Former niche CRE investment is now big business

Commercial real estate is frequently influenced by changes in the wider business world and one big change is driving interest in a formerly niche asset class.

Data centres are now a cornerstone of business and $100 billion has flowed into the asset class in the last decade according to a new report from Cushman & Wakefield.

These centres include those operated by the technology behemoths who dominate in the cloud platforms, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. These three companies have impacted data centre sizing tenfold. The 10-megawatt (MW) data center that was impressive 10 years ago now pales in comparison to 30-MW leases now signed with increasing regularity.

“The speed with which the industry is shifting makes the creation of a data center strategy a complex and daunting task,” said Dave Fanning, Executive Managing Director and Leader or Cushman & Wakefield’s Data Center Advisory Group. “Investors must be able to assess the long-term potential of a data centre to hold its value and how easily it can be upgraded. All involved require access to capital and a clear understanding of objectives.”

Vancouver challenging the leaders
Ten cities maintain their statuses among the top 10 for data centres – Northern Virginia, Silicon Valley, Dallas, Chicago, New York/New Jersey, Singapore, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Seattle and London – but Vancouver is one of those named by the firm as a contender.

“The top markets provide the greatest number of options to the greatest number of perspectives,” said Kevin Imboden, Director of Research for Cushman & Wakefield’s Data Center Advisory Group. “While one size sometimes does fit all, for certain specializations it’s important to review and understand the factors most important to the specific requirement and aim accordingly. Combined with those markets that have been overlooked and underutilized, there is great potential for niche development and secondary markets across the globe.”

 

by Steve Randall on January 30 Jan 2020

The Top 5 Commercial Real Estate Trends of 2019 – CBRE

It’s safe to say that 2019 marked the end of an unprecedented decade for Canadian commercial real estate.

Backed by strong fundamentals, transaction volumes reached a 15-year high of $49.3 billion in 2018, as cap rates compressed to 10-year lows.

While most property types have performed well, industrial has exceeded all expectations, as e-commerce demand continues to grow.

Office construction continues at a record pace, while a rapidly growing population has boosted demand for rental space and multifamily investment returns.

Want to know more? We’ve rounded up the top 5 commercial real estate trends of 2019 to put things in perspective.

1. THE POWER OF LAST-MILE DELIVERY

Canadians can’t get enough of e-commerce, which has seen double-digit growth in recent years. The result? A drastic shift in supply chains and the industrial real estate market.

Companies looking to deliver “last-mile” goods to major metros require distribution facilities in close proximity to downtown cores.

That poses a problem in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, where there is a lack of available industrial space, and what property is available is commanding historically high rents.

Some developers have turned to the concept of multi-storey buildings, first pioneered by cities like Tokyo, to meet demand.

How limited is the supply of industrial space? The national availability rate dropped below 3.0% for the first time on record in the third quarter, with historic market fundamentals in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

And while development activity is ramping up, with an astonishing 28.0 million sq. ft. in the national pipeline, it’s still not enough. Projects under construction account for just 1.5% of existing inventory.

As tenants struggle to find the space they need, investors have recorded strong returns. The sector saw investment volumes total $3.1 billion in the third quarter of 2019 alone, which would be even higher if more owners were selling.

2. APARTMENT RENTAL DEMAND HITS NEW HIGH

Millennials represent 27.0% of the Canadian population and are forming new households at a record rate. But with home ownership costs outpacing income levels, many are opting to rent not own.

That’s good news for multifamily investors. With apartment buildings at or near capacity across the country, rent growth continues to accelerate.

Average rents for purpose-built rental units have grown by 4.4% for the last two years at the national level. That number jumps to 5.0% and 7.1% in Toronto and Vancouver, respectively.

Strong fundamentals – including a growing population, rising home ownership costs and a lack of rental supply – mean this trend is here to stay for 2020 and beyond.

The Top 5 Commercial Real Estate Trends of 2019

3. RECORD-LOW OFFICE VACANCY RATES

Strong job growth has propelled the Canadian economy in recent years, with a whopping 81,000 net new jobs in August alone.

In the 12 months prior, Canada added 471,000 net new jobs, compressing the unemployment rate by 30 basis points to just 5.7%.

These numbers are the backdrop for unprecedented demand for office space and historically tight office markets.

In 2019, Toronto and Vancouver continued their reign as the tightest downtown office markets in North America, with vacancy rates of just 2.3% and 2.4%, respectively.

Tenants are having to be creative with their space as they look to grow and expand, while owners are setting the terms of the leases in a landlord’s market.

