Coworking Space Rebounds After COVID-19 Crater
When the global pandemic devastated in-office work, with employee attendance dropping from 95 percent attendance in early 2020 to just 15 percent in April 2020, coworking felt an equally significant shock. Overall inventory dropped 7 percent in North America by the end of 2021, according to a recent report from Cushman & Wakefield. But the market fundamentals are beginning to show promise. More than half (53 percent) of survey respondents said they will be looking to expand flexible office usage.
The report authors claim that flexible office spaces can operate as a bridge between full in-person work and working from home. The hub-and-spoke model, with a primary central office location complemented by satellite flex office spaces, may need to be rethought. Businesses may be moving away from a 70/30 split between main corporate offices and flexible space to ratios more like 60/40 or even 50/50.
Fed Reports Farmland Values Holding Strong
The Chicago and Kansas City Federal Reserve banks published surveys that show many in commercial real estate investment are bullish on farmland values. The Kansas City paper cited 154 banks reporting that farmland values increased by 20 percent in 2021. The Chicago survey of 147 respondents found farmland values increased by 22 percent.
“More than 50 percent of respondents expected farmland values to increase in 2022, up from less than 45 percent in 2020, and less than the average of 10 percent from 2014 to 2019,” according to the Kansas City Federal Reserve report. “On top of expectations of higher farmland values for the next year, more than 50 percent of respondents also indicated that farmland values were currently overvalued, suggesting there may still be future risks of declines.”
While farmland gathers value, both surveys cited input costs, including raw materials like fertilizer, as a major concern for farm operators.
Retail REIT Bets Big on Open-Air Shopping Centers
The performance of so-called “necessity-based” retail amid COVID-19 has put a lot of attention on grocery-anchored locations. On Feb. 14, American Finance Trust completed a $547 million purchase of 44 shopping centers across the U.S., with many properties in the Sun Belt. Along with the transaction, American Finance Trust announced a rebranding, unveiling its new name of The Necessity Retail REIT.
Michael Weil, CEO of The Necessity Retail REIT, said this acquisition is the first in a tranche of a $1.3 billion deal with CIM Real Estate Finance Trust to acquire 9.5 msf of retail space.
“Today’s acquisition of 44 open-air shopping centers featuring necessity-retail tenants makes this the ideal time to complete our rebranding,” says Weil. “We are well on our way to being the leading REIT that is focused on assets leased to necessity-based retail tenants.”
Hotel Deal Volume Rebounds in 2021, Exceeds 2019 Total
While many economists have been wary about putting too much emphasis on year-over-year numbers when COVID-19 can warp the context of a snapshot in time, hospitality rebounded in 2021. Total global transaction volume topped $66.8 billion last year, according to JLL research, a $25.4 billion improvement from 2020. This figure also clears 2019’s total of $56.4 billion. But hospitality faces its share of headwinds, with the JLL team outlining three major obstacles to growth:
Labor shortages. Millions of travel and leisure jobs were eliminated during the initial COVID-19 wave. Hospitality will need to improve compensation and time off.
Supply chain issues. Scarcity of materials, global factory delays, and transportation bottlenecks are complicating factors for hotel operators.
Room rates. Experts believe average room rates will increase in 2022, but inflation could limit the benefits.
Multifamily Looks Strong for Foreseeable Future
One of the strongest CRE sectors in the last two years, multifamily will see continued growth in 2022. According to a Marcus & Millichap forecast, the U.S. will form 1.6 million new households this year, which is the same number of newly constructed residences expected to be delivered in 2022. Multifamily could also see a boost in demand as the supply of single-family homes dries up and mortgage rates are set to rise.
While suburban locations saw an uptick in demand with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, urban areas could benefit from a suburban vacancy rate that is expected to remain below 4 percent. The resumption of entertainment and nightlife activities in central business districts could be another pull for potential renters to return to city areas. Additionally, considering changing working conditions, potential renters will be looking for spaces with offices and pet-friendly landlords.
Los Angeles River Looks for Rebirth via Development
Running within a mile of more than one million people, the Los Angeles River includes 2,300 acres of public land. The iconic concrete-covered riverbank has long been a point of discussion for CRE investment, but the LA River Master Plan hopes to incorporate parks, affordable housing, community space, and emergency disaster preparedness into the waterway’s future.
Los Angeles County Public Works is currently working on an updated Los Angeles River Master Plan that could meet community needs, while identifying potential funding sources. Proponents of development are aiming for funding from city, county, state, and federal sources as well as private dollars.
“If anti-displacement policies are left to follow the adoption of the plan, real estate speculation will outpace any community stabilization efforts,” says Friends of the L.A. River President and CEO Marissa Christiansen, in a statement to Bisnow.
Industrial Tops Wish List for Investment
Optimism in commercial real estate investment is widespread, with 87 percent of investors feeling positive about the general outlook, according to a Colliers report. The industrial sector, unsurprisingly, continues to be the most popular target, with 67 percent of survey respondents likely to invest in the sector in 2022, followed by multifamily (53 percent) and office (45 percent).
Overall, 62 percent of respondents expect value gains in industrial in 2022, including 13 percent of respondents expecting more than a 20 percent increase in capital values. Interest focused primarily on light industrial/flex space (83 percent of respondents interested in it), followed by big-box/warehouse (81 percent) and last-mile (48 percent). Cold/dark storage (35 percent) and container terminals (21 percent) are two specialty assets that could see an uptick in investment, considering the overall competitive environment of the industrial sector.
Data Centers Buy Big in Clean Energy
The cloud doesn’t power itself, and much of the energy used to operate data centers and other IT infrastructure came from renewable sources, according to research firm BloombergNEF. Amazon (4,824 megawatts in solar and 1,388 MW in wind), Microsoft (3,477 MW solar; 2,678 MW wind), and Meta (1,980 MW solar; 222 MW wind) led the way of the top corporate buyers of clean energy. Amazon had a total of 44 power purchase agreements in nine countries, making its consumption of clean energy the 12th largest in the world.
“The clean energy portfolios of big tech companies now rival those of the world’s biggest utilities,” says Helen Dewhurst, senior associate at BNEF. “Big tech faces mounting pressure from investors to decarbonize, and this is reflected in the steep increase in clean energy volumes purchased. The power purchase agreements inked in previous years pale in comparison to the portfolios announced in 2021.”