From a small northwestern observatory…

Finance and economics generally focused on real estate

Posts Tagged ‘Real Estate

12th Fed District issues 3q report

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Greenfield is a global firm (albeit mostly in the U.S.), and even though we’re headquartered in Seattle, we try to focus our attention broadly rather than locally.  That said, the 12th Federal Reserve District just released First Glance 12L (3Q15) which takes an early cut at the data from the nine western states.   It’s very telling data — the “left coast” as I like to call it tends to suffer worse when times are bad and boom better when times are good.  Thus, there are some interesting facts and figures to be gleaned from this well-written report.

Naturally, the report is focused on the health of the member banks in the region, but the macro-econ factors driving that health are of much broader importance.  Nationally, unemployment stood at 5.1% at the end of the 3rd quarter.  Western states tended to be a bit worse off, with 3 states (Idaho, Utah, and Hawaii) recording lower unemployment rates and the rest showing higher numbers, ranging from Washington’s 5.2% up to Nevada’s 6.7%.  California, always the thousand pound gorilla in the room, came in at 5.9%.

However, job growth in the western states is well above the national average — 3% annually for the region versus 2% for the U.S. as a whole.  However, the west is digging out of a deeper hole — while job growth nationally hit a trough of -4.9% at the peak of the recession, it bottomed out at -6.7% in the west.  Generally, job growth in the west over the past 20 years had held steady at about one percentage point above the national trend during “boom” years.

Housing starts in the west are well below the pre-recession peaks.  As of September, 2015, the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of housing starts stood at 161,000, with 107,000 of that in 2+ family units.  This compares with a peak of 449,000 SAAR in the 2005-2006 period, at a time when 2+ unit housing only made up 85,000 of the starts.  Arguably, the market in the west is still absorbing the huge shadow inventory built up during the boom days.

Commercial vacancy rates in the west have been drifting down for the past few years in the office, industrial, and retail sectors.   Apartments, however, seem to have plateaued around 4.3% at the end of the 3rd quarter, and are forecast to rise a bit to 4.7% a year from now.  I might posit that historically, profit-maximizing apartment vacancy rates have been found to be somewhat higher than these numbers, so apartment managers and owners may have some lee-way to continue building.

The 5 western maritime states are very export-driven, and the strength of the U.S. dollar (up about 18% against major currencies since 2014) has been rough news for those markets.   While western state exports rebounded nicely from the trough of the recession (up about 17% from 2009 to 2010), export growth has flat-lined since 2012.   Regionally, exports declined about 2.5% since last year, with positive growth reported in only four states (Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah).  Bellweather California saw exports decline 3.6%.  Note that in Washington, my semi-home state, exports make up 21.2% of the gross state product.  (We export things like big trucks, big airplanes, software, and agricultural products.)  Hence, this is critically important stuff.

The remainder of the report focuses on the health of the regions banks.  I’ll leave that up to the reader if you care to download your own copy.  Short answer, though, is that the region has seen loan growth accelerate even while the nation as a whole has flattened.  Further, the regions banks tend to be a bit more efficient in terms of expenses and staff, both compared to the nation as a whole and compared to the “boom days” pre-recession.  Both small and large commercial borrowers generally reported tightening credit standards at the end of the 3rd quarter, which is a change from previous reports.  However, consumer borrowers (residential mortgage, credit cards, and auto loans) generally reported easier standards.  The bulk of loan growth for small banks (under $10B) came from non-farm non-residential, while for large banks the biggest growth sector was in consumer lending.  The percentage non-performing assets (the “Texas Ratio”) in the region, which peaked at 38.9% in 2009, is now down to 5.4%, although still higher than in the 2004-2007 period.  By comparison, the national peak hit in 2010 at 19%, and is now standing at 7%, also higher than pre-recession levels.


Now for a little good news….

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Globe Street has a great piece about the self storage market, which is doing very nicely lately. Top firms in the fiele had revenue growth of 4% to 5.8% in the 3rd quarter, with net operating income growing 7.3% to 8.6%. ranged as high as 91.7% at Public Storage. The article properly notes that this sector is now joining apartments in strong, positive territory. Overall REIT share performance, as noted in the chart below, certainly underscores this (YTD as of October 2011, data courtesy NAREIT).

