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U.S. commercial real estate executives crown industrial as king in 2018

Commercial real estate executives are particularly confident in the strength of the industrial sector and are concerned about the impact of natural disasters on the U.S. economy in 2018, according to the results of the 2018 Altus Group Real Confidence Executive Survey.

This year’s survey index allocation saw 42.1 percent of the total capital allocated to direct real estate investments or private equity, followed by 25.3 percent to REIT opportunities. On the debt side, private debt received a 22.4 percent distribution, while public debt received 10.3 percent. Private debt financing increased 10.9 percent over last year, and interest in public debt increased 43 percent over 2017.

“Commercial real estate executives are questioning the Trump administration’s ability to deliver on broader promises, such as funding infrastructure programs, and we’re seeing this impact in the survey results,” said Richard Kalvoda, senior executive vice president at Altus Group. “While executives are confident in the health of the economy, the large increase in public debt allocation this year underscores their caution and the very real uncertainty in the market.”

The executive survey polled industry leading CRE decision-makers on economic trends, demographics, consumer preferences, and the supply and demand of commercial real estate assets. Executives were also asked to allocate a theoretical $1 billion of capital in CRE investments to get the best returns for 2018. The Altus Group Real Confidence Executive Survey index is based on these allocations and represents a total theoretical investment of $52 billion of capital.

The industrial sector placed first as the preferred asset type for investment in 2018, driven by the consistent growth in e-commerce and the need for more industrial warehousing and distribution space. It received the highest allocation with 33.2 percent invested in industrial within the private equity selections and 30.5 percent in equity REITs suggesting, “strong confidence that the industrial market is the asset class to watch in 2018. There is an increasing appetite for ‘right now’ shipping options meaning e-commerce retailers will need to invest in more industrial spaces to meet the demand,” added Kalvoda. Thirty-two percent of CRE executives surveyed expect that by 2020, e-commerce sales will represent more than14 percent of total retail sales.

The survey results also suggest the strength of the healthcare sector in 2018. Executives allocated 16.9 percent to equity healthcare REITs and 14.6 percent in seniors living private equity investment. As the large baby boomer demographic ages, the need and demand for healthcare increases.

The survey also reveals that CRE executives believe natural disasters — such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes — could potentially have the greatest impact on the U.S. economy in 2018. Forty-six percent of respondents believe that natural disasters are a larger economic concern than geopolitical conflicts and terrorism.

Other key highlights from the 2018 Altus Group Real Confidence Executive Survey include:

  • Economy:

  • Overall, CRE executives are moderately confident in the strength of the U.S. and global economies. However, their responses clearly indicate trust that there’s more room for the global economy to grow, with an increase of 28.2 percent over 2017 compared to a 0.5 percent increase for the United States.

  • Tax Reform:

  • With recent passage of the reformed tax code, the CRE industry expects to see an influx in spending and investment. However, executives indicated relatively low confidence in President Trump’s ability to exceed last year’s productivity in 2018. Even with a low mean score, participants’ responses were scattered with about half believing in Trump’s ability to deliver on his stated objectives.

  • Infrastructure:

  • Allocations to the infrastructure sector decreased from 15.5 percent in 2017 to 7.3 percent in 2018.

  • Development:

  • Commercial real estate executives are not anticipating an increase in development spending in 2018; however, the sectors they forecast will have the most development in 2018 are industrial and multifamily, tied at 42.9 percent in this year’s survey.

  • Office:

  • A majority of commercial real estate executives are confident that redesigns of office space will incorporate more open concept layouts; however, 59 percent believe that this layout does not lead to greater productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

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