As Toronto continues to attract record levels of talent, it seems unlikely that these conditions will change anytime soon.

4. “EXPERIENCES” NOT THINGS

While retail didn’t have the buzziest headlines in 2019, there is reason for optimism – and even excitement – in some areas of the sector.

Lifestyle and entertainment centres have been drawing investor attention, as owners and occupiers continue to reinvent and reimagine traditional spaces with “experiences” in mind.

From food halls to boutique fitness, consumers are drawn to stores that offer experiences they can’t find online.

Many online retailers have opened brick-and-mortar locations in the last year, a sign that shoppers are looking for a mix of in-person and online shopping.

Meanwhile, owners are continuing to combine their retail properties with other asset types from coworking spaces to community services.

5. MARKETS SHAPED BY TECH

Canada is attracting waves of tech talent, as global and domestic companies tap into the country’s tech ecosystem.

The result is record commercial and residential real estate demand and an office construction boom in several markets.

The tech industry has accounted for 17.1% of major-office leasing activity since the start of 2018, and there is 2.8 million sq. ft. of new build pre-leasing by tech firms in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

The boom is putting pressure on already tight Toronto and Vancouver markets and will likely keep office vacancy rates in both cities low in the coming year.

Also benefitting are smaller cities that offer a lower cost of living and operating. Victoria, Hamilton, Oshawa, and Guelph are making major strides in growing their tech sectors and smaller markets are expected to continue to grow in 2020.

 

by CBRE, January 2020

Canadian CRE set to perform well overall in 2020

This year should be a good one for Canada’s commercial real estate sector with overall strong performance.

The 2020 Commercial Real Estate Sentiment Survey from Devencore and Transwestern Commercial Services surveyed brokers and analysts across 43 North American offices to gain insights for the Canadian and US markets in 2020.

South of the border, there is some concern regarding political outcomes, especially the presidential election; but overall expectation is positive driven by the e-commerce industry’s demand for industrial space.

There is also expectation that medical offices will help the office sector in the US to outperform the market.

Meanwhile, offices are expected to perform well in Canada with just over half of respondents predict leasing velocity and tenant prospects will pick up during 2020, with 86% expecting stronger rent growth over the year, especially in industries such as tech and the service sector.

“Similar to the U.S., Canadian commercial real estate markets also are expected to perform well in 2020, with mild concerns stemming from political and trade impacts as well as rising construction costs,” said Jean Laurin, President and CEO of Devencore. “Our economy is healthy and job growth is steady. With the exception of certain regions, major Canadian provinces like Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec all show robust conditions.”

For the industrial sector, Quebec and Ontario residents are renewing amid tight availability, while those in Alberta have more choice and are choosing quality. However, 64% of respondents expect overall industrial asking rents to rise due to limited availability in select markets.

Land costs are also expected to rise as the availability of prime sites continues to decrease. In this environment, the attraction for industrial investment by the capital markets remains high.

 

by Steve Randall  13 Jan 2020

CBRE: Lenders are feeling optimistic ahead of 2020

A survey of lenders has revealed strong sentiment for commercial real estate lending as the new year approaches.

CBRE’s Canadian Real Estate Lenders’ Report found that most respondents plan to maintain or increase allocations to real estate lending in 2020.

The past three years has seen near-record investment in Canadian CRE and this is boosting confidence among lenders. The survey included both Canadian and international lenders.

Gateway markets are particularly attractive for lenders with most keen to support transactions in markets such as Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Montreal.

Ottawa gained favour to be the second most-desirable market behind Toronto but Hamilton saw the largest gain, rising 4 points to ninth place. There is also strong interest in London, ON, and Quebec City.

While Alberta’s CRE market has been exposed to the energy sector’s woes, lenders are still interested in lending in Calgary or Edmonton. However, lender activity remains deal-dependent or relationship-specific.

“For lenders looking for stable returns on investment, Canadian real estate stands out amid global uncertainty and persistently low bond yields,” said Carmin Di Fiore, Executive Vice President, Debt & Structured Finance, CBRE Canada. “Lenders remain confident about commercial real estate and are looking to deploy capital into the sector. However, lenders are also cognizant of global risks and some will be slightly more selective with their capital in 2020.”

Recession risk?
Most lenders are not predicting a recession in 2020. But bond yields and yield curve inversion will be closely monitored.