While the article correctly notes the strength in this market segment, it doesn’t connect the dots vis-a-vis why. Some of this is obvious, but it bears noting due to the very signficant long-range implications. The more-or-less simultaneous strength of the apartment sector and the self storage sector isn’t coincidental — the popularity of apartments for households which WOULD HAVE been in the owner-occupied housing market is driving the need for self storage. Anecdotal evidence of late suggests that the trend is toward smaller apartments — studios, efficiencies, and one-bedrooms seem to be in higher demand lately, although I haven’t seen this formally quantified as of yet. Given that, not only is there a need for self-storage, there will also be an increased need for SMALLER self-storage units as opposed to larger ones, urban infill units (or at least units near apartment communities) and even self-storage as an adjunct to apartment communities themselves.

Long term? This market risks getting over-build whenever the housing market stabilizes. However, that seems to be several years out. In the intermediate term, one would suspect a strong demand for more units paralleling the demand for apartments.

Written by johnkilpatrick

November 11, 2011 at 9:31 am

weekend update…

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Do I need to pay royalties to SNL for using that title?

Anyway, I’m headed for D.C. (among other places) this week, speaking at the meetings of the Collateral Risk Network (Hamilton Crowne Plaza, 14th @ K Street) on Wednesday. CRN is principally made up of bank lending regulators, appraisal reviewers, and others in the real estate collateral business. The primary focus of this meeting is on new appraisal regulations coming out of the recent housing finance melt-down. As a secondary issue, I’ve been asked to speak on the Gulf Oil Spill and its impact on lending, property values, and appraisals in that region.

Written by johnkilpatrick

July 31, 2010 at 9:32 am

and…. yet more on the Gulf Oil Spill

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I gave a 30-minute talk yesterday in a conference-call setting to over 100 bankers and other folks in the lending industry (public policy types, regulators, etc.) sponsored by the Collateral Risk Network (CRN), a group which focuses on real estate in the bank lending setting. Thanks to our good friend, Joan Trice, the head of CRN, for getting us involved in this.

One of the CRN affiliates, FNC, is in the appraisal management business. Needless to say, the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill has an immediate and significant impact on they way they do business in the affected areas. They have established a web site with information about the crisis. Click here to access their site and blog directly,.

Written by johnkilpatrick

June 17, 2010 at 7:44 am

More on BP Oil Spill

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Just confirmed — I’ll be one of the speakers at the upcoming BP Oil Spill Conference in Atlanta (June 24/25). The conference is put together by HB Litigation Conferences, the successor group to Lexis/Nexis Mealey’s Conferences. I’ve spoken at their conferences before, and they do a great job (and without sounding too self-serving, they put together a great set of speakers). Other speakers will include both the plaintiff and defense bar in this case, and I’m scheduled to go on right before the luncheon key-note address by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

For more information about the conference, please visit HB Litigation Conference’s web site.

Written by johnkilpatrick

May 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm

the 11 day week

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It’s been 11 days since my last post… long week, eh?

The litigation support portion of our business has been hogging my calendar most of this month. I’ve had 5 days of deposition in two different cases (plus cross-country travel, prep, etc.) in the past 11 days. Yes, that’s every bit as busy as it sounds. The month isn’t over — I have two more dep’s scheduled for May (both, thankfully, in Seattle) and then two the first week in June (both, thanks to the Gods of calendars, in New Orleans).

As if that wasn’t enough, the BP Oil Spill matter is on my calendar each and every day. We’re in daily communications with law firms in the Gulf states and elsewhere, and we’re working on a methodology white-paper for distribution later this month. There is a CLE conference scheduled for Atlanta in June — Greenfield will have some-sort of presence. More on that in the next couple of days. If you’d like a copy of the white paper when it’s published, please drop us a note at

Of course, the real estate advisory and investment side of our business continues to be a busy place. Sigh… It’s nice to be busy.

Written by johnkilpatrick

May 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm

4/21/09 — From a Seattle Perspective

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Ironically, I’m writing this sitting in a hotel room in Baltimore.

As many of you know, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper is one of this year’s recession casualties. However, many of their staff, with much help from their loyal followers, have created a very good on-line news source for Seattle-ites. We wish it well, along with many more like it around the world.

