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

BC commercial activity remained stable in the third quarter

Provincial economic conditions in British Columbia continued to slow in the third quarter of 2019 with weakness in some sectors.

But the overall picture for commercial real estate was stable despite a slight drop in the Commercial Leading Indicator (CLI) from the British Columbia Real Estate Association.

The index slipped to 135.3, the same level it was at in the third quarter of 2018.

Retail and manufacturing stats declined in the third quarter, with lower sales for petroleum and coal, and lower retail sales at gasoline stations and auto dealers. But there were gains for wholesale trade, especially machinery and equipment. However, the overall economic element of the CLI remained negative for the fifth consecutive quarter.

The employment element was positive as office employment gained for a fifth straight quarter – to an all-time high – while manufacturing employment weakened. Employment growth in key commercial real estate sectors such as finance, insurance, real estate and leasing continues to be strong, up by 7,600 jobs in the third quarter. Manufacturing lost 4,200 jobs.

The financial element of the CLI was also positive, for the third straight quarter, due to an increase in benchmark Canadian REIT prices, which more than offset the expansion of short term credit spreads.

The overall CLI has been relatively stable across the past five quarters.

 

by Steve Randall  |  05 Dec 2019

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

Why use Mortgage alliance Commercial

Top 5 Reasons to Use Mortgage Alliance Commercial Canada (MACC)

 

  1. MACC is Licensed across Canada with offices in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and BC
  2. MACC has maintained privileged relationships with all major lenders across the country to allow our clients to access better terms and conditions for their financing needs
  3. MACC simplifies and manage the entire process of any lending transaction from pre-screening requirements and options; completing loan underwriting and lender negotiations, through to the disbursement requirements, to ensure successful completion and funding.
  4. MACC is an approved CMHC correspondent and experienced in preparing and presenting applications directly to CMHC for underwriting and approval. This provides access to preferred rates and terms, and higher loan to value ratios. This includes multi-unit rentals, mixed-use, purchases and refinances. We pre-screen deals to determine potential loan amount available based on property information provided such as rent roll, and statement of income and expenses.
  5. MACC has over 20 years’ experience in the commercial broker industry and a significant track record in deal success covering all commercial industries. We are well-positioned to guide clients through the most complex transactions and obtain the best options in the market. See our website for just a few of the projects completed.  http://macommercial.ca/projects/

 

 

 

Marion Cook  | November 2018

Get more news by following us on

     

$70.8 million affordable housing investment for Ottawa

Middle-class families in Ottawa will benefit from 243 new rental units being built in the city with an investment from the federal government.

Two projects will be financed through the CMHC’s Rental Construction Financing initiative including $70.8 million for the construction of a twenty-seven storey building with 227 rental housing units. More than 200 will have rents lower than 30% of median household income in the area.

“The project represents a major step forward in sustainable design with ambitious design targets to reduce energy consumption by 50% and reduce carbon emissions by over 75% with an integrated geothermal system for the project,” said Neil Malhotra, Vice President, Claridge Homes who will build the 70 Gloucester development.

The other will be $3.9 million for a passive housing Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation project on Arlington Avenue. It will feature 16 rental housing units with rents well below 30% of median household income in the area.

“Through the National Housing Strategy, more middle class Canadians – and those working hard to join it – will find safe, accessible and affordable homes where their families can thrive and have the stability and opportunities they need to succeed. Our Government is committed to increasing the supply of rental units for Canadians through projects like the ones we are announcing today,” added Jean-Yves Duclos, the Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

 

by Steve Randall  Ι  24 Sep 2018

Commercial Mortgages: “How to See the Deal”

When I first started working with Commercial Mortgages about 10 years ago, I had a hard time wrapping my head around what went into putting one of these deals together. Each deal is truly unique and I soon found can have many moving parts. In order to get a better understanding of what I was doing, I needed to put in place a process, or standardized approach that I could follow on all my deals. After a while, I found what works for me and wanted to share this approach. I found that there are several key factors that contribute to a typical deal and how addressing these factors can help you to “See the Deal”.

Since most, if not all commercial mortgages are paper-based and there really isn’t a web-based system like filogix that you can use to enter information into in order to produce a clear picture, the story or summary that is prepared for a commercial deal is very important. This summary gives me a good overview and allows me to “See the Deal” so that when I’m speaking to a prospective lender, colleague or drafting a quick email, I can highlight the critical points fairly quickly and concisely.

