Reflections on the Current Market: Summer 2016

17 Aug

In my November blog post, I described the how the commercial real estate industry is in sync with the economy. Good economic times are good for the commercial real estate market while recessions are definitely not. But what do current signals in the economy portend for the future for the commercial real estate market? Following extreme turmoil in equity markets at the beginning of 2016 and the Brexit vote in June, many of my clients have been inquiring about my prognosis for the future. Given current turmoil and uncertainty around the world, at this mid year point it would be a good time to look ahead.

First some basic important data points:

The greater Boston industrial market experienced 1,467,488 sf of positive absorption in the 2nd quarter. Vacancy rates decreased from 7.2% at the end of the first quarter to 6.9% at the end of the second quarter. Lease rates increased to $6.65 average quoted rate which is an increase of 1.7% from $6.54 per sf at end of the first quarter.* These are extremely impressive numbers with now three consecutive quarters of record-setting low vacancy rates.

The greater Boston office market experienced 770,417 sf of positive absorption in the 2nd quarter. Vacancy rates decreased from 8.7% at the end of the first quarter to 8.5% at the end of the second quarter. Lease rates also decreased to $20.47 average quoted rate which is an decrease of 3.5% from $21.21 per sf at end of the first quarter.*  While these numbers are more subdued than those seen in the industrial market, I see this more as a temporary pause in the market than a more severe event.

My observations of current economic conditions and connection to the commercial real estate include the following: There is an abundance of capital sitting on the sidelines. Investors are not comfortable with equity markets. Passive investors are suffering with ultra low yields. Historically low lending rates continue to act as a stimulus to the residential market, for investors and for owner/occupiers of commercial properties. Foreign capital is chasing both residential real estate including high-end condominiums such as Millennium Place where it is reported that 25% of buyers are from overseas, as well as multi-family and Class A office properties. All of this is generating a flight of capital and increased demand for real estate as a preferred asset class.

Many other economic indicators are positive. Employment is up, as evidenced by a robust July employment report, and jobless claims are way down. The GDP is positive and has improved quarter after quarter. Inflation remains low, while oil prices have more than substantially recovered. Foreign investors are investing in U.S., which is viewed as a safe haven.

Overall, I have an optimistic outlook for the commercial real estate market as we head toward the homestretch of 2016 with no recession in sight for 2017.

Please contact me to discuss your specific real estate requirements

Warren Brown, President, Boston Commercial Properties, Inc.

*Data source: Costar Realty Information.

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