March 14, 2012

The Wednesday Wrap: March 14, 2012

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:

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“Apartments Lose Luster with Investors” – by Matthew Strozier and Dawn Wotapka of The Wall Street Journal. The multifamily market has been one of the few sources of consistently good news in the commercial real estate arena during the past few years, but investors are losing enthusiasm for the sector.

“Investors are pushing back on property prices, rent growth is slowing and yields are flattening in some markets,” Strozier and Wotapka write. “While few investors believe that apartment buildings will be a bad investment, the best rent rises of this cycle are likely ‘in the rearview mirror,’ said Andrew McCulloch, an analyst at Green Street Advisors, a real-estate investment trust research firm.”

Investors are particularly concerned about oversupply in the Washington D.C. and Seattle markets, according to Strozier and Wotapka.

“The Millennials Check In” – by Janet Morrissey of The New York Times. As it seeks to emerge from the Great Recession, the hotel industry has begun to target the demographic known as the Millennials, meaning young adults in their 20s to mid-30s. Adults in this age range were the fastest-growing segment of travelers in 2010, according to Morrissey. 

To reach this technology- and design-obsessed group, owners and operators “are remodeling existing hotels or introducing new ones that offer free hotelwide Wi-Fi connections; large, welcoming lobbies with plush, comfortable furnishings; state-of-the-art fitness areas; in-room power consoles to plug in iPads, laptops and other devices; and stylish bars that spill into the lobby,” Morrissey writes. “Some are also scheduling nightly social events, like happy hours and free wine tastings, aimed at luring the iPhone-toting generation to their hotels.”

The target marks a major shift from a decade ago, when hotels concentrated on luring those in their 50s and 60s. Hotels that don’t actively court Millennials will be at “a very severe competitive disadvantage,” Mark Woodworth, president of Colliers PKF Hospitality Research, told Morrissey.

“Can Commercial Real Estate Investors Help Revive Single-Family Housing?” – by David Bodamer of National Real Estate Investor. The struggling single-family housing market may have an unexpected rescuer: commercial real estate investors.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) recently announced a pilot program through which investors can buy foreclosed houses in bulk and turn them into rental properties, Bodamer reports.

“To date, investors have purchased homes in foreclosure auctions and rented them out,” Bodamer writes. “But investors can only buy one or two assets at a time this way. The idea here is to enable investors to buy larger pools of foreclosed homes in order to get them on the market as rentals and deal with the glut of troubled assets more quickly.”

“This is another important milestone in our initiative designed to reduce taxpayer losses, stabilize neighborhoods and home values, shift to more private management of properties and reduce the supply of REO properties in the marketplace,” FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco said in a statement.

“Sources Predict Continued Brokerage Firm Consolidation” – by Natalie Dolce of On the heels of the news that Grubb & Ellis has declared bankruptcy and is selling its assets to BGC Partners Inc., those in the commercial real estate industry say more brokerage firm consolidations are on the horizon.

Chris Wilson, president of the Wilson Commercial Real Estate retail brokerage firm, told Dolce the Grubb & Ellis development was the “continuation of some significant changes in the commercial real estate brokerage industry.” According to Dolce, Wilson expects “a creation of more boutique brokerage firms and further mergers and acquisitions over the next four or five years as the commercial real estate service industry and its salespeople adjust to the new economy.”

“Cushman’s CEO Sees Slow Start, Strong Finish for Global Market in 2012” – by Paul Rosta of Commercial Property Executive. The global real estate market will take a while to shake off the doldrums of fourth-quarter 2011, but investment sales should recover in the second half of the year, said Glenn Rufrano, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, in an exclusive interview with Commercial Property Executive.

Investment sales should total about $867 billion worldwide in 2012, a 7.5 percent increase from 2011, Rufrano said. North and South America will see a 25 percent rise in investment sales this year when compared to 2011, he predicted.

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