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

 

Seven-building acquisition attests to Montreal’s rental strength

Late last week, Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring announced the acquisition of a Montreal portfolio comprised of seven apartment buildings with a total of 324 rental units.

Said properties are situated close to restaurants, shops, hospitals, grocery stores, two metro stations, the Université de Montréal, and hospitals like the Jewish General Hospital.

Greybrook Realty and Marlin Spring stated that they will also be in charge of renovating suites and improving the common areas across all the buildings.

“The close of this acquisition brings the total number of units within our value-add portfolio to 774. With asking rents currently below comparable products in the area, we believe an opportunity exists to improve both the product offering and revenue through execution of a value-add program,” Greybrook Realty executive director Jared Berlin said.

“With the success of our existing Montreal portfolio, supported by the City of Montreal’s strong rental market fundamentals, we believe these assets are a natural fit in our growing Quebec Multi-family Portfolio” Marlin Spring CFO Elliot Kazarnovsky added.

In recent years, strong population growth – especially immigration – has spurred sustained growth in Montreal’s rental housing market.

Figures from IPA’s Midyear Canadian Multifamily Investment Forecast Report indicated that by the end of June 2019, the city’s average rent increased 4.1% year-over-year, up to $797 per month. Average prices grew by 6% year-over-year, up to $154,400 per unit.

 

by Ephraim Vecina | 23 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

Fed announces interest rate decision

The Federal Reserve reduced interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis and hinted it may cut again this year to insulate the record-long U.S. economic expansion from slowing global growth.

Central bankers voted, with two officials dissenting, to lower the target range for the benchmark rate by a quarter-percentage point to 2%-2.25%. The shift was predicted by most investors and economists, yet will disappoint President Donald Trump, who tweeted on Tuesday he wanted a “large cut.’’

“In light of the implications of global developments for the economic outlook as well as muted inflation pressures, the committee decided to lower’’ rates, the Federal Open Market Committee, led by Jerome Powell, said in a statement following a two-day meeting in Washington. It also noted that “uncertainties” about the economic outlook remain.

Officials also stopped shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet effective Aug. 1, ending a process that very modestly tightens monetary policy and was previously scheduled to come to a close at the end of September.

Policy makers appeared open to another cut as early as September when they next convene while sticking with wording in their statement that preserves their options.

“As the committee contemplates the future path of the target range for the federal funds rate, it will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” they said.

Kansas City Fed President Esther George and Boston’s Eric Rosengren voted against the cut. The statement said they “preferred at this meeting to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate.” It was the first time since Powell took over as chairman in February 2018 that two policy makers dissented.

Investors had forecast the Fed to continue easing monetary policy this year, with futures pricing the key rate to fall about another half-point by January. U.S. stocks rose to a record last week in anticipation of easier money, while the yield on two-year Treasuries has undershot 2% since May.

While the domestic economy has performed relatively well, the Fed cut amid concern that softness abroad threatens the decade- long U.S. expansion. Trump’s trade war with China is hurting foreign demand. Data released earlier Wednesday showed the pace of quarter-over-quarter growth in the euro area slowed by half in the latest three months to 0.2%.

In the U.S., after growing 2.5% last year, fuelled by now-fading tax cuts and higher government spending, the economy expanded at a 2.1% annualized pace in the second quarter. The trade dispute was blamed for a manufacturing slowdown and the first drop in business investment since 2016.

In their assessment of the US economy, officials made only minor changes to their statement language.

Powell has repeatedly said the Fed’s “overarching goal’’ is to keep growth going. Acting now, when the central bank has less room to pare rates than in past downturns, is partly aimed at getting ahead of any potential slump.

Lacklustre inflation also offered the Fed space and reason to ease. Its preferred price gauge, excluding food and energy, rose 1.6% in June from a year earlier and hasn’t met the Fed’s 2% target this year.

