This partly has to do with the much-heralded search for income. The property sector’s ability to deliver a much higher yield than other asset classes has not escaped the attentions of investors.
The Investment Association’s Property sector regularly features among its top sellers. Indeed, in February this year property was the Investment Association’s best-selling asset class, with net retail sales of £304m, toppling the UK Equity Income sector from its pinnacle.
Property appears to be gaining popularity among UK investors, with the Investment Association revealing the last time property was the best-selling sector was in May 2014.
Within the sector, there are 46 funds targeted at investors who want to gain exposure to bricks and mortar, whether that’s in commercial or residential properties.
As Phil Tily, head of IPD UK and Ireland at MSCI puts it, returns from real estate have been something of a “success story” in the past 12 months.
He elaborates: “So the 12 months to the end of the first quarter it’s delivering 17.1 per cent.
“Over a shorter time frame and looking against other asset classes, [property] sits somewhere between equities and bonds, so it does what people expect it to do on the tin, offering up that hybrid-type of investment that is partly income, partly capital based. So it’s doing what it should do in that respect and it’s also commanding an incredibly competitive return in the high teens, hence its attraction.”
He cites the underlying fundamentals as driving the capital element of that return, pointing in particular to improving market rents, which is linked to the strengthening economy and increased confidence among consumers and businesses.
Alan Sippets, investment director at Heartwood Investment Management, notes: “Property in all markets is very much a reflection of the underlying economy and the expectations of investors.
“The underlying economy, [say in] the UK, is in positive territory. We’re growing, we have relatively low levels of inflation and we have a pretty good environment for many businesses to go forward, plan and expand their operations. That is very much what we have been seeing in the UK, whether it be international businesses growing their activities [or] companies expanding their distribution and retail warehousing activities.”
He explains that the UK domestic property market is one of the most well developed and liquid property markets in the world, with London a more actively purchased and sold physical property market than any other major city across the globe.
Asset managers are wise to investors’ preferences for property over other asset classes, with Axa Investment Managers launching a global flexible property fund earlier this month. Frederic Tempel, global head of listed real estate at Axa IM and manager of the new fund, recognises that “property holds a lot of appeal as an asset class, with strong historical performance and resilient income”.
With more products than ever offering exposure to the property market in the UK and with the sector producing impressive yields, investors are likely to continue to want a slice of the property pie.
Ellie Duncan is deputy features editor at Investment Adviser