Those lenders directing additional capital to the real estate sector will direct 10-20% net new capital next year. For the few lenders looking to decrease their real estate exposures, it is mostly isolated to retail or land asset classes, where 26.1% and 15.2% of respondents respectively signaled an intention to decrease exposure.

Retail continues to trigger caution among lenders with four of the top 5 asset classes that cause concern for lenders occupied by select retail formats: regional secondary markets, power centres, value-add and entertainment and food services. The exception to this is grocery-anchored properties, in which lenders remain confident.

 

by Steve Randall  |  05 Dec 2019

Canadian commercial investment should begin looking further

Would-be investors in Canadian commercial real estate should begin considering markets beyond the usual hotspots of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver if recent trends south of the border are any indication.

The tech industry’s sustained hunger for Canadian offices is gradually depleting available urban office space. The examples set by some U.S. cities might provide a good answer to this quandary, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

“Something like a Charlotte, or a Kansas City, or an Austin,” CompTIA senior vice-president of research and market intelligence Tim Herbert told Postmedia in an interview.

“These cities [are] more affordable, [and] in some cases you can make an argument that there is a better quality of life.”

In its Cyberprovinces 2019 study, CompTIA noted that smaller cities can become more feasible investment options in the very near future. Last year alone, Canadian tech employment expanded by 61,000 new jobs, amounting to a 3.8% annual increase.

Overall, the tech workforce grew by as much as 249,000 new employees since 2010.

Herbert added that demand for Canada’s office spaces is “not just limited to technology companies, who are starting to take office space or build new headquarters, but a range of different company types are attracting tech talent.”

Data from Avison Young showed that the Canadian office market has seen the positive absorption of 9 million square feet (MSF) in the year ending June 30, 2019. This has massively outstripped the nearly 6 MSF absorption during the immediately preceding 12-month period.

The sustained popularity of the industry and the resulting demand upon Canada’s commercial real estate is impelled by the strength of its long-term employment prospects. In 2018, tech earnings clocked in an average of $78,070 – fully 51% higher than the average reading of $51,794 in the private sector.

Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage.

 

 

by Ephraim Vecina | 24 Oct 2019

Why CRE investors should consider niche assets

Investors in commercial real estate should consider more than the mainstream asset classes and go niche.

That’s the takeaway from a new report from global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield that highlights the benefits of investing in niche assets.

These assets include cold storage, data centers, medical offices, student housing, and senior housing.

The report says that transactions in niche assets have exploded in recent years and are now similar to retail and industrial. And changes in how we live and the aging population is set to drive volumes higher.

Niche assets have also outperformed the overall CRE benchmark in the two most recent recessions, suggesting that this could provide defensive exposure in future downturns.

Investors also gain exposure to secular drivers such as changes in demographics, affordable housing challenges, technology, and consumer behavior.

Complex operations
The report notes that institutional activity in niche assets could have room to expand from its current uneven pattern, which would “support pricing and liquidity in a virtuous cycle.”

However, it’s suggested that investors might be better buying an experienced operator in a niche or partnering with one, as niche asset strategies are “often operationally complex.”

By Steve Randall | last updated on the 22 Oct 2019

CMHC FINANCING

Toronto needs to double rental supply to meet future demand

A new report from RBC Economics focuses on the rental housing deficit which is set to intensify in the coming years, especially in Toronto and Vancouver.

The report says that supply of new rental homes will need to pick up pace to meet future demand; in Toronto the pace must double. In the meantime, lack of supply is leading to “uncomfortable highs” for rents – which means those hoping to save up to buy a home are squeezed even further while high home prices have “crushed some homeownership dreams.”

RBC says that big cities must increase rental supply to have any hope of tackling affordability issues.

It notes that there are some positive signs in some cities, such as Montreal and Vancouver where has new waves of supply underway; and in Calgary where there are elevated rental vacancies.

But in Toronto, the report says supply will not come close to demand in the coming years and calls for specific targets and incentives to address the issue.

Deficit needs action
RBC Economics’ estimates of the supply needed to balance out supply and demand in the major markets as of late 2018 are: a deficit of 9,100 rental units in Toronto, Montreal had a 6,800-unit deficit and Vancouver 3,800 units.  Calgary carried a small surplus of 300 units.

This will be exacerbated by the estimated increase in renter-households of 22,000 in Toronto and 9,400 in Vancouver over the medium term, with Montreal averaging 8,200 per year on average.

The report estimates that Toronto will need 28,600 new rental units on average over a two year timeframe with 11,600 in Montreal, 11,300 in Vancouver and 4,150 in Calgary.

