2022 Outlook: Industrial Investors Remain Bullish
Sales, Leasing, Construction to Continue at Robust Pace
The dramatic shift in consumer buying habits during the pandemic has fueled a massive leasing, construction and investment spree across the U.S. As tenants scramble for modern space to expand their e-commerce footprints, landlords are benefitting from rental rates reaching into the double digit levels in some markets. This is all good news for investors, who continue to pour capital into this favored asset class.
According to a LightBox-SIOR Investor Sentiment Report, investors remain bullish on this sector, despite challenges from port congestion, rising construction costs, and a shortage of labor across many points in the supply chain. Nearly 72% of investors surveyed are predicting significant growth in the industrial sector going into 2022, a sentiment echoed by other industry experts interviewed for the report.
Among the key fundamentals are:
- E-commerce sales grew by 40% over the past year and will continue to drive industrial space usage for the foreseeable future.
- Vacancy rates are at record lows in many markets, including Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, where the strength of the ports and proximity to large population pools has helped push vacancy down to around 1%. Many other markets are seeing vacancies from 3% (Charleston, Sacramento and Las Vegas) to 4% (Nashville, Miami and St. Louis).
- Rents are expected to rise by 5% to 7% or more in 2022. Occupier demand, led by retailers and logistics providers, will push rents higher; they could reach double digits in many markets. Asset pricing could increase the same or more. Among the top markets for year-over-year rent growth in 2021 are Northern New Jersey (33.3%), Inland Empire (28.3%), Philadelphia (25.9%) and Nashville (20.3%).
- Net absorption remains strong and was tracked at 231 million square feet at mid-year 2021. This activity is notable given the 152 million square feet of new space completed during the same time period and 420 million square feet currently in the pipeline. Among the top markets for construction are Dallas Fort-Worth, Atlanta, and Chicago.
- Supply chain disruption, rising construction costs and material and labor shortages are key headwinds for industrial real estate. Over the past year, the industry has experienced an unprecedented level of port congestion, supply and labor shortages, and increases in the cost of steel, lumber and plywood and other materials. Given the robust level of industrial demand, however, those headwinds are not expected to dampen investor enthusiasm for this sector.
“As e-commerce continues to transform our economy, investors are looking for every opportunity to gain entry or expand their positions in the industrial sector,” says Tina Lichens, COO, LightBox. “Industrial is attracting significant amounts of domestic and foreign capital and is well-positioned to withstand supply chain disruption or other volatility that might occur.”
Chicago’s commercial real estate industry is faring well at this stage in the pandemic recovery, but there are headwinds that investors should consider, according to a 2021 Mid-Year Chicago Sentiment Report from The Real Estate Center at DePaul University. Nearly 60% of CRE professionals are optimistic, if not bullish, about Chicago commercial real estate for the next 18 months. There are concerns, however, related to government effectiveness and property tax uncertainty at the local, county and state levels.
COVID-19 Impact on Real Estate
Chicago Commercial Real Estate Report Findings
Among the findings of the 4th Annual Chicago Mid-Year Sentiment Report include:
- Nearly 6 in 10 CRE professionals are at least optimistic, if not bullish, about Chicago real estate for the next 18 months.
- The market factors causing the greatest concern at mid-year include the rising cost of construction, materials and labor, changing tax structures and rising inflation.
- The greatest threats to CRE investment activity range from the economic conditions put on local and state governments, followed by lingering concerns about the potential for financial and economic distress.
- Real estate professionals are genuinely concerned, perhaps even skeptical, about the effectiveness of political leadership at virtually all levels of government.
- There is nothing more certain than death, taxes and property tax uncertainty in Cook County. Those concerns, and uncertainty, aren’t going away.
- Industrial properties followed by multifamily assets are viewed the most favorably and the least likely to encounter future distress; indoor malls, viewed as the weakest asset class, are likely candidates for distress.
See this Connect Media story for more.
As the summer shopping and travel season gets into full swing, the commercial real estate industry is closely watching the flow of revenue into the hard hit retail and hospitality sectors. According to a Q2 2021 Investor Sentiment Report from LightBox, investors and their advisors are seeing promising indicators. This is translating to aggressive pricing for top tier assets in both sectors and predictions of a spike in investment in the second half of 2021 and into 2022.
