A quick glance at Home Invest Belgium’s property portfolio gives a fairly good insight into the way the Belgian housing market has developed over the last decade and a half.
The company owns 74 buildings located throughout Belgium, although the majority of properties are situated in the greater Brussels area. Here, the company owns 19 unfurnished apartment buildings, three buildings with furnished apartments, one housing estate, three nursing homes and a retail building. It currently has four projects under development in and around Brussels, including The Link, a student housing project with 123 studio flats which welcomed its first tenants in September 2015.
The picture is similar in other Belgian cities in which Home Invest Belgium is active. “The people we cater to as tenants want high-quality accommodation located close to amenities and designed to satisfy their needs,” says CEO Sophie Lambrighs. “We offer a highly diverse portfolio with a range of apartment styles and sizes. We are not active in the luxury end of the market but focus on creating affordable yet comfortable accommodation.”
Most of the properties owned by Home Invest Belgium are multi-occupancy residential buildings, enabling the company to spread the financial risk of its investments over more than 1,300 tenants.
Home Invest Belgium is a publicly regulated real estate investment company (SIR). Its status means that it is subject to strict legal requirements including the obligation to pay out at least 80% of its profits in the form of dividends to its shareholders.
However, this status also assures it preferential tax conditions, which translate into a high degree of security and attractive medium and long-term investment prospects for investors.
Under the favourable conditions of SIR status, dividends are taxed at only 15% instead of 25% for other investment forms. This reflects the government’s desire to promote the creation of new and affordable housing stock.
Home Invest Belgium has been listed on the Euronext market of the Brussels Stock Exchange since it was established in 1999. “In the early years of our existence, we grew our portfolio by buying existing investment properties,” says Ms. Lambrighs. “Today, we are project developers as well and are contributing to transforming and developing Belgium’s housing stock to meet current and future needs. We control the entire property life cycle from acquisition, development and renovation of the building, its development as a rental asset, finding tenants and managing the administrative, commercial and technical tasks on behalf of investors and finally, sale. With a host of successful projects completed in the past 15 years, we have amassed an unrivalled expertise in this sector.”
When Home Invest Belgium first started out, it was a pioneer. Today, it has built on its trailblazing past to become the largest player in the Belgian market. “The Belgian market is dominated by lots of smaller private landlords rather than institutional investors,” says Ms. Lambrighs. “Our success stems from a rigorous set of criteria applied to the selection of an investment property. The minimum size of any transaction is three million EUR and it should provide a net yield immediately or just after any building or renovation work is completed.”
Location is also an important criterion with Home Invest Belgium strictly limited to the Belgian market and cities with over 50,000 inhabitants and a favourable demographic evolution.
Sustainability is another keyword for the future as tenants look to minimize costs by renting in energy-efficient buildings. “We want to continue to expand our portfolio in line with these criteria and with the aim of adding 150 new apartments to the market each year,” says Ms. Lambrighs. “We will continue to prioritize the development of a diversified portfolio, giving Belgian tenants a home rather than just a place to live.”