WASHINGTON, DC—If COVID-19 didn’t halt the plans of commercial real estate investors, it definitely fogged up their view. The latest Investor Sentiment Survey by Colliers International has brought some much-needed good news though. GlobeSt.com reached out to David Amsterdam, Colliers’s president, capital markets and Northeast region, and Aaron Jodka, Colliers’ managing director, research & client services, to discuss investor outlook and what has changed the most since the “complete unknown” on display in the last survey.
“Investors are more optimistic, as there is more information in the market and a better understanding of where capital allocations will go and how debt markets are operating,” said Amsterdam. “Investors expect to remain in a low interest rate environment in the near-term, and with the debt markets showing positive improvement, this should set a sound backdrop for a resumption of sales activity.”
Patience is still required, however. Colliers survey respondents expect a return to transaction volume normalcy next year, with nearly half saying by the halfway point and a quarter looking toward the end of 2021. A slower recovery is expected for asset pricing though, with nearly one-third of respondents predicting a return to previous peak pricing in 2021, 35 percent in 2022, 23 percent in 2023 and 10 percent in 2024.
“The sentiment on deal volume is a very positive sign for investor psyche,” said Jodka. “There is tremendous capital sitting idle on the sidelines with investors wanting to get back in. Safety is paramount today. The durability and credit of the income stream is a top priority.”
E-commerce, the strong and socially distant demand driver, continues to propel the industrial sector. Rent gains are expected by 36 percent of Colliers’ survey respondents, up nearly 10 percentage points from the first survey. Nearly six in 10 have not changed their expectations for industrial returns, and very few (8 percent or half the rate of the first survey) expect value declines of 10 percent or greater.
“Industrial investors are more bullish, the optimism and strong investor appetite with this asset type are apparent,” said Amsterdam. “Where multi-tenant office is harder to transact today, multi-tenant industrial is not seeing that same level of difficulty.”
Many have speculated on how the work-from-home trend will affect the office sector. Colliers found that investor attitudes are brightening, with office investors less bearish than in the first survey. Almost 54.7 percent expect flat to 10 percent declines in pricing, but nearly three in four respondents noted that they need a higher return target. More than 13 percent of respondents expect rent gains in 2020.
The retail investment sector remains a pessimistic place, with those expecting a 20 to 30 percent decline in pricing jumping nearly 20 points to 53.3 percent. The expectations for rent declines have gotten worse, too — only 6.7 percent of respondents, down from nearly 20 percent, expect less than a 10 percent rent decline — something not seen in other sectors in the survey. More than 93 percent of investors require an increase in their return target.
Multifamily investors are more optimistic in general, with an increasing share (21.4 percent) expecting flat to 10 percent rent growth. On the valuation side, nearly nine out of 10 respondents expect no more than 10 percent pricing declines. “We have seen strong investor demand for middle market assets, while finding success with strategic targeted marketing of properties. This is yielding pricing that is in line with, if not ahead of pre-COVID-19 levels,” said Jodka.
Perseverance is still imperative for CRE investors, but as the Colliers survey shows they increasingly have a better idea of where they stand. And they’ll use that knowledge to adapt their plans.