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Ups and downs within Asian real estate recruitment

Asian real estate market

Article posted by Cobalt Recruitment

2016 was a steady year for Asian real estate where we experienced growth across various asset classes i.e. commercial and industrial whereas others such as the residential sentor showed resilience due to the varying economic conditions. Overall, it was a year of slow but steady growth and the trend continues as we move further into 2017.


In March, we witnessed the sale of the “Cheesegrater”, the tallest building in the City of London, being sold to a Chinese property tycoon for £1.15bn, the second ever biggest sale of a UK building. This is indicative of APAC investor interest in UK property remaining strong, no doubt fuelled by the weak pound.

There has also been activity closer to home. According to the latest Wealth Report by Knight Frank, Singapore has been ranked by Asian ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) as the second most preferred destination to acquire a residential property overseas after the UK. Foreign purchases of high-end homes (costing above $2,000 per square foot) doubled in 2016 and there was a notable surge of circa 300 percent of buyers from Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Australia. This is all encouraging news.

Beyond investment, the broader property market in Singapore has become increasingly outsourced, which is reflected in the rise of hiring activity across the consultancies. At Cobalt Asia, we continue to receive numerous requests from real estate consultancies to assist them with corporate real estate roles ranging from facilities managers to project and programme managers. The bulk of our work within the property management arena last year revolved around commercial/corporate facilities, as well as industrial sites. However, the residential sector remained fairly stagnant; something expected to show an upward change prior to the Singaporean presidential election period depending on the introduction of new government policies around purchasing and cooling measures.

On the whole, hiring remains strong in advisory, sell-side and buy-side with both public and privately listed clients utilising our various recruitment services. Retail and residential saw the slowest movement with replacement hires being the only appetite, whereas core investment in commercial property kept us busiest.

Looking ahead

There are three visible trends we expect to continue in 2017.

  • Firstly, rising demand for commercial facilities managers as the corporate industry continues to grow and financial institutions remain committed to outsourcing their FM business to consultancies. FM professionals remain high in demand across Southeast Asia in particular mainly across the commercial and industrial sectors ideally with experience in managing large clusters of properties in either sector.

  • The second is an increase in demand for data centre investment and construction professionals as the cloud industry has seen significant growth in Singapore and Southeast Asia and will continue to expand. This has, in turn, led to the need for the construction of data centre facilities across the region.

  • Lastly, there remains a strong need for core and core-plus investment and asset managers as capital needs to be spent and assets need to be worked harder.

In summary, the current market seems promising and is picking up quickly having just come out of the Chinese New Year period. We expect the commercial, industrial and residential sectors to experience steady growth however the retail market will take a while to bounce back.

We are already excited by the shear number of new vacancies we were mandated to work on in January and February alone. Overall we are in a solid market with strong recruitment activity as most of our clients continue to grow and expand their businesses in 2017.

Article written by Hasan Khan, Real Estate Recruiter – Cobalt Recruitment, Singapore

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