One way to “See the Deal” is to use the 3-legged stool or a 3-point triangle like the one at the beginning of this article. Basically, the main points or factors that I work with and focus on in my approach are:

1)     The Covenant

2)     The Income

3)     The Real Estate

The idea is to analyze each point and gather the necessary details for each in order to determine whether that point is weak or strong. What documentation do you need to assess each point? Also, what or where are the risks associated with each point and if necessary how can these risks be mitigated? How can you best sum up each point?

When looking at the ‘Covenant’, consider this;

  • What is the Borrower’s net worth? With commercial mortgage financing, the Borrower’s income is not that important since we don’t rely on their income to pay the mortgage – the property’s rent does. The Borrower’s net worth is more important.
  • Is the Borrower’s net worth all comprised of real estate or is it well diversified? How much in liquid assets do they have?
  • If they needed to inject funds into the property for emergency repairs (ie. Roof or HVAC  system needs a replacement immediately) or they need to cover the mortgage payment from their own resources due to unexpected or chronic vacancy, would they have the funds available?
  • How’s their personal credit? Are their taxes current? Do they have any other sources of income?
  • Etc

When looking at the ‘Income, we typically consider what determines and what can affect the property’s rent and this can include;

  • Cash flow. What does this look like? How much rent does the property generate? What is the likelihood that it will continue?
  • Net Operating Income (NOI), which is Income minus Expenses. The NOI is important since we use the NOI to calculate the two critical ratios used in commercial lending – the Loan To Value (LTV) and the Debt Coverage Ratio (DCR)
  • What are the leases like? Short term, long term? Do the tenants pay for any expenses such as taxes, utilities, insurance or maintenance? Ie. Are the leases Gross, Semi-Gross or Triple Net?
  • Do all the leases come due at the same time, in the same year or are they staggered over several years (this is known as Rollover Risk)?
  • Are the rents belowat or above market rents? How do they compare to similar properties? Are there yearly increases (step-ups)?
  • What type of tenants are they? Weak or strong? For example, Tim Horton’s is a great tenant; stand-alone restaurants, not so great. What’s the history of the tenancy?
  • What is the vacancy like and how has it been historically?
  • Does the client have a properly prepared Rent Roll?
  • Etc

Finally, when looking at the ‘Real Estate’ (which IS the lender’s main security) some of the points to consider are:

  • What type of property is it? Conventional, unconventional or special use? Can it be easily converted for other uses?
  • Where is it located? Is it urban or rural? Is it located in an area with other similar properties? Or does it stand out?
  • What is the property worth? How does the value compare to similar properties? Do we have an appraisal?
  • What is the property’s condition? Are there any major repairs or upgrades that are needed in the short or medium term?
  • How old is the property? Is the property too old to repair? Do we have a Building Condition Report (BCA)? Will we need one?
  • Are there any sources of environmental impact on or near the property? What is located acrossnext to or upgrade to the property? Do we have an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)? Will we need one?
  • Etc

I’ve ended each section with Etc because by no means did I include all of the possible things to consider or questions to ask.

By being able to “See the Deal” a commercial broker will be able to discuss the file clearly. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses. Discuss the risk factors and what can be done to mitigate those factors. This will also help in gathering the necessary documentation and identify what will be required in order to proceed, quickly and efficiently.

The benefits to developing an approach similar to this are many. This allows for a more streamlined and standardized process which will also make a broker’s life easier when putting the deal together and making the process as painless as possible for the client.

It also instills confidence in the lenders you will be marketing the deal to since it shows some thought and insight into your underwriting. Also, one factor I know is critical with most lenders, is to have some conviction and to believe in the deal; when submitting a file for review I find that really standing behind the deal, “…I recommend the deal based on…..” and list your thoughts goes along way versus saying, “….I have a deal….what do you think……?”. “Seeing the Deal”, makes it easier to stand behind the deal and express why. This will only strengthen your relationship with your lenders.

In the end, this will result in a quicker turn around and the ability to get a better deal for your client.

 

Ermanno Tasciotti  | January 2018