Trump is unlikely to be satisfied as he puts the economy at the heart of his re-election bid. He has broken with convention and undermined the Fed’s political independence by lobbying it to loosen policy and publicly questioning his nomination of Powell as chairman.

At his press conference, Powell will almost certainly be asked if the Fed buckled to that pressure. He may also be quizzed on whether the Fed, if requested, would join the U.S. Treasury in any effort to weaken the dollar given Trump’s complaints about the currency’s value.

Limited Scope

While Trump and some investors wanted the Fed to be more aggressive, its scope for doing so is limited. Stocks are high, unemployment is around the lowest in a half-century and consumers continue to spend. At the same time, a measure of business in the Chicago region fell this month to the lowest since late 2015.

The rate reduction was the first since December 2008 when the Fed dropped its benchmark effectively to zero as it battled recession and financial crisis. It began raising borrowing costs in December 2015, doing so another eight times. Officials indicated as recently as December they intended to continue to hike this year.

They dumped that plan in January as financial markets fretted monetary policy had become too restrictive.

Fellow central banks are set to follow the Fed. Those in IndiaSouth Africa and Australia are among those to have cut this year. The European Central Bank has indicated it will do so in September.

A worry for policy makers is that a decade of easy money leaves them short of ammunition for fighting a serious downturn. That likely means governments will face demands to do more if economies keep struggling.

 

Copyright Bloomberg News

by Bloomberg 31 Jul 2019

Debt & Structured Finance | Canada Research

Curve inversion draws CRE capital

Increasing evidence of a global economic slowdown in recent weeks has elevated the risk profile for Canada’s economy. Globally, Brexit negotiations are still gridlocked, the Eurozone economy falters and U.S.-China trade negotiations drag on. Domestically, household debt-to-income levels are the highest they have ever been, retail sales are slowing, oil sands producers are reevaluating projects due to pipeline delays and the likelihood for ratification of the CUSMA trade deal wanes as tariffs remain. These developments have sparked concern that a technical recession may emerge in Canada given weak expectation for Q1 2019 growth and a potential downward revision to Q4 2018’s already meager results.

Amid these growing headwinds, the Federal Reserve eliminated their expectations for an interest rate hike this year. The Fed acknowledged the need to avoid getting stuck in a deflationary environment like that which has plagued Japan for the last two decades. In turn, this dovish shift in tone triggered an inversion on another segment of the U.S. yield curve as investors sought the safety of bonds. Widely considered a reliable harbinger of a downturn within a few years, the spread between 10-year Treasury bond yields fell below its 3-month counterpart for the first time since just prior the Great Financial Crisis. The inversion also emerged in Canada and pulled down global bond yields. In fact, investors are even pricing in expectations for central banks to cut interest rates by the end of 2019 to keep the economy going. For the commercial real estate market, falling bond yields may translate to lower mortgage rates with wider cap rate spreads. The precipitous fall in bond yields has some lenders contemplating next steps.

Against this backdrop, commercial real estate has become an increasingly attractive investment vehicle. According to CBRE’s Global Investor Intentions Survey 2019, diversification is the primary driver for investors in the Americas showed the strongest interest for value-add property assets. However, the commercial real estate sector has attracted an abundance of capital over recent years and real estate funds are now challenged to deploy all that capital as the levels of dry power continue to rise. But even more capital is expected to come with the recent formation of several mega-sized real estate funds such as BCI and RBC’s CA $7 billion investment partnership, Brookfield’s recent closing of its US$15 billion BSREP III fund and Blackstone’s record-setting US$20 billion property fund on the horizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Commercial Mortgage Commentary – Customer Forward Thinking.

Making News

Economy

2018 started with confidence from the Bank of Canada’s (“BOC”) economic outlook for the year. However, the GDP growth forecast gradually declined as oil prices dropped and as tensions grew in international trade markets. As a result, we saw a reversal in the increasing trend of Government of Canada (“GOC”) bond yields at the end of 2018. 2019 begins with some uncertainty around the growth in the Canadian economy, the direction of GOC yields, and whether further increases in the overnight rate will occur in 2019..


