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Green Street Researchers Warn of Declining CRE Values

Commercial real estate investors can expect property prices to trend downward soon, according to Green Street Advisors, a real estate research firm headquartered in Newport Beach, California. “Value appreciation has practically stopped in aggregate,” said Joi Mar, senior analyst at Green Street.   However, sectors vary. Industrial—especially last-mile industrial—has seen rising values, and malls have seen big losses, she noted. Prices on industrial assets recorded an 11% gain year-over-year, while mall valuations have dropped by 15%, resulting in a 25% spread between them over the past 12 months. “That’s pretty unprecedented,” Mar said.

Cap rates have been inching up over the past year for all sectors except industrial, according to Mar. The bid-ask spread has widened, investors in general have been more cautious and hesitant, operating fundamentals have softened a bit, and there is a fear of rising interest rates. Transaction volume is also down, but would be even lower if debt capital was not so widely available.

Today, investors can expect returns of around 6%, on average, for assets in most core sectors, and a little bit higher returns for niche sectors, said Andy McCulloch, managing director at Green Street, noting that the firm’s return forecasts focus on un-levered returns for long-term holds.

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3-D Printed Sustainable Homes for $4,000

An Austin-based company plans to change the home buying market by making houses more universally accessible and sustainable. According to its website, ICON debuted the first permitted 3-D printed home in Austin on March 12, 2018, built using a prototype of a mobile printer that will have the ability to produce “a single-story, 600 to 800 square foot home in under 24 hours for less than $4,000.” The founders of the company partnered with New Story, a non-profit charity that works to transform slums into functional, sustainable communities, to address housing shortages around the world. The prototype model has a living room, bedroom, bathroom and a porch. The company’s plan is to finish tweaking and testing the design to get a community of up to 100 homes built in El Salvador in 2019.


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Driverless Cars Just Around the Corner

Driverless cars will be testing on California streets next month. Companies working on driverless vehicles include Google, Apple and Uber, as well as traditional automakers like Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Volkswagen and Volvo. How will these cars affect real estate? Public transportation, and the value of real estate built around transit hubs, could be diminished. Additionally, the need for parking lots will decrease, thereby creating new development opportunities for property currently used for parking. No doubt there will be other consequences and opportunities as well.
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Trump Tariffs Hurt Real Estate and Cost 146,000 Jobs

Trump’s imposition of steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports has sparked dire warnings from architects, contractors, REITs and real estate associations, who say the tariffs will put more pressure on already rising building costs — causing developers and investors to postpone or cancel new developments.  Despite a carve-out for North American trading partners Canada and Mexico, Trump’s signed proclamations formalize 25% and 10% tariffs on imported steel and aluminum that will take effect in 15 days.  “The bottom line is that any short-term gains for the domestic steel and aluminum industries will likely be offset by the lower demand that will come for their products as our economy suffers the impacts of these new tariffs and the trade war they encourage,” AGC chief executive Stephen Sandherr said.

U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue also issued a statement Wednesday saying “We urge the administration to take this risk seriously and specifically to refrain from imposing new worldwide tariffs, which would harm American manufacturers, provoke widespread retaliation from U.S. trading partners, and leave the true problem of Chinese steel and aluminum overcapacity virtually untouched.”

According to an estimate this week by Trade Partnership Worldwide, an international trade and economic consulting firm, while the plan will increase U.S. iron and steel, aluminum and other non-ferrous metals employment by about 33,450 jobs, the tariffs will eliminate 179,334 jobs throughout the rest of the economy for a net loss of nearly 146,000 jobs, including more than 28,000 construction positions.

White House Chief Economic Adviser, Gary Cohn, who opposed the tariffs, resigned this week.

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Feds See Warning Signs of Correction Reminiscent of 2007

New data and commentary from federal financial regulators are pointing to signs of increased risks in CRE lending. Notably, the amount of delinquent multifamily and owner-occupied property loans on the books of U.S. banks increased in the 4th quarter of 2017, according to statistics released this week by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The FDIC data follows the Federal Reserve’s latest Monetary Policy Report that noted growing vulnerability in the commercial real estate sector. “By many measures, stocks, bonds, and real estate are richly priced. Stock price-to-earnings ratios are at high levels, traditionally a cautionary sign to investors of a potential market correction,” Gruenberg noted in the FDIC’s recent 2017 annual report. “Bond maturities have lengthened, making their values more sensitive to a change in interest rates. As measured by capitalization rates, prices for commercial real estate are at high levels relative to the revenues the properties generate, again suggesting greater vulnerability to a correction.”

