US Commercial Property
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Offices set for a prolonged performance divide

The pandemic has heightened occupiers’ focus on the quality and green credentials of the space they occupy. This trend is set to impact on demand, with modern, well-configured buildings with green building certifications set to attract tenants at the expense of older stock. We expect investors to increasingly differentiate between these assets in the next few years.
Kiran Raichura Senior Property Economist
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Outstanding real estate debt increased for the fourth consecutive month in September, thanks to net lending turning a corner in the residential sector and accelerating in the commercial sector.

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Four likely winners in retail

The retail sector appears to be turning a corner, and we think that convenience-oriented Neighbourhood and Community (N&C) centres, out-of-town retail, “destination”-type malls and retail located in “desirable” southern metros are likely to be the sector’s winners over the next few years.

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In-migration to southern metros with relatively low living costs and high desirability will be positive for office demand in those same metros. We think firms will be encouraged to set up offices in those locations given the growth in their skilled labour pools and the potential economic benefits. This means that, at the margin, rather than office-using jobs attracting talent, the location of the talent will attract firms.

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Major Office Markets Outlook (Q2 2021)

The start to the year has been in line with our expectations, meaning that falls in absorption and rents have generally accelerated in the six major metros. Owing to their relatively low rents and smaller shares of tech workers, we expect Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago to be the top performers in our forecast period, registering average total returns of around 3.5%-4% p.a. On the other hand, New York City and San Francisco are set to be the worst performers, with rents falling by 13%-15% peak-to-trough and capital values ending the period 15%-17% lower than at the end of 2019. Total returns for those two metros will therefore be sub-2% p.a. in 2021-25. Boston will outperform those two hard-hit metros, but not by a great deal, producing returns of 2%-2.5% p.a., only a little below the US average.

18 June 2021

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Commercial Property Lending (May.)

Commercial real estate debt held by banks grew again in May. But while we expect growth to accelerate as the year progresses and confidence returns, investor caution toward the office and retail sectors will ultimately limit the pace of the recovery.

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Substantial upgrades to industrial and apartments this year

The economic recovery continues in earnest, but this is raising questions about quite how transitory the current high rates of inflation are. We think that core inflation will stay elevated, which will force the Fed to push up rates in late 2023, with bond yields climbing to 2.5% in the meantime. Nevertheless, given the strong prospects for NOI growth in the industrial and apartments sectors, we think these still look fair value. Returns there should average 7% p.a. and 6% p.a. respectively in 2021-25. But the reverse is true for retail and offices. Although yields remain elevated in those sectors, we see occupancy and rents falling further in the next two years, leaving them looking expensive at current pricing. We therefore think yields need to climb further and capital values fall further before they look attractive. As a result, we are forecasting average annual returns of just 4.5% p.a. for retail and 2.5% p.a. for offices.  

Drop-In: US Commercial Property (Tuesday 15th June, 1200 EST) Andrew Burrell and Kiran Raichura will be discussing the upgrades to our industrial sector forecasts and taking your questions on any other issues arising from our latest US Commercial Property Outlook. Register here.

10 June 2021
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