My good friend, Chuck Wolfe, contributed an editorial today. Whether you’re from Seattle or not, I encourage you to read it here. His comments can be generalized to any community facing a changing development dynamic.

Written by johnkilpatrick

April 21, 2009 at 5:11 pm

4/17/09 — GGP Files for Bankruptcy

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Argus, on their blog, have a well-written report on the General Growth Properties Chapter 11 filing. I have more than a passing bit of interest in GGP — my Ph.D. dissertation was on REITs, and GGP was one of the companies I analyzed. More importantly, what implications does GGP’s filing have for retail real estate in general?

Is this a passing phenomenon, emblematic of the trough of a recession, or are we facing a structural shift in the American economy away from retail consumption? The former has some implications for GGP’s management (why did you leverage-up so much when you know that consumer recessions are cyclical realities?) as well as for their lenders and bondholders (why did you loan them so much?). The latter potentiality has much deeper, longer-term implications for both GGP as well as their competitors.

Only time will tell, but there is a lot of sentiment among both economists and other public policy types that a return to pre-2008 consumption patterns isn’t necessarily the best thing for America. Naturally, our global trading partners are apoplectic over such an idea — for example, if we quit “consuming” all of China’s stuff, many of their workers are either going to have to go back to farming or their economy is going to have to be more internally self sufficient. In either of those scenarios, China starts looking a lot like the next Japan, only much bigger.

Written by johnkilpatrick

April 17, 2009 at 8:58 am

4/16/09 –This USED to be weekly

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A surprisingly large number of entrepreneurs are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what the Fed’s toxic asset solution will look like. In the spirit of “deja vu all over again”, this look a heck of a lot like 1989/91, when the RTC was coming into existence and a significant number of private firms helped with the workout of bad assets from the Savings and Loan crisis. It was terrifically clear back then — and it’s clear to me now — that this was/is not the sort of thing that can be done internally at a Federal agency (then, the FDIC, now the Treasury). An agency simply doesn’t have the people-power or the entrepreneural expertise to put these assets back to work.

Fortunately, it appears that Geitner “gets it” and the early indications are that they will want to bring some serious players (the Blackstones, Blackrocks, and Goldman Sachs of the world) to the table. From there, it’s anyone’s guess, but my bet is a thousand small private equity firms will get involved to buy, repackage, and redeploy the bad assets.

Written by johnkilpatrick

April 16, 2009 at 12:11 pm

4/6/09 — Back in the Office

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Was in New Orleans and Baton Rouge last week. The Louisiana economy, which has never been wonderful, none-the-less seems to be handling the current recession better than most. Of course, the whole of the Gulf Coast is still recovering from the disasterous 2005 hurricane season that saw Katrina and Rita — both Category 3 storms at the time of landfall — hit the Louisiana coast within a month of each other. For a synopsis of the real estate research implications of these storms, see my 2007 Journal of Real Estate Literature article with Dr. Sofia Dermisi. You can also get a great synopsis of the economic impacts of these two storms from Louisiana State University’s Geographic Information Center.

According to LSU, about $25 Billion in Federal redevelopment funds have come into that state in the past 3 years, with the bulk of that flowing into the New Orleans area as a result of Katrina. Of course that doesn’t include substantial private settlements, such as the $330 milllion Murphy Oil settlement which Greenfield assisted in negotiating. The accounting for all of these pivate dollar flows will probably never be totalled.

Does that mean Louisiana has recovered from these disasters? Far from it. The state is still in economic turmoil, and current state budget cuts have the potential to eviscerate higher education, further increasing the “brain drain” that Governor Jindal pledged to stop in his campaign.

But, given where Louisiana was, economically, as of about a year ago, one would have expected that the recession would have simply shut down the economy there. Instead, there’s still a wonderful vibrancy in the state. Crops got planted this year, refineries are still in operation, and tourists still flock to the state. Anecdotal reports indicate that building construction has slowed, but not as badly as in some other parts of the country. Louisiana still has economic problems, and like the rest of the country, many of these problems are beyond their direct control. However, they seem to be slowly pulling themselves together.

Written by johnkilpatrick

April 6, 2009 at 12:09 pm

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