WASHINGTON, DC-The latest Real Estate Roundtable quarterly Sentiment Survey has been released and while its findings may be in keeping with the economic reports du jour—namely, that the commercial real estate markets will continue their gradual recovery at a modest pace—the timing of the survey holds interesting insights into the CRE community.
Simply put, because the survey was released now, it is easy to overlook the fact that it was actually taken at the end of last year when the economy appeared to be particularly robust and there was genuine enthusiasm over Congress reaching a budget. 2014, in short, was being heralded as the breakout year for all things financial when the Roundtable contacted the CRE executives for their insights.
” Real estate executives that were surveyed were more realistic in their viewpoint of the economy than the government itself, as well as other economists, were at the end of 2013,” CEO Jeff DeBoer tells GlobeSt.com.
It is not surprising, he adds—people in the industry tend to be involved with the economy on a day-to-day, in-the-trenches manner. “They are the first to understand what is happening and how events will likely play out,” DeBoer says. “In many ways they were ahead of what some of the official statistics would later reveal.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the survey.
The Q1 Index rose two points to 69.
The best way to describe respondents’ attitude a sustainable economy recovery is ‘lingering wariness’, DeBoer says.
This caution goes beyond the current numbers—which admittedly could have been impacted by the severe weather—to focus on various policy risks, such as scheduled sunset of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) on Dec. 31, tax reforms that could cause major dislocation in real estate markets, and the economic conditions surrounding future interest rate hikes, which could put renewed pressure on valuations, complicate loan refinancing, and impede debt servicing.
“Those are all issues on the minds’ of respondents right now,” DeBoer says.
Other findings from the survey:
- Confidence is supported by improving fundamentals but offset by expectations of rising interest rates; at the same time, transaction volumes and capital flows have picked up, particularly in secondary markets.
- Asset values are expected to remain mostly flat over the coming year, with potential for modest appreciation coming from improving property level cash flows rather than further cap rate compression.
- Both debt and equity capital are seen as widely available as foreign capital continues to move into the US; some fear a resurgence of frothy behavior.