Meet Patrick O’Hanlon, Director in our Commercial Real Estate Team

Commercial Real Estate Director, Patrick O’Hanlon, explains how he came to join Cleaver Fulton Rankin, shares his thoughts on the challenges facing the commercial real estate sector in 2023, and reflects on the most important lesson he has learnt in business.

Why did you choose a career in law?

I completed my law degree in 2002. At that time, I was unsure about what to do next. I was interested in construction and law so, initially, I opted for construction.

Working in construction involved collaborating with colleagues, engineers, surveyors, main and sub-contractors. It was very enjoyable, but I wondered about law and thought what if? So, in 2007, I upped sticks and relocated to England to commence my career in law.

I was interested in transactional work as I loved all things property and wanted to become a specialist property solicitor. I imagined conveyancing transactions would be exciting, provide an opportunity to complete deals and ultimately help clients meet their objectives.

Thankfully, I have not been disappointed. Transactions are fast paced (some may disagree with that). No two deals are the same. You continually improve your knowledge of law, drafting, and solutions, but you also learn how to negotiate commercially. Plus, when a deal successfully completes you get a tremendous buzz from being involved. I get a lot of satisfaction from working with clients to achieve their preferred outcomes.

What made you want to join Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Commercial Real Estate Team?

Cleaver Fulton Rankin have a fantastic history; this year is the firm’s 130th anniversary. Both the firm and its Commercial Real Estate team are recognised as market-leading and I was very excited at the prospect of joining and assisting with the continuous development of the team’s services. Over the years, I had dealt with the Real Estate Team on the other side of transactions and was always impressed by their positive impact on deals.

In your view, what are the main challenges facing the commercial property sector at the moment?

The Property market tends to be categorised into the following sectors: Retail; Office; Industrial; Residential; Mixed Use; and Other. Each sector will most likely experience different challenges in 2023. We are already seeing:

  • Retailers assessing their presence on the high street in conjunction with their online marketing mix;
  • Office occupiers considering their square foot requirements against the increased demand for working remotely; and
  • Developers analysing outcomes against uncertain material and labour costs, together with planning and public infrastructure constraints.

Generally, the overall property market is challenged by rising interest rates, making the cost of borrowing more expensive. It is difficult for a borrower to compete with a cash buyer and on top of that, inflation, continued political uncertainty and lack of clarity on Brexit remain significant concerns in the industry.

However, those challenges are not new and in spite of them the NI Property market had a successful 2022. Demand remains strong, and we are currently very busy with new instructions.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your career so far?

People do business with people. To develop good client relationships we must provide an excellent service every time. I also try to never take client instructions for granted. It is their business, and it is a privilege to assist.

How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

Over the past few years, with lockdown and other happenings, I have re-geared my work/life balance. Previously, I only worked and spent time with family. I did not make time for exercise/hobbies. Nowadays, before work, I usually meet friends in a local gym. We exercise and have a laugh. I try to keep regular working hours, and be focused on productivity during those hours. Generally, I keep my evenings free for family and downtime. This is a much healthier combination and has helped me achieve a better balance.

Find out more about Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Commercial Real Estate legal services here.

This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.

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