Meanwhile, the total amount of commercial real estate loans held by U.S. banks and savings and loans has continued to swell. The $2.13 trillion year-end 2017 total CRE loans outstanding compares to $1.63 trillion at the last peak of the CRE markets at the end of June 2007.

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Cap Rate Survey for 2nd Half of 2017

In CBRE’s Second Half 2017 Cap Rate Survey, key U.S. takeaways include:

  • Commercial real estate pricing was broadly unchanged, with the exception of some retail segments.
  • Industrial cap rates fell by 13 basis points to 6.52%.
  • Multifamily infill cap rates fell to 5.23% on average from 5.27%. Stabilized suburban assets also declined to 5.59% from 5.66%.
  • Office and hotel sector cap rates were generally stable.
  • Retail cap rates increased, with power centers moving to 7.98% from 7.54%. Neighborhood and high-street retail cap rates increased slightly by 7 and 9 bps, respectively.

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Bitcoin Payments For Real Estate

Bitcoin payments for real estate have become increasingly accepted in cities across the US, as well as in the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Ireland, and other parts of the world.  Acceptance of this new channel reflects a willingness by many real estate owners and developers to respond to the market.  Of course, Bitcoin payment has its challenges due to the current volatility in the crypto markets (with Bitcoin’s price going from $20,000 to $7,000 in the span of just a few months), but buyers and sellers are finding creative ways to deal with these challenges.  Blockchain technologies have also seen a rising use in real estate, with the City of South Burlington, Vermont implementing a new pilot Blockchain program to record real estate transactions.

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New Tax Law Impacts on Real Estate Owners & Investors

  • 1031 Exchanges for real estate remain the same.
  • Capital Gains Rates remain the same (ordinary income rates changed).
  • Mortgage Interest Deduction for a primary residence or a second home is now limited to interest on debt of up to $750,000 (rather than $1 million). Interest on home equity loans will not be deductible unless the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
  • Exclusion of $250,000 Gain ($500,000 for married couple) Upon Sale of Primary Residence remains the same.
  • State and Local Property Tax Deduction is now limited to $10,000.
  • Estate Taxes will apply to transferred property over $11.2 million per person (increased from $5.6 million), with no changes to the step up in basis which gives an heir a basis in inherited property equal to its fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death.
  • Carried Interest, starting next year, to get capital gains treatment, will require a 3-year holding period.
  • Pass-Through Entity Income has a basic deduction of 20% of qualifying income, with limits on the deduction depending on factors such as income thresholds, wages and the capital of the business.

Consult your tax adviser for the details.

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GOP Tax Plan Favors Rental Housing

The increased standard deduction, $10,000 cap on the property tax deduction, and change in the mortgage interest deduction included the GOP tax plans for 2018 will minimize tax incentives of home ownership and increase the demand for apartments, particularly in states with high home prices and tax rates, like California.

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Reverse and Construction Exchanges

Most exchanges are conducted as “deferred exchanges,” where the relinquished property is sold to one party and the replacement property is subsequently purchased from another party.  However, in a reverse exchange, the taxpayer, through an intermediary and an Exchange Accommodation Titleholder (“EAT”), acquires the replacement property BEFORE selling the relinquished property.  Therefore, the taxpayer must have the financial resources available to fund the purchase of the replacement property prior to the sale of the relinquished property.  In a “build to suit” or “construction” exchange, the taxpayer sells property and, again using an EAT, acquires replacement property on which he will construct improvements.  This type of exchange allows the taxpayer to use the exchange funds to not only buy the property but also to construct improvements.  The exchange still must be completed with a 180-day period.  In both reverse exchanges and construction exchanges, the intermediary, using an EAT, takes title to the replacement property and eventually conveys it to the taxpayer (as opposed to a deferred exchange, where the intermediary does not need to take title to either the relinquished or replacement property).

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