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Archive for the ‘Valuation’ Category

PWC’s Quarterly CRE Review

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PwC’s quarterly commercial real estate review just hit my desk.  I have a particular affinity for this survey-based review — it was founded about 30 years ago by Peter Korpacz, MAI, an alumni of the Real Estate Counseling Group of America and an acquaintance of mine.  PwC took it over a few years ago, and have done wonderfully with it.

The entire report, at 106 pages, is far too robust for a simple summary.  However, a key metric is the review of capitalization rate changes by property type (e.g. — warehouse, apartments) and offices by region (e.g. — Manhattan, DC, San Francisco).  A cap rate, of course, is the ratio of a property’s net operating income to its sales price.  Declining cap rates on a broad front can indicate the onset of a recession, but differential cap rate changes (rising in one market, declining in another) may suggest differing sector views by real estate investors.  By property type, this is what we appear to have today.

For example, warehouse cap rates currently average 5.27% nationally, but this represents a decline by 10 basis points just in the 2nd quarter.  Generally, this points to a favorable view of warehouses by investors — they’re willing to pay a bit more for each dollar of prospective income.  Conversely, offices in the central business district saw increases of 13 basis points, suggesting a softening of CBD office prospects.

Across various regions of the country, offices in general (both CBD and others) showed either no change or declines in cap rates, with the biggest cap rate declines occurring in Phoenix and Philadelphia.  Only Denver and Atlanta showed increases in office cap rates.

Overall, investors expect cap rates to hold steady or increase over the coming six months.  Indeed, only among CBD offices and power centers was there any sentiment for cap rate decreases.  100% of investors expect net lease properties to show cap rate increases in the coming 6 months, which portends value softening in that property sector.

We’ve used the nasty “R” word (ahem… “recession”) on occasion here at Greenfield, and PwC seems to agree with us.  They expect that the office sector will peak by the end of this year, and a large number of metro areas are expected to move into contraction during 2018 and 2019.  They expect 61% of cities in their survey to show retail property recession by the end of this year, but with some limited exceptions (Austin and Charleston).

Industrial properties, on the other hand, should fare well, with only Houston headed for recession during 2017.  They also expect 15 other markets, including Los Angeles and Atlanta, to face industrial recession by the end of this year.  Further, a large supply of industrial property is expected to come to market during the near term, suggesting an industrial over-supply for the next four years.

One bright spot is multi-family, which continues to “benefit from the unaffordability of single family homes”.  Two markets need to play catch-up (Charlotte and Denver) but other markets should fare well, with 40% of markets headed for expansion.

Demand & Supply

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I just read a nice piece by Deloitte’s Robert T. O’Brien, their Global and U.S. Real Estate and Construction Leader, titled Commercial Real Estate Outlook 2017.  It’s far too interesting and too packed with info to summarize here, so have a glance for yourself.  However, I’ll point out a couple of things I believe stand out in his analysis.

First, homebuilders are under pressure due to what he calls the “demand-supply dichotomy.”  I’ve been concerned about this for a while.  During the recession — which admittedly was several years ago — big chunks of the housing infrastructure collapsed, including acquisition-development-construction (ADC) finance, skilled labor, permanent finance securitization, and local government permitting capabilities.  As such, we now actually have a bit of a housing shortage in hot areas (think “Seattle”).  Mr. O’Brien worries that homebuilders’ financial projections may be dampened.  I’m a bit more concerned with the upward price pressure on houses, which could put us back in a bubble situation.  Deloitte believes interest rates hikes by the FED may temper some of the demand side.

He believes private equity fundraising will decline this year, “…as managers focus on deploying existing funds.”  He believes managers will face increasing competition looking for good investments.  I would add that new managers or managers with a new story to tell will find 2017 a bit easier for fundraising than 2016.

O’Brien also sees slowing in the commercial construction arena, and so slugging financial performance for engineering and construction firms.  REITs should do well, though, albeit with continued portfolio repositioning.

Deloitte sees GDP growing about 2.5% this year and unemployment below 5%, which is in line with metrics we see here at Greenfield.  They also see several things disrupting the economy both this year and in out years.  The “collaborative economy” will certainly have implications for the way new start-ups use and lease commercial real estate.  The internet is rapidly disintermediating brokerage and leasing services, with implications for traditional brokers.  A shortage of talent in the STEM area and other shifts in the way millennials view the workplace have implications for location strategies.  Speed and mode of retail delivery — the “last mile” disruptions of Amazon — are still being sorted out.

Trump’s Tax “Reform”

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Mark Twain is usually — and incorrectly — quoted with the phrase “No man and his money are safe while Congress is in session.  (The actually quote goes to 19th century NY politico Gideon Tucker, but I digress.)  There’s little to be said, in general, about TheDonald’s proposals yesterday, simply because there’s little substance to analyze.  However, I’m old enough to remember the last tax overhaul, in the early stages of the Reagan administration, and perhaps I can offer a few observations.  I’ll limit my mental meanderings to real estate for now.

