Key Highlights

  • Cooling inflation and the likelihood of rate cuts in 2024 should support stable real estate yields in the second half of the year.
  • We expect a three-phase outlook: revaluation of yields, an economic recovery, and a low supply-driven rental rebound
  • We forecast an all-property total return of 1.5% in 2024 and 7.5% on a three-year annualised basis

European economic outlook


After avoiding a technical recession in 2023 by the thinnest of margins, the Eurozone should return to positive, albeit modest, growth this year. Household consumption will lead the recovery, with consumers benefiting from the recent period of strongly positive real earnings growth. However, a negative fiscal impulse will pose a headwind. High-frequency activity data reflects a weak but strengthening economy. We expect the return to growth to accelerate as the year unfolds and as the lagged impact of rate hikes fully unwinds. Growth should normalise over 2025/2026, with gross domestic product (GDP) climbing over 1%.


The Eurozone’s disinflationary process is well advanced but still has further to go. Forward-looking indicators of goods inflation suggest price growth in that component could slow even further. However, the ‘last mile’ of inflation will be made more difficult by sticky services inflation. Upward pressure on services prices from elevated unit labour cost growth remains strong. Indeed, short-term run rates of services inflation have been climbing. Nonetheless, below-trend growth should eventually prompt the labour market to loosen, causing these pressures to unwind. Overall, we expect inflation to at least temporarily drop below 2% before the year ends.


The European Central Bank (ECB) is gearing up for a cutting cycle. However, concerns about second-round effects from elevated wage growth remain pronounced. Speaking at the “ECB and Its Watchers” conference, President Christine Lagarde suggested the central bank is likely to wait for sight of first-quarter wage data and updated staff projections before loosening monetary settings. We therefore expect the first cut to come in June, and for the ECB to lower rates four times this year. The crystallisation of ‘last-mile’ risks to the disinflationary process could prompt the ECB to punctuate its cutting cycle with pauses.

Key takeaway

Cooling inflation and the likelihood of rate cuts in 2024 support the stabilisation of real estate yields in the second half of the year. 

Eurozone economic forecasts

(%) 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 
GDP 5.3  3.5 0.5 0.5 1.3 1.2
CPI 2.6 8.4 5.5 2.3 1.7 1.8
Deposit rate -0.50 2.00 4.00 3.00 1.75 1.75

Source: abrdn March 2024 
Forecasts are a guide only and actual outcomes could be significantly different.

European real estate market overview

The European market went through a phase of relative stability in the first quarter of 2024. Yields proved to be remarkably stable, with 70% of the 380 segments covered by CBRE remaining static in March – the highest number since June 2022. After the global financial crisis, yields moved out for around 25 to 30 months. Yields have moved out for 21 months so far in the current market downturn, taking the two market corrections towards a similar duration. 

The benign feeling of the first quarter has delayed real estate’s journey back to good value. We estimate that values edged lower by around 2%, on average. This would take the valuation-based peak-to-trough capital value decline to 19% since June 2023. Our analysis suggests that valuations lag market transaction pricing by around 7%, on average, across sectors and by 15% in offices. 

The three big themes in the first quarter of 2024 were the outlook for interest rates, signs of distress among Europe’s lenders (and borrowers), and the expected turning point for the asset class. The first two of these have conspired to delay the likely turning point, as hawkish central bank messaging and a rise in non-performing loans have dragged on sentiment. 

At the tail-end of 2023, there was a surge in expectations for interest rate cuts by the key central banks and fixed-income yields fell sharply. Lower borrowing costs and improving relative value against fixed-income assets drove a 25% rally in global REITs (real estate investment trust) share prices. However, this cooled-off during the first quarter, with expectations for the ECB main deposit rate cut pushed back to June. Swap rates have been volatile during this period, meaning overall debt costs have remained stubbornly high.

Banking-sector jitters returned. Non-performing loans have increased, and several banks have announced increasing loss provisions to cover impaired real estate loans. While lender risks have increased as values have fallen and loan-to-value (LTV) covenants have come under pressure, we consider most of the risk to lie with borrowers. Banks are well capitalised, with common equity tier-one ratios in excess of 15%. They have less than 6% exposure to real estate debt, the high-interest-rate environment has driven strong profitability in other banking activities, and we have seen banks working with borrowers to protect value rather than to foreclose. 

It is more problematic from the borrower’s perspective. The private real estate debt funding gap has grown to an estimated €100 billion, mainly because of shrinking LTVs and weaker lender appetite, leaving borrowers with refinancing challenges. However, most institutional investors have been running more conservative debt strategies since the global financial crisis. The operational performance of assets is holding up well and the issues are largely ringfenced to poorly capitalised investors. The collapse of René Benko’s Signa group is resulting in the distressed sale of assets that are attracting opportunistic bids. But Signa Prime lenders are likely to recoup just 32% of their outstanding loans under the latest restructuring plan.

We don’t see the increased concerns around real estate loans as a systemic problem for the asset class. Combined with the delay in interest rate cuts to June this year, we have pushed back the turning point for capital values to the second half of 2024.  

With relative value improving (all-property prime yield spreads versus Eurozone government bond yields increased to 250 basis points (bps) in March 2024), we believe European real estate is on the road to recovery. We should see an attractive entry point for investors from 2024. 

Outlook for performance and risk

The outlook for European direct real estate returns is improving each quarter. We forecast European all-property total returns of 1.5% over the year to December 2024. This is before a healthy recovery kicks in, with three- and five-year annualised total returns of 7.5% and 8.3%, respectively. 

Following the 19% decline since June 2022, we anticipate a further 4% fall in European excluding-UK all-property values over the year to March 2025 (offices -7%, industrials –2.7%, retail –4.4%, and residential -0.5%). 

Now that interest rates are likely to have peaked, we believe the yield revaluation phase is nearing the end. Logistics and residential values will be the first to stabilise, as the market bottoms out this year. Offices are clearly lagging.

We continue to consider the outlook in three phases:

  • Yield revaluation  
    We believe that the yield correction is nearing the end as rates peak; yields are expected to stabilise by mid-2024.
  • Economic recovery 
    We expect income risk and quality polarisation during the recessionary environment. Prime assets should outperform.
  • Low-supply rental rebound 
    We expect low-supply pipelines to support rental growth prospects, supported by indexation to CPI in lease terms.

We believe that risks are evenly balanced to the upside and downside. The sharp correction in values means the downside risk is more limited. The resilience demonstrated in economic fundamentals from parts of the global economy offers some upside potential. 

We also believe that the market will offer strong opportunities to benefit from better entry prices for core and value-add assets. We favour overweight allocations to logistics, rented residential, student accommodation (PBSA), modern retail warehousing, and alternative segments such as data centres.

European total returns from December 2023