With financing options restricted by interest rate uncertainty, corporate real estate sellers have been turning to sale-leasebacks. It’s easy to see why: these deals offer liquidity and immediacy.  For the net lease sector at large, Tyler Swann, managing director, investments at W. P. Carey, is seeing US deal flow coming almost exclusively from new sale-leasebacks versus acquisitions of existing leases, a change largely driven by the changing capital markets landscape.

CRE Psychology Playing Catch-up

As interest rates have risen and asset values have fallen, the pricing expectations of sellers have not followed suit. That’s led the market to favor new sale-leasebacks as opposed to investment properties that are acquired from third-party landlords, Swann says.

Tyler Swann, managing director, investments at W. P. Carey

“There’s a disconnect between what buyers can realistically pay given current capital markets and what a seller wants,” he says. “It takes time for psychological expectations of sellers to reset and I think we haven’t seen that play out just yet, which is why those existing lease deals haven’t really been moving or coming to market at all.”

New sale-leaseback sellers are more realistic, comparing and choosing the costs of such a deal versus the current cost of capital, especially the added expense of raising debt in the current high interest rate environment. The benefits of the here and now – unlocking their CRE equity means it’s “go time” for deals, unlike the often disparate expectations of a third-party landlord seller.

Open Opportunity, With Caveats

While there are fewer overall opportunities in the net-lease market compared to the last couple of years, there are fewer market challengers due to the more restricted financing options.

“Plenty of investors who were very competitive just a couple of years ago, for example, were reliant on CMBS debt and are now no longer nearly as competitive as they used to be,” Swann says. “And that’s given us a leg up.”

Office demand continues to suffer from uncertainty, mainly from lagging return-to-office efforts and hard-to-figure valuations given the large amounts of vacant and shadow space. On the plus side, Swann views the industrial sector as the most favored by net lease investors, as strong demand post-COVID for logistics facilities persists, with companies building out their supply chains amid a more general move to on-shoring production.

Earlier this year, W. P. Carey completed an approximately $468 million, 20-year lease sale-leaseback with Apotex for a portfolio of pharmaceutical manufacturing assets in the greater Toronto area. Swann points out that the combination of sector (industrial), type (new vs. existing lease) and trend (taking advantage of better cost of capital through a sale-leaseback) all led to the deal getting done.

“In a lot of ways I think that Apotex deal is a good example of where the market is going,” says Swann.

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