In a year when the US economy found its surest toehold since the Great Recession, commercial real estate executives responded with their most enthusiastic appraisal of the domestic market since DLA Piper first started measuring their outlook back in 2005. According to our 2014 State of the Market Survey, nine out of ten executives feel bullish about the next 12 months.
That should surprise nobody, given the steadily (if slowly) improving economy and the flood of capital pouring into property markets. Forty-five per cent of commercial real estate executives attribute their bullish outlook to abundant supplies of debt and equity capital, while 31 per cent attribute it to the steadily strengthening US economy.
There is a near-unanimous expectation that interest rates will either remain where they are or increase only slightly. Eighty-three per cent of respondents say they expect interest rates to increase, and 73 per cent of that group believe there will be no corresponding change in cap rates. More than three quarters of executives believe that crowd-funding will not yield significant real estate investments for at least three to five years.
Disruptive trends identified include renewed growth in urban areas—as a result of the reverse migration that has resulted in a multi- generational population shift from suburbs to cities in order to obtain a more economical and cohesive lifestyle—the rapid growth of e-tailing and new advances in technology. Respondents consider downtown office space twice as good an investment opportunity as suburban office space.
What might be most surprising this year is the powerful consensus that the rise of flexible and collaborative office spaces will have a significant adverse effect on property markets. Once considered a phenomenon limited to the Silicon Valley workplace culture, the new open-office movement will, according to the leaders we surveyed, have a dramatic impact on the traditional workplace. Shared workspaces, larger communal areas, much increased light and flat seating hierarchies will become increasingly prevalent as companies seek to appeal to a younger generation with work areas designed to foster collaboration and creativity.
Most executives we surveyed believe that these considerations will spread from the tech world to more traditional work environments, shaping office design for the foreseeable future. Eighty-nine per cent of the executives believe the movement toward flexible and collaborative office spaces will have an effect on commercial real estate, from the design and development of office buildings to the leasing market.
For the first time, Germany has been named the most attractive market for international investment. Brazil, China and Mexico round out 2014’s survey. Notably, both China and Brazil have remained in the top four since 2010. Germany’s rise likely reflects that nation’s economic strength—and its stability relative to the surrounding region. Foreign money in particular has become the most significant player, as 37 per cent of executives believe international investors will be the most active in the US market. Pension funds (28 per cent) and private equity groups (21 per cent) complete the picture.This is a departure from 2011 and 2013, when private equity was expected to predominate in investment. Now, 45 per cent of lender respondents feel strongly that foreign investors will be most active, while 36 per cent of third-party brokerage respondents believe it will be private equity investors.
Among the international issues that impact the stability and health of domestic commercial property markets, executives believe the top three to be: slowing growth in China, instability in Ukraine and the turmoil in Iraq, which could push global oil prices higher.
Healthcare assets, such as hospitals, medical office buildings and assisted-living facilities, represent the most attractive investment class this year.The multi-family and industrial space sectors complete the top three.This clearly reflects the river of money running through the healthcare industry. It also looks like the end of an era of dominance for multi- family proper ties as the leading asset class.
In conclusion, the ever- evolving needs and demands of their end-users will continue to drive the market.