There remains a lingering sense of caution, however, and a look toward Labor Day when retail and lodging receipts will be tabulated; back-to-work and school plans will be underway; and there likely will be greater clarity concerning vaccination rates and variants. Aggregated, this is keeping significant capital on the sidelines and moving many investors into top tier, low risk assets.
Retail Challenges as Ecommerce Surges
The retail sector is navigating the challenges of ecommerce growth and physical store declines; it also is evaluating new concepts and experiential strategies. Centennial Properties, for example, is moving ahead with plans to transform former Sears stores in suburban Chicago into mixed-use projects — with 303-unit luxury apartments and Main Street retail at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, IL and a 304-unit luxury apartment project at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, IL. The focus is on planning the development as an entire campus and creating a master vision to establish the destination and integrate all elements together.
“The pandemic is creating a seismic change in how people spend money and how they entertain themselves. It’s up to us to recreate a retail environment that essentially has been the same for 30 to 40 years,” said Steven Levin, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Centennial Real Estate, based in Dallas, TX. “The challenge is that you have to look at the property as an entire campus. And, creating a master vision to establish the destination is more difficult in an established mall. It is imperative to own the real estate, not just the parcel; otherwise, it is hard to integrate as a well-designed project.”
Hotel Investment Slows
The report also notes that the hotel sector is embracing the surge from almost unparalleled “emerging from the pandemic” Spring and Summer travel activity. Yet industry experts are more than anxiously awaiting the return of the all-important business and convention travelers. And, there is a general consensus that a broader recovery will require an expansion beyond the ultra-safe assets into the wider pool of middle and lower tiered properties.
“The commercial real estate industry is skillfully navigating a complex set of challenges while at the same time seeing many positive signs of recovery and renewal at mid-year 2021,” said Tina Lichens, Senior Vice President, Broker Operations, LightBox. “The retail and hospitality sectors are poised for continued growth and transformation yet are also the most vulnerable to continued upsets as the market stabilizes and investors make decisions about which asset classes can deliver strong long-term returns.”
Among the key findings of the Q2 2021 Retail and Hotel Investor Sentiment Report are:
- Omnichannel retail will drive retail growth — as consumers drive a need for quick and efficient ways to shop online, in-store, or through technology.
- Bricks and mortar retail is expected to grow in 2021 — given consumers’ desire to return to in-store shopping and socialization. Some predict a tipping point where ecommerce expansion slows and in-store retail expands.
- The retail investor profile has shifted. Private investors, high net worth individuals and non- traded REITs are the primary deal makers, with institutional capital waiting on the sidelines.
- Grocery anchored and lifestyle centers remain at the top of the list for investors. Those with good population density, high-income levels and some evidence of supply constraint are particularly in demand and are commanding lower cap rates. Strong shopping center assets are being bid up very aggressively, with pricing that is similar to pre-pandemic levels.
- Resort and leisure travel is back but business and convention travel is key to a strong recovery.
- All eyes are on Labor Day as a critical timeframe for understanding which hotel properties and investors can be called survivors.
- Sales are expected to spike significantly in the second half of 2021, potentially reaching pre- pandemic levels in 2022 and 2023. Many buyers will focus first on properties that can benefit from leisure travel, particularly those in driving distance of large population pools.
- Hotel distress statistics are potentially misleading. More hotels than any other property type are in the distress pipeline, through a transfer to special servicers. Yet looking ahead, the stat does not evoke widespread concern, as many believe that lenders have little desire to take over low performing assets.
Industrial Construction Continues to Rise in Midwest
The Midwest industrial engine continues to grow, with construction moving at a strong pace despite an unprecedented increase in materials pricing that is straining the development sector. This activity is occurring in many large markets as well as growing secondary markets, such as several in the Midwest, stretching from Nashville to Indianapolis to Kansas City.
According to a May 2021 Market Report from Avison Young, Nashville has 10 msf of new industrial space under construction and has had more than 1.4 msf of new product delivered in each of the past three quarters.
