Farms see surge in commercial property popularity amid COVID-19

Agribusiness is performing strongly on the commercial property market.
Agribusiness is performing strongly on the commercial property market.

Rural and agricultural properties have seen a surge in buyer interest in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis, as investors seek industries well placed to ride out the storm.

While retail and hotels have experienced an expected decline due to an enforced lack of patronage as the nation attempts to minimise the health impact of COVID-19, Realcommercial data shows investors are flocking to farms in droves.

In a webinar with commercial property stakeholders, REA Group chief economist Nerida Conisbee said agribusiness was seeing a major uptick in customer searches in recent weeks, in comparison to the same period last year.

“At the top end of the scale is rural and agribusiness,” Conisbee said.

“(There are) probably a couple of reasons for this. In this sort of crisis we do still need to eat and food does still need to be produced.”

TOP PROPERTIES | Melbourne shopping centre defies retail climate to be number one

“There’s also the drought. The drought has rapidly improved over the last few months, so rural and agribusiness properties are looking far more attractive to buyers and we can certainly see that in terms of the views that are coming up.”

Commercial farming listings have seen a major lift in interest.

Conisbee said while commercial property was less susceptible to seasonal swings in buyer interest than residential property, in the current environment some asset classes – in addition to farmland – were rising above the rest.

“Industrial isn’t down as much as some of the other sectors, and also development (sites),” she said.

“When we have a look on the leasing side, there are no surprises in that retail is down in terms of views per listing, office is down, bulky goods are down around the same level.”

“Industrial is really holding steady … (which is) not surprising. Industrial is one of those property types that is benefiting from this because if we’re not shopping in shopping centres, more of us will be shopping online.”

“It really is just an acceleration of that trend that more and more of us are shopping online, and really have to now because it’s not as easy to get out of our homes … and there’s not much open.”

Cobblebank Village Shopping Centre was the top-ranked property of the week on Realcommercial.

Despite the move towards certain asset classes, some properties are continuing to defy trends and generate enormous interest.

The most-viewed listing in the country on Realcommercial last week was a leasing campaign for a soon-to-be-built shopping centre at Cobblebank in Melbourne’s outer north-west.

The property, which is still more than 12 months from opening and has a number of leasing opportunities available, attracted triple the views of any other listing.

Conisbee said some properties would continue to see unusual demand.

“These are national trends. When we have a look on a listing by listing basis, we can see quite different conditions taking place,” she says.

“Similarly … there is a vacant hospital in eastern Melbourne where we are seeing a lot of activity at the moment.”