The net lease market has become a hunting ground for investors looking for low-maintenance assets and long-term, predictable cash flows. The stability of the asset type during times of uncertainty has attracted attention from new investors – with the net lease share of all commercial real estate investment activity rising 14.7% in 2020. While it has historically not been viewed as one of the major food groups in commercial investments, this perception is changing as more capital continues to flow into the market.
What’s driving new capital?
There are several factors that have contributed to the influx of capital in the net lease space, but the biggest factor is the appeal of long-term stability. With reliable cash flows, triple-net structures and generally longer lease terms, net lease investments are far less volatile than other assets and create predictability in a portfolio. While there was wide discrepancy across the net lease sector during COVID, generally net lease portfolios – particularly industrial and those focused on critical real estate – performed extremely well and delivered high rent collections when compared to other asset types. In addition, recent inflation fears have driven investors toward traditionally inflation-resistant asset classes like real estate, and net lease in particular has been popular in that context.
What type of institutions have shown the most interest in the sector?
Institutional investors, particularly private equity firms, are growing their presence in the sector through new net lease platforms or funds targeted toward current yield-oriented investors. Private capital sources and high-net worth individuals are also on the hunt for net lease deals, but are generally focused on smaller, less expensive assets. There continues to be an established group of existing players including public REITs and private funds that have been in the space for a number of years and have now been forced to get more aggressive on deals in order to compete with new entrants.
What does this mean for corporate sellers?
Now remains a great time for corporate sellers to monetize real estate. High investor interest and limited supply is driving cap rates down and prices up, meaning sellers can maximize the value of their assets if they pursue a sale-leaseback now. Supply chain issues have highlighted the importance of industrial properties in particular, resulting in further price appreciation for industrial owners. Since there is an expectation that interest rates will rise next year in response to inflation, corporate owners should take advantage of the sellers’ market and pursue a sale-leaseback sooner rather than later to lock in today’s low rates on a long-term basis.
Although new entrants entering the net lease space are forcing cap rates down, the overall impact on the market is a net positive. Greater investor interest is also driving down cost of capital accordingly, meaning investors can still accretively do deals at lower cap rates since debt is relatively cheap. In addition, increased visibility of the net lease market lends credence to the asset class as a whole and creates more awareness for net lease and sale-leasebacks among corporate sellers – driving overall deal volume higher.
From W. P. Carey’s perspective, 2021 has been a record year for deal volume and we have been able to support many companies in unlocking the value of their real estate and redeploying those proceeds into their core businesses … So bring on the competition!