CRE execs are bullish thanks to tax reform, technology

Report from Ackerman LLP shows improved sentiment from 2018

CRE execs are bullish thanks to tax reform, technology

Commercial real estate executives in the US are more confident in their outlook for the market than in 2018; despite that year setting a new record high.

The bullish outlook in 2019 is highlighted in the tenth Akerman US Real Estate Sector from law firm Akerman LLP.

Federal tax reforms and evolving technologies which have taken root have driven the share of executives that say they are more bullish year-over-year to 70% from the previous high of 68% in 2018.

Continued improvement in the US economy was the reason given by 46% of respondents for their higher level of positive sentiment.

However, 33% say interest rate uncertainty is their primary concern, followed by uncertainty in global economic conditions (23%) and uncertainty of federal government policy in the U.S. (22%).

“While the U.S. real estate market has remained resilient since the economic downturn, the headwinds we expected coming into 2019 are starting to come to fruition,” said Eric Rapkin, chair of Akerman’s national Real Estate Practice Group. “Nonetheless, capital is still chasing deals, especially in gateway markets, and we’re beginning to see executives capitalize on tax advantages and deferral strategies such as Opportunity Zones.”

Other trends identified:

  • Tax Reform and Opportunity Zones Generate Activity: With the commercial real estate sector a key beneficiary of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December 2017, it’s no surprise that 46 percent of respondents rank tax reform among the top three trends they expect to have a significant impact on real estate development over the next three years. On the heels of the release of the U.S. Treasury Department’s second round of proposed regulations, developers and investors are expressing more interest in Opportunity Zones – areas designated for federal tax breaks. As further clarity is being brought to the program, nearly a quarter of respondents place Opportunity Zones among the top three areas they believe will fund the most commercial real estate debt and/or equity in 2019.
  • Digital Transformation and Disruption: Executives responding to the survey view technological advances as having the most influence on real estate development, with 48 percent selecting it among the top three trends that will have a significant impact over the next three years. Incorporating the latest technology and design attributes has become critical across all sectors of the real estate market, including luring and retaining tenants in office buildings, attracting millennials to residential properties and facilitating the use of automation and robotics for the industrial sector.
  • Aging Population Drives New Areas of Growth: The graying of America closely follows technology and tax reform as the trend expected to most impact real estate development, with 45 percent of respondents designating it among their top three choices. As seniors account for more of the population, new types of healthcare facilities are experiencing growth, including microhospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and other medical uses within traditional retail locations.
  • Housing Still Dominates: Survey respondents continue to express confidence in multifamily with 67 percent placing it among the top two sectors they expect to be the most active for real estate transactions in 2019, followed by single-family residential (50 percent). These results echo last year’s survey where 63 percent of respondents predicted the multifamily sector would be the first or second most active in 2018. Within multifamily, 2019 respondents rank apartment development as likely to be most active this year, followed by senior living facilities.
  • China, Canada and Latin America Lead the Way: Uncertainties abound in an unbalanced global economy – driven by such developments as the trade war with China, ongoing Brexit gridlock and the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Nonetheless, respondents expect cross-border investment across a range of areas. Executives predict China to be the region that will invest most heavily in the U.S. hospitality, industrial, office and retail sectors. However, Canada is expected to contribute most to foreign investment in the predicted hot markets of multifamily and single family residential. Within Latin America, respondents expect the greatest increase in investment in U.S. real estate to come from Mexico (38 percent), followed by Brazil (30 percent).
  • Private Equity and Banks Lead Among Funding Vehicles: For the fourth year in a row, real estate executives expect most funding to come from private equity funds and institutional lenders. In reflecting on the top three areas they expect to fund the most commercial real estate debt and/or equity in 2019, 53 percent chose private equity and 51 percent selected banks. Additional funding sources selected by respondents include foreign investors (45 percent), insurance companies (28 percent) and real estate investment trusts (24 percent).

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