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Investor activity in the commercial property market has slowed sharply in recent months in advance of the EU referendum. The value of secondary market Commercial Real Estate (CRE) transactions fell by around 40% in 2016 Q1, contributing to a 55% fall on a year ago, according to Property Archive data.

The Bank of England reports that the decline is partly due to uncertainty ahead of the referendum, together with global uncertainty and some perceptions that CRE prices may be around their peak in some areas. 

Reuters report that where property transactions are going ahead, some buyers and sellers are seeking to protect themselves from the potential fall out if Britain votes to leave the European Union. Half of the 24 law firms, brokerages and commercial property firms Reuters spoke to said they had used Brexit clauses, brokered a deal with such a clause or had requests to include them in at least one deal.

Clauses include buyers seeking the ability to terminate the contract if the referendum results in a decision to leave, while sellers are also taking legal precautions, seeking to ensure that Brexit will not be considered a "material adverse change" that would annul a deal.

Against this uncertainty in the commercial property market, Glenigan saw a sharp drop in office and other commercial projects starting on site during May. We anticipate that sector starts will remain weak near term, but a strong development pipeline should ensure that the new commercial activity can pick up strongly in response to improved investor confidence.