“We continue to see industrial development increasing in many Midwest markets, as companies expand e-commerce and logistics operations in strong regional distribution hubs,” said Erik Foster, Avison Young Principal and leader of the firm’s National Industrial Capital Markets Group.
Nashville Construction Overview
The Nashville market is witnessing its largest growth cycle on record, with expansion coming at an exponential pace, according to Avison Young research. Motivated by steady tenant demand and tight market conditions, developers remain bullish on Nashville, with over half of the projects underway being built on a speculative basis. Even as new speculative construction adds inventory to the market, all submarkets continue to record sub-5% vacancies.
Soaring demand for warehouse and logistics space across the market has largely kept up with a record amount of supply coming up over the past few years. The Nashville industrial market recorded over 1.6 msf in YTD net absorption at the end of the first quarter.
Indianapolis Grows Its Logistics Hub
Indianapolis’ industrial market has nearly 12 msf currently under construction, consistent with the level of new construction underway for the last 15 months. Larger tenants have recently shown an interest in Indianapolis because of its central location and lower tax structure, but much of its recent construction has been driven by speculative projects. Large speculative projects under development range from the 1 msf building in I-70 West Commerce Park by Sunbeam Development to the 767,000 sf building in Whiteland Exchange, I-65 and Whiteland Road, by Jones Development.
Other Midwest markets experiencing industrial growth include Kansas City, which has 7.9 msf under construction; Cincinnati, where 6.1 msf is under construction; Louisville, which has 5.2 msf underway; and Minneapolis, which has 2.5 msf under construction.
Construction Prices: Steel, Lumber See Sharp Increases
The Avison Young report notes that skyrocketing costs on steel, plywood and other building materials are not enough to significantly slow the industrial pipeline, which currently exceeds 300 million square feet (msf) nationally.
This strong activity continues despite a 12.8% increase in the overall cost of construction input items from April 2020 to February 2021. While many broad material categories have increases below 10%, key individual materials have seen sharp increases — including lumber and plywood, which rose 62%; copper and brass mill shapes (37%); and steel (20%), according to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) trade association.
Construction across many U.S. markets is expected to keep a strong pace into 2021, as developers try to meet demand from major retail fulfillment centers to food grade cold storage facilities. Consumer expectations are setting the standards for speed and diverse inventory from e-commerce, and those expectations are unlikely to diminish as delivery conveniences have now become commonplace.
Feb. 28, 2021
As the COVID-19 vaccine distribution ramps up (and a third vaccine is approved), there is progress being made — and also glitches in the supply chain delivery that are leaving states, municipalities, and, ultimately, residents, without the necessary vaccines. Here’s a look at how the supply chain is faring and what some commercial real estate experts have to say about the how to improve distribution.
According to the “Shots in Arms” update from the NPR COVID Vaccine Tracker, the top state by percentage of population receiving at least one dose is Alaska, with 22.3%, up from the 15.1% shown in the graphic above. New Mexico (21%) and South Dakota (20.2%) are the second and third states, respectively. This compares with late January when Alaska was still at the top, but West Virginia and Connecticut were second and third.
At the end of February, there were 96.4 million vaccines distributed, with 75.2 million doses administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This totals 14.6% of the U.S. population vaccinated with at least one dose. (The two first vaccines approved each require two shots over several weeks.)
COVID-19 Vaccine Update: Solving Supply Chain Challenges
As the federal government moves to increase vaccine distribution, logistics and commercial real estate experts talked with Bisnow about the importance of involving businesses such as Amazon, Target and FedEx that have mastered supply chain issues and last-mile delivery. Given their expertise in moving products quickly to multiple destination points, could they have an impact on vaccine delivery?
Amazon Distribution is Not the Only Solution
Supply chain and analytics experts caution against thinking we can just plug in Amazon and create a more efficient system, however. According to this Modern Distribution Management story by Jonathan Byrnes of MIT and John Wass, formerly of Staples, the problem revolves around trying to push through a massive distribution effort within our existing fragmented system. Changes to the current distribution flow should include integrating more supply chain professionals into the public health process and using overlapping management, likely through the Defense Production Act, to improve end-to-end organization and results.
