Commercial Real Estate Sees Mixed Results

Washington, DC, Aug. 27, 2012 -- Positive underlying fundamentals continue to support all of the major commercial real estate sectors, but a slowdown in job creation and ongoing tight loan availability has tempered growth in some areas, according to the National Association of Realtors quarterly commercial real estate forecast.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there are mixed results among the commercial sectors.

“Job creation in the second quarter was about half of what we saw in the first quarter, which is moderating demand in the office sector,” he said.

“Industrial and warehouse space is holding on better because imports and exports have advanced. While exports to Europe generally are down, trade has been robust with India, China and other Asian nations, along with Brazil, Mexico and our strongest trading partner – Canada.”

Although still positive, dampened demand is slightly moderating rent growth with the exception of the multifamily market.

“Sharply higher demand for apartments is causing rents to rise at faster rates,” Yun said.

“A return to normal household formation will mean even lower vacancy rates and higher rents in the future.”

The current commercial real estate cycle has been driven by shifts in demand without an oversupply of new construction.

“The difficulty small businesses have in getting commercial real estate loans for leasing or purchase is keeping a lid on demand,” Yun said.

“Multifamily is the only commercial sector with a notable growth in new space, with some lending provided through government loans.”

With the exception of multifamily, vacancy rates remain above historic averages seen since 1999. Over that timeframe the typical vacancy rate has been 14.4 percent for the office market, 10.1 percent in industrial, 8.1 percent for retail and 5.8 percent in multifamily.

Vacancy rates are marginally declining and rents are modestly rising in all of the sectors, but significant changes in the outlook are unlikely before the end of the year.

Many corporate decisions on spending and job hiring are on hold given uncertainty over the upcoming elections, whether Congress will effectively avoid a “fiscal cliff,” and unsettled issues such as health care and banking/financial regulations.

"Overall companies hold plentiful cash reserves, but they are hesitant to hire without clarity over how these outstanding issues will impact the bottom line,” Yun said.

"Commercial real estate gains could be thwarted if lending from small and community banks dry up from excessive regulatory compliance costs, and if international big-bank capital rules are applied to smaller lending institutions.”

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