Are you looking to invest in property? If you like, we can get one of our mortgage experts to tell you exactly how much you can afford to borrow, which is the best mortgage for you or how much they could save you right now if you have an existing mortgage.

By Steve Randall |  last updated on the 26 Sep 2019

 

Frenzied commercial development marks next phase for emergent metropolis

Montreal’s residential real estate market has grabbed all the headlines in recent years, but the city’s commercial sector is beginning to burgeon and it, too, will get its due.

Toronto-based Michel Durand, President and CEO of Multi-PretsMortgage Alliance Commercial, says that Toronto and Vancouver cast a pall on Montreal, but as those cities have begun topping out, the Quebecois metropolis is attracting international attention.

“The Montreal market is finally seeing its share of the Asian influence, which we saw in Vancouver about 10 years ago and then it moved to Toronto when things got overcrowded and overpriced. Now we’re seeing a lot of development money moving into Montreal, which we’ve witnessed over the last three years and which, I think, is a trend that’s going to stick for at least the next five years,” said Durand.

Of course, in Montreal, it began with an explosion of interest in residential, and with its success has come the next, if more lucrative, phase of the city’s real estate development.

“Residential is a catalyst for commercial development,” continued Durand. “Once investors and developers get a  taste of how easy it is on the residential side—we’ve seen a lot of condos and towers go up from Asian investors—which is where they start, then they go into commercial development, like office buildings and new retail plazas, by partnering with local players.”

Likely contributing to Asian interest in Montreal is the city finally has direct flights to Mainland China, added Durand.

“Flights would go China-Vancouver and China-Toronto, and that’s where the money stayed,” he said, “but a few years ago flights started going to Montreal directly and we immediately saw the effects on the commercial real estate side, which also includes residential—transactions that are completely investments.”

In tandem with an institutional partner, Kevric Real Estate Corporation recently announced its purchase of a major downtown Montreal office tower located at 600 de la Gauchetière West, for which it has big plans. The purchase is also the latest sign that downtown Montreal’s commercial real estate sector is getting a boost the likes of which it hasn’t seen since a bygone epoch in the city’s history when, as Canada’s largest city, it was the country’s economic engine.

In addition to updating 600 de la Gauchetière W.’s architecture and building a new lobby facing Square Victoria, it will try to attract companies from Montreal’s up-and-coming industries, including technology, knowledge, and media.

“This important acquisition allows Kevric to expand its offering of commercial real estate spaces for organizations which aim to distinguish themselves and will ensure the company’s growth in Montreal for years ahead,” said Richard Hylands, Kevric’s president. “Kevric is proud to continue fueling the evolution of downtown Montreal into a world-class Canadian city.”

Published on MortgageBrokerNews.ca

by Neil Sharma
31 July 2019

Lesser known available CMHC options for Apartment Building Owners

CMHC stands for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is a crown corporation of the government of Canada. Although apartment owners are usually familiar with the benefits of CMHC loan insurance and CMHC loan terms, there are many other CMHC financing options that are not well known and may be beneficial to apartment owners.
CMHC and Commercial Property
CMHC does not directly insure loans for commercial property such as office building or retail centers. However, CMHC does permit up to 30% of a multi-residential property to be used for commercial uses such as a gift shop, office space, etc. If the area of the commercial space is less than 30% of gross floor area or lesser than 30% of the total lending value, then the revenue generated from that commercial space can be included into the total revenue of the property. However, if the commercial space is greater than 30% of the total property area, then the income cannot be added to the total revenue of the property.
CMHC Top-up
Apartment owners may want to increase their loan amount at a minimal cost. The CMHC permits existing CMHC insured loans to be refinanced up to a 65% loan to property value ratio with a premium of 1.75% that is paid only on the new money.
CMHC Mortgage Financing
CMHC will insure second mortgages until the term renewal of the existing first mortgage, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a CMHC insured loan. Then, at term renewal, the two mortgages are combined into one new CMHC. This is beneficial in a rising interest rate environment because a CMHC insured the second mortgage provides a way to increase the loan amount during an existing loan term rather than waiting for the maturity of the first mortgage.
CMHC also insures loans for capital improvements to a maximum of 85% of property value.
CMHC also permits floating rate term loans for terms of at least 5 years. These situations would be beneficial when rates are decreasing or early repayment is anticipated.
Overall, many CMHC financing options are overlooked and not understood very well by apartment investors, so it is important to learn all of the different options available and see which ones can be beneficial.
By: Daniela Peeva |  June 2019