Posted: December 14, 2016 by Eli Randel
DATA-LESS 2017 CRE INVESTMENT MARKET OUTLOOK: ANALYSIS WITHOUT PARALYSIS PART 2
Despite the moving market pieces and political volatility which could affect the US capital markets, I muted the noise and “what-if” scenarios, spoke to several trusted advisors, and put my thumb in the air to paint a picture of what I think the 2017 CRE capital markets will look like:
Following a flurry of sometimes fruitless activity (lots of squeezing, minimal juice) in Q4 to close investment sales and refinance debt before year end, I expect a brief pause and “holding of the breath” entering 2017 as Trump takes office and investors shake off their added holiday weight. Eventually, the ambitious deployment targets and billions of dollars in unplaced capital will resume the deal chase and direct or LP equity will be plentiful albeit more risk averse. Despite the domestic perception of political risk, foreign economies still view the US as a safe-haven for capital and will continue to gravitate towards the US CRE market to escape their own struggling economies, political risks, and low (and even negative) interest rate environments. Large supplies of domestic and foreign capital competing for deals coupled with strong growth assumptions will mostly offset softening values resulting from upward pressure on cap rates caused by rising interest rates and costs of capital.
The debt markets will become tricky to navigate as interest rates rise and a new regulatory environment mostly for banks and conduits emerges (although Trump has discussed reversing many of the new regulations), but good deals with good sponsors will have no shortages of financing options from debt-funds, conduits, agencies, life companies, and banks. Ultimately lenders will be eager to get to work and to begin deploying their aggressive 2017 targets with balance sheet products from banks and debt-funds continuing to find an opportunity for larger market share. Borrowers will learn to settle for lower leverage or more creative capital structures as rising costs of capital will make debt harder to service and while younger investors will be unsettled by rising costs of debt, more seasoned investors will remember a time when interest rates were well into the teens and will conclude that rates are still relatively low and opportunistic for borrowers.
The last two quarters of the “Wall of Maturities” resulting from the many 10 year loans originated in 2005-2007 will pass mostly as a continued non-event as most maturing loans have successfully paid-off following a sale or recapitalization. Despite some value softening, most asset values remain above their 2007 value or at least above their unpaid loan balances. However, some market softening and the new financing environment may cause a handful of notable maturity defaults, but competition for any deals that emerge will pull returns below opportunistic levels. Distress investors will mostly continue to wait on the sidelines into extra innings. Assets that do default will take a year or two to make it to investors (unless sold as notes) and competition for the deals will push pricing above opportunistic levels.
Transaction velocity will be about even or slightly below 2016 as buyers may increase their yield requirements and sellers are slow to (or choose not to) adjust their expectations and the bid-ask gap – always existent but easier to bridge in a bull market – widens for many deals. However, as repeatedly stated, competition to place capital may offset and shake-off what would seem like a rationale cooling. Pent up capital supply, investors with long time horizons, expiring equity funds, and baby-boomer retirees rightsizing their income, will contribute to transactional movement and deals will still get done at a good pace.
Overall I believe 2017 will mostly mirror 2016 with some signs of softening and plateauing seen in certain product types and markets. I believe a tale of two bifurcated markets may emerge where good product in good markets will remain sought after and yields will remain low and asset values high. In most respects, basic value-add, low-risk profile deals, and core assets will feel similar in pricing to 2016 as institutional capital remains mostly bullish on long-term fundamentals and will look to keep the lights on by continuing to place capital. However, secondary and tertiary markets may initially slow in deal velocity in 2017 as private capital can be less cerebral to value changes (largely because capital is proprietary and not OPM) and sellers will have a hard time dropping their value expectations while buyers have a harder time navigating debt markets causing the bid-ask gap to widen and deals to become harder to execute. However, I think as the year progresses and sellers slightly loosen their expectations while entrepreneurial capital floods secondary markets chasing greater yields than core markets offer, volume in secondary and tertiary markets for sub-institutional product will increase – especially if job creation as promised by the incoming president occurs and infrastructure investment creates new occupiers and tenants armed with government contracts.
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Eli Randel is Director of Business Development based in CREXi’s Miami office. Eli spearheads CREXi’s growth and sales throughout the east coast as well as overseeing the national sales team. Prior to joining CREXi, Eli was director of dispositions for Blackstone’s Invitation Homes. Eli has also held management positions and production roles with Cohen Financial, Auction.com, LNR and CBRE where he began his career spending three years in Investment Sales before leaving to obtain his Master in Business Administration from the University of Florida.