First, the Reagan tax re-hab (the 1986 Tax Act) was a disaster for real estate investing, particularly at the individual, atomistic investor level.  One of the “loopholes” to be cured was the elimination of deductibility of passive losses on real estate investments.  The real estate community reluctantly supported the tax act, in trade for increases in the deductibility of home mortgage interest and a guarantee that passive losses on then-existing real estate deals would be grandfathered.  Indeed, in the run-up to passage, there was a flurry of investing (by Main Street USA folks — the kind of folks who still, amazingly, support Trump) in just such “grandfathered” investments.  At the last minute, the grandfathering was removed, costing Main Street USA investors tons of alternative minimum tax payments on now-sour investments.  Some pundits suggest that this grandfathering-revocation, alone, led to the downfall of the Savings and Loan industry, but that excuse is a bit to simplistic.  It did, however, shut down the time share industry for a while.

Today, according to news reports, single family residences are enjoying record demand (which may or may not be good news).  The hottest market is among first-time buyers, and the demand is greatest among starter homes.  The Trump proposals would double the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly.  While, on the surface this seems like a good idea, it will drastically shrink the number of tax payers who itemize mortgage interest and property taxes.  In short, for the biggest tranche of homebuyers, the biggest differentiation between ownership and renting would be effectively removed.  As a guy who invests in rental property, that’s nice, but the home building industry won’t react well.

Otherwise, I don’t see lowering the marginal tax rate on corporations as having much of an effect on real estate investing.  For one, most of those projects are either done thru tax-advantaged REITs or thru other pass-thru entities, like partnerships and LLCs.  Even if it did, the demand / supply of investment grade real estate depends on other factors, and slight changes in the tax rate may have an impact on the debt/equity mix, but not on the aggregate output of new commercial construction.  The ONE area most affected will be low income housing, which is funding in no small part by tax credits.  The value of those credits will be slashed, requiring a complete re-thinking in the finance side of low income housing.  The last time such a tax cut went into effect, it was a real mess for low income housing.

If I was the government, and I wanted to create good paying construction jobs, I’d embark on a long-term infrastructure redevelopment plan.  That would probably require actually raising tax rates a bit, but would have marvelous returns on investment for middle America.  But that’s just me….

Thus Spoke Janet

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Yeah, who else tried to slug their way thru Thus Spoke Zarathustra back in their halcyon days?  Now that the storms of autumn breath over my career, I find the pronouncements of Janet Yellen every bit as obtuse as Nietzsche.

I’ll try to make it simple. CNBC had an excellent piece this afternoon.  If you borrow money, you’re going to pay more.  If you invest in debt instruments, you’re not going to get paid more.  Simple?

So what does this mean for real estate?  I’ll posit a few axioms.

  1.  If you have a home equity loan and a first mortgage, and you have positive equity, you need to rush to your friendly banker and refinance all that into a fixed rate loan before happy hour this evening.
  2. If you’ve been planning to buy a house with a loan (as most people do) then yesterday was the day.  Today maybe.  Tomorrow… eh…..
  3. If you can invest in rental property, look for “equity positive” locations.  These are cities with solid economics, but the cost of construction is disconnected to the local rental rates.  Existing rental houses sell for a discount to new construction.  Buy all you can grab.
  4. There are three different explanations for the shape of the yield curve — rational expectations, debt stratification, and liquidity preference.  Today, liquidity preference trumps the other three.

Written by johnkilpatrick

March 15, 2017 at 1:08 pm

So, how’s Real Estate?

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OK, OK, OK — we get it.  The stock market has been the “place to be” the past few months.  Actually, it’s been a great place the past few years.  You may not realize it, but 2016 was the first year in the past 6 that the S&P 500 did NOT turn in a double-digit return.  That said, the S&P came in at 9.4% for the year, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.  The Nasdaq turned in 7.5%, also a decent number.

So, comparatively speaking, how were the returns in Real Estate?  Two of the best markers for that are indices produced by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) and the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries (NCREIF).  NAREIT is made up of 167 publicly traded equity REITs and 34 mortgage REITs (for our purposes, we’re only interested in the equity side).  These have a total market capitalization of slightly over $1 Trillion.  NCREIF is an index of non-securitized commercial properties, generally owned by tax-exempt institutions, and totals slightly over $500 Billion in value.  Both indices do a pretty good job of benchmarking commercial real estate returns.

For 2016, the NAREIT index came in at 8.63%, or slightly above the NASDAQ and slightly below the S&P.  The NCREIF index came in at 7.97%, also not a shabby number.  Because of the nature of the NCREIF index, it’s not quite as granular as the NAREIT index, and only reports quarterly.

However, NAREIT reports monthly, and also gives us some return numbers on a sector basis.  This can be very telling, because it reminds that an equally weighted REIT portfolio may be inferior to one more carefully chosen.  Year to date, the NAREIT index has come in at 4.19%, which is somewhat below the S&P’s 6.68%.  However, some sectors such as timber, specialty, and single family homes have turned in double-digit returns already this year, and data centers, infrastructure, and manufactured homes have also bested the S&P.  On the other hand, shopping are actually turning in negative returns thus-far this year (notably, regional malls came in negative for 2016).  The industrial sector has turned negative in 2017, but enjoyed the top returns of all sectors in 2016, at 30.72% for the year.  Lodging/resorts is also negative thus-far in 2017, and also turned in significant positive returns in 2016 at 24.34%.

