Nearing the end of first-quarter 2016, both global and domestic issues are leaving their mark on the U.S. real estate industry. The U.S. dollar grew stronger while other currencies weakened. Domestic employment numbers are picking up. The Federal Reserve opted to leave its key interest rate unchanged for the time being. Certain property sectors are shaping up well (industrial, office, multifamily) and others are on uncertain ground (retail, hotels). Cap rates are going sideways pretty much across the board.
Here we share key points from research and brokerage firms about how various real estate sectors will fare in the year ahead.
Pain points for hotels can be witnessed in gateway markets. Currency headwinds are hurting demand in gateway cities, according to Green Street Advisors, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based research firm. New supply in markets including New York and Washington D.C. will lead to room availability increases that might “undermine performance,” but “the overall U.S. market should be able to absorb room growth while maintaining revenues,” reports ratings firm Fitch.
Hotels are currently operating with revenues and net operating incomes NOI at peak levels, according to Fitch. The firm estimates that 2016 revenue per room (RevPAR) growth will be come in at its most moderate rate in 36 months. However, the firm is watching the following markets for oversupply: Miami and Seattle. Ratings firm Moody’s sees potential that “construction in the hotel sector may lead to a revenue decline to 2013 or 2014 levels.”
Multifamily is another sector where supply concerns are appearing in some markets, including Austin, Texas, as new construction is driving up vacancies. Research firm Reis Inc.’s forecast is for “aggregate vacancy to increase modestly to 5.4 percent between now and 2019.” Moody’s predicts that new construction will boost the national vacancy rates for multifamily to higher than 5 percent in 2016. New completions are expected to peak in 2017, according to Green Street Advisors.
Employment is a main indicator of this sector’s health, and office real estate was among the last to begin its recovery. It is still rebounding and expected to perform well throughout 2016. Strong absorption is helping even suburban offices see higher rents. Green Street researchers note that office rents look to outpace most other sectors through 2020. Part of this will be due to constrained new supply. Only a few markets will see significant construction this year, among them: Houston, New York, Silicon Valley and Boston. One headwind tempering the sector’s performance? The developing trend of many tenants chasing more efficient space layouts (read: densification) to fit more people into less space. This “will partially offset the positive effect of employment growth,” according to Moody’s. Suburban offices are catching up to office properties in central business districts (CBDs) in terms of rent growth as a result of strong absorption. At the same time, Fitch is keeping a close eye on Houston, a city whose economy has been significant impacted by the drop in oil prices, but that will see 11 million sq. ft. of new office development this year. The firm is also watching tech hub markets (Seattle, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Boston and Austin) for signs of a bubble.
With community retail centers at about 11.4 percent vacancy, landlords are on the cusp of getting back their rent negotiating power. Meanwhile, the mall narrative of bifurcated performance continues. Fitch sees a growing gap between the performance of class-A and class-B/C centers, noting that it “remains concerned about continuing store closings and underperforming properties in secondary and tertiary locations.” Class-B and class-C mall values are likely to move lower, according to Green Street.
Seniors Housing/Medical Office
Green Street pegs senior housing inventory growth at about 4 percent for 2016. We have reported that the most of the growth looks to be in seniors housing for memory care patients. At the same time, a recent Fitch report found that REITs that specialize in skilled nursing facilities started the year tumultuously, with lowered EBIDTA reported by Genesis and investigations into overbilling by government agencies.