April 11, 2012

The Wednesday Wrap: April 11, 2012 (with video)

Each Wednesday, The Wrap presents a compilation of recent noteworthy commercial real estate stories from a variety of publications. Here are five stories that caught our eyes in recent days:

“U.S. Apartment Vacancy Rate Falls to Decade Low” – by Ilaina Jonas of Reuters. For the nation’s apartment sector, the good times just continue to roll. The U.S. apartment vacancy rate reached its lowest level since 2011 in the first quarter, dropping 0.30 percentage points to 4.9 percent, according to a REIS report summarized by Jonas.

In another good trend, effective rents rose by 0.9 percent to $1,018 per month. That’s the largest increase in four years.

All is not perfect, however. Up to 200,000 new units are scheduled to be delivered next year, which could put the kibosh on rent growth. “Once that supply hits the market next year, we may find that this is the year rent growth peaked,” Victor Canalog of REIS told Jonas. “It's still going to be a great year for apartment landlords.”

“CMBS Delinquencies Spike Again in March” – by Paul Bubny of GlobeSt.com. After showing steady improvement since last summer, the delinquency rate for commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) is once again on the rise. According to Fitch Ratings, the rate rose by 13 basis points to 8.43 percent in March. Meanwhile, Trepp pegged the March increase at 31 basis points, which placed its rate at 9.68 percent.

“The special servicers are going to remain busy for the foreseeable future,” Manus Cancy, senior managing director at Trepp, told Bubny. “There’s a lot of wood to cut, and we will continue to see a combination of bifurcations, extensions, rate relief and in some cases, foreclosures and seizing of properties. I think it’ll be a very mixed bag across that spectrum.”

“Retail REITs Continue to Prune Portfolios” – by Jennifer Popovec for National Real Estate Investor. Call it their version of spring cleaning: in the wake of the Great Recession, retail REITs are looking to toss non-core assets out of their portfolios.

The trend “is not the run-of-the-mill recycling of assets common among REITs and, instead, is a direct outcome of the credit crisis, according to REIT analysts,” Popovec writes.

“Post-Great Recession, retail REITs – and REITs overall – have been a lot more focused on selling assets,” Alexander Goldfarb, managing director of Sandler O'Neill + Partners LP, told Popovec. “One of the takeaway lessons from the credit crisis was that if you can sell assets that do not fit your purpose, you should do so. REITs realized that they tended to hold onto too many assets.”

“Reform May Impact the Medical Office Sector, but Nontraditional Spaces Promise Continued Growth” – by Mike Jansen for National Real Estate Investor. The uncertain future of President Obama’s healthcare reform law and the possibility of future cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are not dampening investor appetites for the medical office sector. On the contrary, the sector appears to be more popular than ever among investors.

“We’re just seeing more and more investors being attracted to the space because of the stability of the product type,” Chris Bodnar, who leads CB Richard Ellis’ healthcare capital markets group, told Jansen. “Physicians usually invest a lot of money into their spaces, and patients are location-sensitive.”

In the years immediately preceding the Great Recession, the sector got overbuilt, Jansen notes, but it’s now faced with the opposite problem. “There is probably as much or more capital chasing medical office transactions than there ever has been,” says Shawn Janus, head of Jones Lang LaSalle’s the national healthcare practice. “The issue has been a lack of product.”

The vacancy rate for medical office properties grew to more than 12 percent in 2009, but that figure has dropped to a shade under 11 percent, Jansen reports.

• VIDEO: Bill Hoffman, president and CEO of Trigild Inc., says the commercial real estate recovery has begun but will proceed slowly for a couple of years (from GlobeSt.com).

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