Congratulations on celebrating 25 years in business. What have been the highlights?
The company started operations in the real estate market in 1993 and begun expanding its range of services very early on. As a declaration of its professional approach, the company narrowed its focus to commercial real estate in 2004. ESTON has earned – and maintains – a strong market position in this sector where the main competitors are local offices of the biggest global real estate service providers. Since 2010, ESTON offers customized solutions in the property management industry as well; in fact, this has become one of ESTON’s most dynamically evolving departments. In September 2017, ESTON and Savills formed professional association with the aim of extending the company’s services to institutions and property companies looking to invest in Hungary, as well as to introduce Hungarian clients to the wider European market through Savill’s extensive network of offices. By now, ESTON’s team and market share, as well as our annual turnover, are the largest in the company’s history and I am sure we can further grow in the current market situation.
How has the market changed since company’s establishment?
We saw a full round of the CRE market life cycle with an accelerating upswing starting in the early ‘90s, only to be hit by the crisis. And again, market fundamentals are continuously improving, market players are optimistic as the overall health of the sector has been restored and available funding seems to be abundant. As I see it, the market has become more segmented, both in geographical terms and by means of product features and, following a refreshment of the investors’ and developers’ scenes (exchange of many market players), the activities and market shares of domestic companies have strengthened remarkably. In short, the Hungarian property market is mature and much more professional than 25 years ago and the same applies to ESTON as well.
How do you evaluate the Budapest office market in 2018? How do you think it will develop?
The Budapest office market is evolving with increasing dynamics and as such, it is a very interesting, yet challenging environment for property professionals. Class “A” offices are sought after and time management of office lease transactions has become extremely important as landlords are still in a strong position at negotiations. We must emphasize the importance of careful planning, as we have gained special expertise in representing tenants and landlords. As such, ESTON was awarded for closing Nokia Networks’ 25,000 sqm deal with the title “Office Transaction of the Year”; on the other hand, by means of a 10,300 sqm prelease agreement, we successfully contributed to the relocation of Fundamenta to the Hill Side Offices scheme, which was the biggest prelease in 2017. Development activity intensifies this year, which could bring a temporary, though not lasting, stop to market trends.
Are there any obvious trends to be identified?
Dynamically decreasing vacancy has been a clear indicator of office demand exceeding supply. In 2018, more offices may be completed than in the last three years together (260,000 sqm); on the other hand, preliminary occupancy of offices under construction is very attractive. Rents are on the rise while yields are still diminishing and development lots are in great demand. Developers still believe in expansion and I also see opportunities, niches, in the market where value may be generated. I think landlords may maintain their strong negotiating power in 2018, which would be reflected in a growing difference in rents in different office classes.
And what is the picture for the investment market? How has this changed over the years and what do you predict for the future?
Historically, Germany based investors dominated the market for a long period. After the crisis, and following a restructuring of the portfolios, new investors appeared with different risk sensitivity. It is clear now that the Hungarian real estate investment market has recovered and investment volumes have returned to a healthy level. Also, the increasing importance of local investors can be identified; Hungarian entities’ investments grew to 40% out of the annual investment volume as their focus shifted towards pricier assets. I think, this latter trend continues in 2018 as well.
Compared to your 25 years in business, property management is a relatively new area for you, yet you have already won several prizes. What do you put your success down to?
Flexibility and trustworthiness are the foundations of our professional services and this is especially true in property management. We hire experts who pay attention to details and are committed to deliver the highest standard of services to our clients. The portfolio of office buildings we manage, now more than 200,000 sqm, has continuously and dynamically expanded since the establishment of our PM department and we are confident that we can further grow our market share in 2018 as well.
Source: Budapest Business Journal (May 4 – May 17, 2018)