Commercial sector to become more valuable after COVID-19 – CBRE

Acquisition of expansive properties has fallen to the wayside, but commercial real estate is poised to become an even more desirable choice for investment after the coronavirus pandemic, according to CBRE.

This will be particularly apparent in Toronto, CBRE’s recently released “Q1 2020 Canadian Cap Rates & Investment Insights” document reported.

“With internal operational issues consuming 100% of many firms’ time, new investment decisions have become secondary for the time being,” CBRE said. “Term, covenant and existing financing have become increasingly important across asset classes. These factors will continue to enhance or eliminate liquidity for firms moving forward.

“With risk-free interest rates approaching zero, the real estate sector is poised to be an even more attractive investment option once the markets begin to normalize,” CBRE said.

The Canadian office market is ideally placed to exhibit some of the better performances this year.

“After a strong 2019, the office sector had built considerable momentum going into 2020 and was on track to see robust investment activity prior to the market shutdown brought on by COVID-19,” CBRE said. “Given the strength of office fundamentals entering the slowdown, it’s expected that the asset class will be on solid footing when the economy begins to re-open later in 2020.”

Industrial real estate will also prove resilient against the worst economic effects of the current crisis.

“It’s expected that the implementation of social distancing and quarantine measures should increase demand for ecommerce offerings over the remainder of 2020,” CBRE said. “The critical role of industrial assets in omnichannel and global supply chains is only forecast to increase and will ensure the sector remains well supported by strong fundamentals, especially on a relative basis.”

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by Ephraim Vecina
22 Apr 2020

CBRE predicts record $50 billion investment for commercial real estate this year

TORONTO – Canada could see a record-breaking $50-billion worth of investment in commercial real estate this year as economic tailwinds and immigration policies support the booming sector, according to a report by CBRE, but it says the strong economy is also creating challenges of affordability and supply.

The commercial real estate services firm said Tuesday that total investment would be about $5 billion higher than 2019 and about a billion dollars higher than the record set in 2018.

Growth comes even amid low vacancies in major markets as tech companies in particular continue to prize downtown locations. Other strong areas include investments in rental apartments as home affordability gets out of reach for many Canadians, and industrial growth driven by e-commerce demand for logistics centres.

“Canada has so many advantages, and so many underlying fundamentals that are positives over the long-term, that we certainly think that growth in the Canadian commercial real estate market is going to continue,” said CBRE Canada vice-chairman Paul Morassutti.

Those trends, along with strong population growth and stable banking and governance, would help steer the sector if a recession hits, said Morassutti.

“The wild card is a recession. My feeling is we’re very well positioned to weather a recession, and I think we’ll continue to flourish after that because of those attributes.”

Heightened interest in the market is also creating challenges, including rising rents and limited office and industrial space, while climate change is creating its own issues.

CBRE says prime office rents jumped 20.9 per cent in Vancouver between 2018 and 2019, 14.2 per cent in Montreal, and 10.1 per cent in Toronto, while national industrial rents rose by 12.3 per cent between the two years for the largest increase on record.

Rents still form a small portion of company budgets and don’t seem to be a major constraint on growth yet, said Morassutti. He noted that in the industrial sector, costs savings in transportation from better locations more than offset costs from higher rents.

Rental rates for apartments are also climbing in major centres as home ownership becomes more expensive, which has helped drive investment in the multifamily. The sector could see about $11.9 billion in investment this year, up from $8.3 billion in 2018, to see the most of any commercial sector, CBRE expects.

The upward trend in residential rental rates is however putting pressure on income inequality, said Morassutti.

“Partially because of that lack of home affordability, you have all these people becoming renters, so on the one hand that’s a good thing. On the other hand, it’s not great for society that our two major cities are becoming unaffordable, it’s not great for the income divide, which is already a large social issue.”

Along with affordability, CBRE says the lack of investment in transit infrastructure, and increasing pressures of climate change on the construction sector and land values are also structural issues of concern for the year ahead.

More immediately, the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak also loom as a big unknown, but could be short-lived if it is contained, said Richard Barkham, global chief economist at CBRE said in a statement.

“If the coronavirus outbreak is relatively contained sometime in March, impacts on the Canadian economy and most commercial real estate sectors will be noticeable in the near term but less substantive over the year.”

He noted that short-term impacts would largely hit the hotel and retail sectors. He said the global property market should be able to weather the effects of the virus as anticipated today, but that a clearer picture of the epidemic should materialize sometime in March.

 

The Canadian Press 

©2020 The Canadian Press

Dueling multifamily proposals offered for Montreal’s Canada Malting site

The fate of the long-defunct Canada Malting facility along the Lachine Canal in the Saint-Henri section of Montreal is the subject of rival proposals for multifamily housing, one from a real estate development firm seeking a traditional condominium complex and the second from an advocacy group proposing a community-based project.

The Canada Malting site was constructed in 1907 and ceased operations in 1989. Over the years, the site’s terracotta silos fell into disrepair and were covered with graffiti – with many cheeky spray-painted messages complaining about the harsh aroma permeating the wreckage. The site is currently owned by Quonta Holdings, an investment management firm, and is estimated to be worth between $5 million and $6 million.

The fate of the property began to gain a new degree of importance in when Renwick Development put forth a proposal in 2013 to construct a 700-unit condominium complex at the site. This generated a large degree of opposition from local residents, who believed a community-focused project would better serve the borough’s needs. The opponents to the condominium project gathered together into an advocacy group called À nous la Malting and sought to shift the conversation away from traditional multifamily housing.

Renwick Development has since scaled back its 700-unit proposal to a smaller project that incorporates social housing units. Noam Schnitzer, founder and developer at Renwick Development, told the McGill Daily that he envisioned creating “a total of 240 units, of which 80 will be social housing units, and the rest will be condominiums.”

However, the social housing units would be segregated in a separate building on the property, with the remaining available square footage devoted to commercial spaces and an artists’ workspace collaborative. Schnitzer added that under his plan, “the provision of the services would not depend upon government funding.”

Earlier this week, À nous la Malting unveiled renderings of its vision for the Canada Malting site. This proposal envisioned a collectively owned development consisting of 200 affordable rental units, plus spaces for public daycare, a community kitchen, a rooftop garden, a bicycle repair shop and a museum. In its presentation, À nous la Malting emphasized its championing of social housing for the neighbourhood and the need to create “a refuge for people being displaced by gentrification.”

“We want to show people that it is possible to develop our city differently,” said Shannon Franssen, a member of À nous la Malting, in a CBC interview. “We don’t need to make profit off people’s need for housing and for essential services.”

À nous la Malting stated that it worked on this proposal for the past few years, with financial backing from Centraide of Greater Montreal and the Sud-Ouest borough. The presentation included detailed architectural plans for transforming the current eyesore of a site into an aesthetic pleasing multifamily development.

Julie Bélanger, director of the office of Le Sud-Ouest borough mayor Benoît Dorais, told the McGill Daily that the Canada Malting site “is very complicated” and is burdened with “a ton of issues” including the need for extensive land decontamination. Bélanger acknowledged being eager to see how the financial aspects of À nous la Malting’s proposal would add up.

But what if neither the condominium option nor the community-focused proposal worked? Belanger admitted the borough needs new housing units – it has the lowest vacancy rate in Montreal – buy she did not envision the City of Montreal stepping in to buy the property and coordinate new housing construction.

“We don’t have the means to buy it, and it wouldn’t be responsible to do so,” she said.

 

by Phil Hall / 06 Mar 2020

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

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