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GOC Yields

GOC bond yields ended generally flat in 2018 – the 3-year GOC
increased by 11 bps, 5-year increased by 1 bps, and the 10-year
GOC yield decreased by 9 bps.

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Overnight Rate

There were three rate hikes in 2018 for the Bank of Canada (“BOC”) overnight target rate, which brought the rate to 1.75%, the
highest since Q4/08, but the Bank of Canada held the overnight
rate constant for their last two meetings.


Commercial Mortgage

Capital supply and competition for commercial mortgages remained strong throughout 2018 as spreads continued to absorb the increases in the GOC yields, holding commercial mortgage coupons relatively steady. During Q4/18, GOC bond yields fell in response to the deteriorating outlook from the BOC, reversing the upward trend in 2018. Corporate bond markets reacted as investors demanded higher spreads – roughly 50 bps higher for BBB-rated corporate bonds in Q4/18 alone.

Commercial mortgage spreads became a hot topic towards the end of Q4, as brokers and investors alike were looking for signs of change in the market. Commercial mortgage spreads eventually reacted with an increase in December by 10-15 bps, ending the 

year at 150-170 bps for top quality assets. The average 5-year conventional commercial mortgage coupon ended 2018 roughly flat at 3.60%. January 2019 has quickly seen another 15 bps increase in spreads, now in the range of 165-185 bps for top quality assets.

BBB-rated corporate bond investments tend to compete for the same capital as commercial mortgages, since BBB-rated corporate bonds provide a similar return on risk. As firms look to make portfolio investment decisions, the spread premium for commercial mortgages over BBB-rated corporate bonds can be an indication of where capital supply may shift or how commercial mortgage spreads may respond to changes in BBB-rated corporate spreads.

Recent increases in BBB-rated corporate bond spreads improved the relative attractiveness of this investment against commercial mortgages. The spread premium for commercial mortgages dropped from 85 to 25 bps year over year – significantly lower relative to the 67 bps long term average. Consequently, commercial mortgage funds may 

require higher spreads to compete for capital against their BBB-rated corporate bond counterparts.

Based on the low spread premium for commercial mortgages compared to the long-term average, a further widening in commercial mortgage spreads is possible.


Senior Unsecured Debt

In Q4/18, senior unsecured debt issuance reached $1 billion,up from $375 million in Q3/18. Total issuance for the year was driven largely by the nearly $2 billion raised by Choice Properties REIT in Q1/18. 

Overall spreads on BBB-rated senior unsecured debt rose sharply from 145 bps at the end of Q3/18 to 194 bps by the end of Q4/18. With the increase, spreads surpassed those of conventional commercial mortgages. With the current premium for unsecured debt, REITs and REOCs may consider more conventional mortgage financing.


CMHC

CMHC-insured mortgages offer an attractive return for lenders looking to earn additional yield, while maintaining an indirect

guarantee from the Government of Canada. As most insured mortgages are originated with the purpose of securitization into the National Housing Act (“NHA”) Mortgage-Backed Security program run by CMHC, lenders tend to quote spreads based on Canada Mortgage Bond (“CMB”) spreads. Given this, it is no surprise with the increases in CMB spreads seen in Q4/18, that CMHC-insured spreads also increased.

Through Q4/18, the 5-year and 10-year CMB spreads increased from 29 bps to 42 bps and from 38 bps to 55 bps, respectively. Spreads on CMHC-insured mortgages followed suit with a 10 – 15 bps increase to 90 – 115 bps over GOC on 5-year terms and 100 – 125 bps on 10-year terms.


Quarterly Lenders Sentiment Survey and
Annual Commercial Mortgage Survey

The CMLS Mortgage Analytics Group conducts market surveys to enhance market knowledge and transparency on areas such as size, segment analysis, and trends in the Canadian commercial mortgage market. Since inception in 2010, the surveys have grown to cover over 90% of the commercial mortgage market.

 

February 2019