Office property owners and investors are in unchartered waters, but it’s a good time to lease office space.
This 2021 economic forecast questions economists’ predictions of a roaring recovery in the second half of 2021, looks at the state of CRE sectors today and checks in with the real estate cycle.
In May, I think we all thought (or at least hoped) that the COVID -19 situation would be under control by now. Well, it isn’t nor is it clear what the long-term impact on our lives will be.
Change will be our constant as we consider the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, urbanization, healthcare and, perhaps most importantly, people and their habits.
You never see the lightning bolt that hits you. Coronavirus COVID-19 has taken us all by surprise and continues to baffle us with its strength and uncertainty. It’s difficult to write a post about the current climate because it changes daily, hourly even. Every day, we hear of communities requiring residents to shelter-in-place as more orders are announced, clarifying which businesses can operate and which must shutter their doors. Real Estate Recessions: Causes Real estate market recessions are NOT always the result of real-estate activities, such as overbuilding, loose underwriting or easy financing. Sure, there have been real estate recessions caused by these actions, but not always. Often there are non-real estate triggers—think of the mid-70’s oil embargo, the Iraq War, inflation in the 80’s and 9/11. These events usually expose underlying market weaknesses and cause the debt markets to lock up, resulting in sharp declines in real estate fundamentals.
Recent NREI article “Low U.S. Interest Rates Are Fueling a Bubble in Commercial Real Estate” claims it is not a matter of if the CRE bubble will pop, but when it will pop. I wholeheartedly agree with author Jay Rollins’ assessment and strategy. We’ve already seen investor push back on properties purchased post-2015 that are now back on the market. The current owners paid too much, thinking prices would increase, but in my opinion, the market has flattened—with further appreciation less likely than price deflation. The spreads between real estate yields and other financial instruments are historically low, and like Rollins, I have to believe that interest rates will increase sooner rather than later. I certainly don’t see them decreasing. The best opportunity for upside today is in new development, which has considerably more risk than buying existing assets. Historically, developers get caught by recession and rising interest rates. This time will be
The business cycle is “long in the tooth,” and the real estate cycle is also very, very mature. Last year, in Timing the Real Estate Cycle, I focused on real estate cycle phases, which included Recession, Distressed Selling, Value Creation (Stage 1 + Stage 2), Mature Investment Market, Development Market and Overdevelopment + Bust. Right now, we are in the Development Market phase. Here’s how I previously described it; see if it rings true. Rents and values are up. Vacancies are down. New construction accelerates. Investors…are flush with cash. Lenders are aggressive. Values of existing properties are peaking. There is simply more capital chasing deals than there are opportunities. The downside risk is increasing. The “nothing can go wrong” mentality is taking over. New project announcements are appearing almost daily. Development Market Phase: Alive and Well Here’s what I see now: Transaction volume on the sale/investment side of business has
Late in the Cycle As discussed in previous blogs, I believe we are very late in the real estate cycle, a period which is characterized by fully priced assets and increasing ground-up development. Yet, I keep hearing the term “value-add” tossed around both by brokers trying to sell properties with low current yields and buyers convinced that rents will continue to increase and add value. I am skeptical. In addition, with fewer transactions occurring, lenders are becoming more aggressive by offering longer “interest-only” periods and equity funds are becoming lenders to make up for the lack of good buying opportunities. I find these trends troubling. This is the sort of activity that usually pushes the market over the edge. The Real Deal In a true value-add market, sellers are usually under pressure, rents are low, and vacancies are high. Buyers in this market are more risk-tolerant and are focused on
Heading for a Correction? A BisNow article from earlier this year directly asks the question on everyone’s mind: “When is the correction going to hit?” In “From Bullish To Bearish: Tips To Prepare For The Inevitable Real Estate Downturn,” the author says not to worry so much about when it hits, but more so with how prepared you will be when it does. The article offers these four tips: Negotiate long-term leases Pursue Rehabs and Upgrades Stop Putting Off Maintenance Embrace Technology Stan’s Viewpoint For the most part, I agree with this article. I would add that the strategy for a given property really depends on the property’s current status. That status will dictate whether to sell (if a key lease has just been extended), upgrade (a longer-hold strategy) or refinance. I would caution this: If an owner is looking at new financing, the debt/value ratio and debt service coverage should