic product (GDP) was nearly €58,000 per capita in 2023, placing the Netherlands in fourth place within the bloc and one-and-a-half times the EU average of nearly €38,000.

The promise revealed by these figures is also hinted at in recent INREV research. The European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate’s latest quarterly market insight revealed the sixth quarter of negative performance across European real estate. Its Pan-European Quarterly Asset Level Index showed that all main geographies delivered negative performance in Q4 2023, with France and Germany witnessing significant declines in performance across all main sectors.

Best-performing nation

However, the Netherlands was the best-performing of the main four European markets, delivering a -0.10% total return in Q4 2023. Its performance was notably helped by that of the retail (1.20%) and residential (0.30%) sectors.

The improving retail figures were perhaps partly attributable to more optimism among Dutch consumers. Statistics Netherlands notes that April was the eighth consecutive month of rising consumer confidence.

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In a recent interview with Real Asset Insight, Rogier Bos, head of real estate finance for Benelux at real estate bank Berlin Hyp, reflected that Netherlands’ property investment market is still relatively quiet. He said that although there is currently equity to be invested and negotiations underway, differing price expectations had got in the way.

“If you have a performing property, then you are not willing to sell this at the current value and that is, of course, holding back most of the sellers at the moment,” Bos said.

Some investors might be forced to sell to raise equity for refinancing or to acquire new assets, and “that is actually the trigger which everyone is currently waiting for”.

All change for offices

In the post-covid world, the Dutch office market is no exception to the change in the relationship between office workers and their place of activity.

Recent research from Savills Netherlands found that offices near the country’s railway stations command rents that are 34.2% higher than those in less accessible locations, “reflecting the premium on connectivity in today’s hybrid work environment”.

Savills points out that more than half of the Dutch workforce now works remotely at least part of the time and says this change spurred a 21.2% increase in median transaction sizes for office space from 2020 to 2023, compared with 2016-2019. The office must, increasingly, be multifunctional, says Savills.

This is underlined by Bos. Prime office rents are slowly rising due to demand for prime properties, nice places to work, locations that attract the right employees, and those that are “Paris proof”.

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