As always, this is not a recommendation or solicitation to purchase any particular investment, and prior returns are not indicative of what may happen tomorrow.  This is just a blog — nothing more than that.

Written by johnkilpatrick

March 2, 2017 at 8:32 am

PWC Surveys Investors

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PriceWaterhouse Coopers does a great job with they’re quarterly survey of commercial real estate investors.  Previously known as the Korpacz Survey, after it’s founder, Peter Korpacz, the lengthy but highly readable review gives investors, brokers, appraisers, and others a snapshot of anticipated market performance both by property type (retail, office, etc.) and market (regional, and in some cases by metro area).  The most recent issue just hit my desk, and as usual it’s terrifically informative.

The headline this quarter is, “Investors Scrutinize Cash Flow Assumptions”.  As it turns out, the assumptions and resultant aggressiveness (or lack thereof) varies significantly by property type and geographic market.  For example, strip shopping centers (nationally), apartments (also nationally), and regional warehouses in the pacific and east-north-central regions are enjoying increased optimism, measured by very significant declines in overall capitalization rates.  On the other hand, 20% of investors surveyed expect regional mall cap rates to increase over the next six months, and 40% of investors felt the same about the overall Denver market.

Intriguingly, cap rates in CBDs trend lower than in the suburbs of those same cities, driven mainly by higher barriers to entry and a lack of available land downtown.  Additionally, most downtown cores in major markets provide the sort of 24/7 lifestyle and transportation alternatives that appeal to younger workers, and hence the firms that employ them.  As such, the downtown locations are viewed as less risky, overall.

Overall, vacancy rate assumptions have remained steady over the past year.  Coupled with that, tenant retention rates have also remained steady across markets.

In general, office markets remain fundamentally strong, and PWC survey respondents project falling vacancy and rising rental rates over the next few years.  Retail market conditions are improving, with no major markets currently in recession and an increasing number in expansion.  In the industrial sector, the expansion of the past few years is likely to abate, according to the survey, and a few metros may find themselves in the overbuilt state (Austin, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Portland, and DC).  Apartments will continue in expansion in many markets, but the peak may be near, and an increasing number of markets are reported to be in contraction as 2015 turns into 2016.

As noted, the report is detailed, and this issue also features their less frequent surveys of medical office markets, development land, and student housing.  For your own copy (they come at a subscription cost, by the way) visit www.pwc.com/realestatesurvey.

Have I written about Thomas Bayes yet?

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I had the very real pleasure of speaking at the Appraisal Institute’s annual meeting this past July in Dallas, and indeed I’ve been asked to speak there 3 of the past 4 years — a great group and a very well-done conference.  My topic this year was on “Practical Statistics for Practicing Appraisers”, and given the need for continuing education credit, my talk was scheduled for two hours.  Unfortunately, two hours is either w-a-a-a-a-a-y too much time, or not nearly enough, depending on what you want to do with it.

About the only thing I could do was touch base on a dozen or so different useful topics, talk about the highs and lows of each, and point the audience in the right direction to get more information.  One topic I wish I’d spent more time on was Bayesian Statistics, a little-known and under-appreciated branch of statistical inference which, in fact, has significant every-day impacts on how we analyze (or at least SHOULD analyze) data.  For example, let’s say that I want to determine the house price trend in a particular town, and have no idea what that trend looks like.  I’ll want to construct some sort of “best linear unbiased estimator” (such as a time-series regression) to help me sort all that out.

However, what if afterwards, in that same town, I’ve already measured the overall property trends, but now I’m told that half of the town is known to be contaminated.  Do I still want to use the same estimators, or should my methodology be informed by what is now “prior knowledge” about both the existence of the contamination and the overall price trend in the town?

This use of prior knowledge falls into the category of “Bayesian Statistics”, or “Bayesian Inference”, developed by early-18th century theologian and mathematician Sir Thomas Bayes.  In short, Bayes noted that our inferences could be improved by the existence of prior knowledge.  What’s more, when we’re conducting a Bayesian investigation, our data gathering is anything but random, since we’re seeking data based on our prior knowledge of the situation.  In the contamination matter, I may want to look at price trends for homes in the contaminated neighborhood versus price trends for homes in the non-contaminated neighborhood.  Naturally, I’ll only focus my attention on properties that have actually transacted, which leads to a common problem in this sort of analysis where properties that have not transacted (which may contain different information) are not part of the data set.

Unfortunately, a lot of practical appraisal — particularly in the residential setting — is heuristic, and over-reliance on “prior knowledge” can lead to a level of sloppiness.  That said, a rigorous application of Bayes’ principles, and careful analytical techniques, can allow appraisers to actually develop statistical measures for their valuation work.

Written by johnkilpatrick

August 20, 2015 at 11:26 am