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Local Derby: Hunt keeps McWilliams at bay in a nil-all draw

Whether she meant it or not, Marie Hunt’s article in yesterday’s The Irish Times Commercial Property supplement is a defensive move in the face of David McWilliams’ provocative piece in last weekend’s The Sunday Business Post.

In his piece, in which he likens Man Utd supporters to property investors, McWilliams suggests that the latter have short memories, are easily influenced by property cheerleaders and brag about high-profile, big-ticket sales to feed hysteria.

McWilliams is doing what he does so well. He simplifies the issues. I don’t want to say he dumbs things down but he tells us in no uncertain terms who he thinks are the goodies and baddies of the piece. He breaks an issue down into digestible chunks, some might say sound bites. That’s his game plan.

On the opposing team, Marie Hunt, head of research for CBRE, is a woman who is in the habit of weighing up many factors before making a call. Her playing style is much more considered. In her piece, she patiently explains that when considering making an investment in commercial property, one needs to take a wide view. Essentially the investor needs to make a decision based on the relative return of property versus other forms of investment such as government bonds and bank deposit accounts, and the relative performance of Irish property (let’s say Dublin for argument’s sake) vis-à-vis property in competing locations.

Not only that, they should also closely examine the property in question. Its location, age, type, configuration, design, layout, fit-out and very importantly, its lease arrangements, can all have major impacts on the yield of one property versus another similar one.

Taking these indicators into account, she says that Dublin commercial property with a yield of 5.25% in the first quarter of 2014 is competitive right now, while sounding the note of caution that as interest rates and government bond rates increase from their very low base, which she feels is inevitable, the relative attractiveness of property will diminish.

In a defensive move against McWilliams’ assertion that property investors have short memories, Hunt describes the practice of looking at yield in terms of what it would have been in the boom times as unreliable at best and foolish at worst. The same goes for assessing a property’s potential based solely on the traditional measure of price per square foot.

As McWillliams goes for goal with the bold point that a couple of unimpressive recent wins and the investor thinks the market is booming again, Hunt thwarts the attack by suggesting that the market is not in danger of over-heating just because a couple of high-profile properties made more than they were expected to.

When or if the replay will happen, I know not. Putting that friendly game aside, I am still a big Man Utd fan. While watching their crucial game last night against Bayern Munich, I thought about why I support them. Is it based on memories of better days and the manager’s pre-match spin as McWilliams suggests, or do I support them based on their relative attractiveness compared to similar propositions?

My reasons for supporting them are varied and complex. They tick many boxes for me. And that is the advice I would give to anyone thinking about buying property: investors need to have their own set of criteria for any investment they consider and assess the proposition based on that criteria. Take advice from experts; unlike supporting Man Utd, there is no place for pub punditry when considering property investment.  We’d be happy to give advice on a specific investment opportunity. Contact us on 045 856604 or

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