Among the solutions they present are more extensive advance planning to match patients, vaccines and locations and rewards, such as free transportation or cash, for vaccine compliance and perhaps negative rewards (limited access to restaurants, schools, and transportation) for those who refuse.
They also suggest adding a robust public relations campaign that reaches the population at multiple demographic touch points. Millennials would be more responsive than older Baby Boomers to social media outreach, for example. Success stories from early adopters would be amplified to reach residents in varying communities.
COVID-19 Cases: Still too High
In a late February CBS News COVID-19 vaccine update, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warns against being too complacent about the virus. While cases are stabilizing or slowing in many locations, a plateau of around 70,000 new cases per day is still a concern. “That’s exactly the thing that happened during previous surges,” he said. “As it peaked and started to come down, people withdrew some of the intensity of the public health measures and it kind of stabilized at a very high level. That’s very dangerous.”
COVID-19 Back to Work Update
Office Space is Vital, but Reducations Being Considered
With COVID-19 vaccines in the spotlight, office building owners and tenants are carefully evaluating their return to work strategies. The good news is that in-person workspaces are considered vital to business operations — according to nearly three-quarters of respondent to a COVID-19 Commercial Real Estate Impact Study by BOMA International, Yardi Systems and Brightline Strategies.
The caveat, though, is that many tenants plan to reevaluate their space needs in the next six to 12 months. Will they reduce office space or shift it around to support pandemic safety measures? That’s the big question for office building owners in 2021.
The survey collected feedback from more than 3,000 office space decision makers during Q3 and Q4 of 2020.
Office Space: Reduce or Repurpose?
The study shows that 74% of office users believe office space is vital to the operation of their business. But, 61% say they will reassess those needs soon, while 19% are unsure. Out of that 80%, more than half (54%) say they will reduce their square footage.
Sixty-five percent of respondents said that they are personally comfortable with or supportive of returning to the office, but only 59 percent believe that their employees or colleagues feel the same way—an intriguing gap that hints at psychological projection.
Among the favored office space planning options are:
- Reducing office space set aside for common areas to make more room for private offices or cubicles
- Reducing the size of private offices or the number of conference rooms
- Adding hoteling or flexible space for employees who spend more time at home.
The good news for building owners is that more than half of tenants (55%) plan to renew their leases, mostly because they are happy with how owners have handled the pandemic. Many say that landlord communication is a driving factor.
COVID-19 Safety a Must
Looking toward the future, office tenants say they’re more likely to stay in a building that:
- Maximizes fresh air in the HVAC system
- Includes large, prominent disinfecting stations and
- Offers multiple disinfections per day using chemicals and ultraviolent wands
Despite a massive rollback in office space usage during the pandemic, the outlook for office building owners is not dismal as it once looked. While many employees and tenants may plan to work from the office less, they still see the importance of available collaborative space and distraction-free zones. Office building owners are hoping to see the resiliency of the office sector return in 2021 and beyond.
See this Commercial Property Executive story for more.
Prologis Report: Retail to Industrial Real Estate Not a Sure Bet
Wondering whether that empty retail anchor store would work as an ecommerce site? While industrial real estate is booming and bricks-and-mortar retailers are on the downslide, conversions are not always a sure bet. According to a recent Prologis report, retail-to-industrial real estate conversions will likely account for less than 1% of all retail space across the country over the next decade. This is because there are economic, political (municipal opposition and other factors), physical, and legal challenges.
According to the Prologis report:
- The COVID-19 crisis fueled five years of evolution in the retail sector — in less than five months. The massive demand for consumer goods, groceries and other household items forced the industrial sector to respond quickly. This accelerated the adoption of ecommerce (to wider audiences and many new users) and pushed companies to focus on their “just-in-case” inventory.
- Online spending is driving significant demand for logistics space, which is seeing correlating rental rate increases.
- Online sales have skyrocketed and are on pace to reach $340 billion globally in 2020.
See this Bisnow story for more details.
When will the real estate market recover? Not very quickly, according to many commercial real estate experts surveyed and interviewed for a recent report from the Real Estate Center at DePaul University. As noted in this Bisnow real estate story, more than 60% of survey respondents are either concerned or trending toward concerned about the market’s direction.
