If you´re an investor and you´ve been waiting patiently, maybe nervously, for the market bottom of commercial real estate, we´re here. Well, give or take we´re here. For all that capital that we´ve heard about standing on the sidelines ready to jump in and buy bargains-you´re time is now. The risk of a further slide beyond the 40-50% in peak to trough value losses is greatly mitigated unless we´re talking about derelict properties at fringe locations.
Now I mention give or take, because of course all markets and properties aren´t the same. Washington DC and San Francisco, two of the favored 24-hour cities, probably hit their low points late last year. New York and Boston bottomed out more recently. The Chicago Loop maybe bottoming out right now while the Chicago suburbs have more room to fall. Rents for Class B and C properties in most markets may be still sliding, albeit at a slower rate, while we see firming for Class A. High vacancies and shadow space complicate the picture, and demand for new office space remains very sluggish as tenants hold off on accelerating new hires even as the overall economy and corporate bottom lines show definite signs of improvement.
At the same time, banks, servicers and borrowers engage in more workouts to avoid write-downs. More owners turn back properties to lenders, more banks continue to fail under the weight of problem loan portfolios, and most observers expect foreclosures and write downs by lenders to increase eventually as their reserve cushions allow.
But if you´re an investor looking to market time, this is your opportunity to make deals and get off your butts just as we predicted in last fall´s Emerging Trends in Real Estate: 2010, the forecast I author for PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute. And thanks to our 900 plus interviewees and survey respondents for their cogent insights, I think we´ve done pretty well on our 2010 Emerging Trends outlook overall:
Of course, we said this year would be a terrible time to develop real estate-that was a no brainer that is certainly proving out.
We recommended focusing investor attention on the gateway 24-hour cities-they´d hit market nadirs first, wouldn´t fall as much, and would rebound more quickly-and that certainly appears to be happening.
We counseled on sidestepping secondary and tertiary cities as well as areas hard hit by manufacturing losses and the housing bust. Indeed it appears these places will take considerably longer to recover.
We said 24-hour urban markets and infill districts would do better than suburban markets. We think we´re on track here too.
We also said that apartment investments will weather the downturn better than other property sectors and hotels would bounce back from their pummeling more quickly than other categories. That also appears to be happening.
And we said overall retail real estate and office recoveries would lag into 2011 and 2012. I think that will turn out to be right.
But any way you slice it-if you have cash and can find deals (two big ifs mind you), it´s very definitely time to start buying. Wobbly and wounded, the markets now slowly can start to resuscitate.
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