COVID-19 Commercial Real Estate Outlook
The Third Annual Mid-Year Perspectives on Chicago Real Estate Markets report also showed that less than one-third are either optimistic or moving toward optimistic. “COVID-19 has dealt every market across the country a set of challenges and circumstances no one could have anticipated,” said Charles Wurtzebach, the Douglas and Cynthia Crocker endowed director of the Real Estate Center at DePaul University. “Yet people want to be optimistic; they are tired of COVID and want it to be over.”
Among the biggest concerned noted in the survey are:
- the unknown duration and intensity of the pandemic
- the financial crunch on state and local governments
- rising unemployment and
- the uncertainty about the timing of a vaccine
Given these factors, survey participants pointed to a slow “Nike swoosh” recovery versus a rapid “V” recovery. This is due to the stable Midwestern mode of Chicago, which typically sees moderate-growth for commercial real estate versus the stronger extremes seen in coastal markets.
While many survey participants addressed the concerns with today’s marketplace, Brian Forde, Partner, O’Keefe Lyons & Hynes, LLC chose to highlight some of the glass half full and big picture aspects of the current situation.
“Real estate developers and brokers are as creative a group of professionals as you can imagine,” Forde says. “They adapt, they innovate, they don’t sit still. Given everything that has happened, there will be difficulties, but in response to those challenges, there will also be creative adaptation. Difficult challenges tend to bring out the best in real estate professionals.”
Cook County Tax Increases: The ongoing market threat
Chief among the market threats is the Cook County tax situation, which is different than any of the other 101 counties in Illinois. Before the pandemic, the Assessor showed his hand in Evanston in terms of how valuations and the valuation process would change. It was viewed as a precursor of what is to come. Looming large on the horizon are the valuations for downtown properties, which won’t be completed until 2021.
Forde believes Cook County property taxes will continue to be a real threat to property investors and business owners. “As long as Cook County uses a classification system where commercial and industrial real estate is assessed at 2-1/2 times that of residential properties, property taxes will always be a challenge, and it always will be so long as the system currently in place persists,” Forde says. “That will be further exacerbated when coupled with the inability of taxing officials to manage the sheer volume of valuing 1.8 million parcels. There is just no one size fits all solution.”
For more, see the DePaul University Mid-Year report.
The surge in consumer goods shopping during the pandemic is having a significant impact on Chicago industrial expansion at mid-year 2020, according to a Q2 2020 Chicago Industrial Report from Avison Young.
Amazon leads the pack in the ecommerce space race, adding more than 2.4 msf in the first six months of 2020 and on track to add another 4.3 msf by year end. This will bring Amazon’s total Chicago industrial space commitment to 15 msf. Amazon is just part of the story, however, as consumers gravitate to buying goods online from a variety of businesses.
A recently released NAIOP survey shows continued optimism about the industrial real estate sector, along with improving rent collection and development activity since April. This was the third survey of the organization’s U.S. members since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The June survey results also provide insights into rent collection and rent relief, which are top of mind for investors in these challenging times. The good news is that 69% to 74% of respondents reported on-time, full payments by 90% or more of their industrial and office tenants in June. (Note that the survey also covered multifamily and retail properties).
Tenant requests for relief declined across all asset types from April to June, with industrial and office real estate showing similar results –moving down from approximately 50% in April to about 38% in June.
Industrial Real Estate Development Outlook Improves
The survey also notes that the impact on current development projects continues to soften,
with fewer reports of leasing declines, delays in financing or government restrictions impacting construction. While 66.1% of NAIOP survey respondents note delays in permitting or entitlements due to COVID-19, the percentage
of respondents reporting a decline in leasing dropped from 57.2% in May to 49.4% in June; reports of delays in financing also dropped from 23.3% to 16.1% in June.
The industrial sector remains the strongest of all sectors, including multifamily, office and retail. The percentage of respondents noting new industrial development more than doubled since April, to 43.3% from 18.5%.The survey tracks sentiment from investors, lenders, developers, among other CRE practitioners.