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Skyscraper Buildings Made From Dollar Banknotes

Tony Arellano and Devlin Marinoff are co-founders and managing partners of Miami-based DWNTWN Realty Advisors.

The firm focuses on urban core transactions ranging from $3 million to over $20 million. GlobeSt.com caught up with them to discuss the long-awaited arrival of distressed assets on the market.

GlobeSt.com: When can we expect to see a high volume of completed distressed real estate transactions, and what opportunities are you already seeing?

Devlin Marinoff: Everyone in the industry knows what is on the verge of happening. We are starting to see the initial wave of bankruptcy and foreclosure filings, and this will accelerate quickly once the forbearance periods burns off during the fourth quarter. In Miami Beach alone, I anticipate at least 50% of the hotels there filing for bankruptcy in the coming months. We are already seeing notes on hotel properties in Miami Beach go on the market, and that’s before lenders start discounting notes to levels where investors will get interested. There have been some studies showing that up to 50% of retailers may not make it through this. This isn’t just local, statewide or national – this is global. The worldwide economy is going to be much smaller when we exit this pandemic. We will see many hotel, retail and even multifamily distressed opportunities in the fourth quarter and early 2021.

Tony Arellano: As with the broader market, the state of distressed real estate depends on the product type and neighborhood. It also comes down to the type of loan, whether it is CMBS, a conventional loan from a bank or private lender financing. Those factors will determine the urgency for a lender to get assets of their books, the appetite for acquisition and what makes for a truly enticing opportunity. Certain deals that are discounted by 20% will create a feeding frenzy. There are a lot of investors waiting for the market to flood with massive amounts of distress, but while there will be great opportunities to buy, I don’t necessarily think it will be an immediate glut of great deals.

GlobeSt.com: What are your investor contacts in South Florida and the Northeast saying about distressed real estate?

Devlin Marinoff: Pretty much every investor I know is calling me asking “what do you have?” There is an incredible amount of liquidity on the sidelines waiting for the non-performing loans to become available and for the forbearance extensions to end. It runs the gamut from small private investors to huge institutional funds with billions of dollars. Overall, there is more than $1 trillion just waiting to be deployed.

Tony Arellano: They are saying “send me every deal you have.” New York investors want out of New York and feel it won’t be investible for the next few years. They want to come to South Florida, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to understand what makes a good deal here. Real estate is local, and investors need to understand the supply and demand drivers and nuances of the different submarkets. South Florida is a particularly fragmented region with a mix of established core neighborhoods, emerging pockets and overlooked areas with upside potential.

GlobeSt.com: What do some of the high-profile South Florida assets going into special servicing (such as the Fontainebleau Hotel, Westfield Broward Mall and Southland Mall – now in foreclosure) tell us about where the rest of the year/early 2021 is heading?

Devlin Marinoff: The Fontainebleau belongs in its own category because I see that getting worked out due to the strength of Turnberry as a sponsor and size of the loan (nearly $1 billion). Every situation is unique, but there definitely are antiquated malls around the country that need repositioning. This cycle will expedite the issue of certain malls being obsolete. Looking broadly, a new Wells Fargo report showed that appraisals on CMBS properties in special servicing have averaged a 27% decline. That is staggering. For investors, the challenge with trying to acquire CMBS properties is that the servicer has all the power to make decisions with the goal of recouping the most dollars for the loan’s backers. Because of that, it’s a long road for an investor to get to the finish line.

GlobeSt.com: How is the investor interest in distressed real estate going to impact pricing?

Tony Arellano: The cost basis is relevant, but the most important thing moving forward is what the lending requirements are. It’s not about what someone paid or how much an investor bought below what someone else paid. The capital markets drive commercial real estate. If you can’t meet debt standards, coverage ratios or reserve requirements, the deals don’t work. Pricing will be determined by what something can be financed at and the underlying fundamentals. Is there a path to profit?

Devlin Marinoff: Investors are simply kicking tires until it gets to the level where they can obtain at least a 20% discount from the face value of the debt. If there is a $10 million mortgage on a commercial property previously acquired for $16 million, most of our investors would want to buy at $7-to-8 million and end up at a 50% valuation of the previous sale price.

GlobeSt.com: What are some of the challenges that could come from such a competitive environment for distressed assets?

Devlin Marinoff: People will buy debt and distressed real estate in different ways. The Starwoods and the Blackstones of the world will come in and acquire big portfolios of debt, put receivers in place, keep core assets and sell others. The buyers of debt will eventually become the sellers of assets, so there are many layers to this. The hardest thing right now is you can’t get the data. We don’t know what’s going on with the banks, they are not so transparent, so we’re guessing at this point.

Tony Arellano: The current value opportunities are hard to understand. That’s the biggest challenge in the market. At DWNTWN we like to say that we don’t find good deals, we make them. It’s going to come down to being creative and having the wherewithal to see where values and fundamentals are trending.

 

Source: GlobeSt.

American dollars grow from the ground

As the Covid pandemic begins to taper off, the CRE industry is ready to get back to work and take advantage of the underlying strong economy.

There are of course distressed real estate sectors caused by the pandemic like hotels, struggling malls and blue city apartments and office buildings. However, this is an excellent time to invest in these and other areas of CRE to take advantage of the distressed assets with historically low prices and the potential for significant increases in occupancy, revenue, and cash flow.

Here are five post Covid investment strategies:

1. Acquire Deeply Discounted Hotels In Suburban Markets

The hotel market has been hurt more than any other property type, by the pandemic with significant declines in occupancy, RevPAR, and cash flow. Most hotels are operating at 40% occupancy and for an asset that has high fixed costs, this is unsustainable for long periods of time. Many hotels will close permanently like the New York Hilton in Times Square, while the majority will limp along or be foreclosed by the lender until the economy recovers. However, this represents a great opportunity for hotel owner/operators to acquire these hotels at deep discounts. It is recommended that investors focus on hotels in suburban markets with national franchises and close to airports that will benefit from the return of business travel. At 40% occupancy most hotels lose money, but, as the economy improves and the deferred demand from business and leisure travel kicks in, the properties should see tremendous increases in net operating income and cash flow.

2. Sell CRE Apartments And Office Buildings In Blue Cities; Reinvest In Red Cities

It is recommended that investors sell apartments and office buildings in these markets and reinvest the proceeds in red states and cities and in select suburban markets that surround blue cities. Per Real Capital Analytics, distressed sales of office and apartments during Q2-20 totaled 18 deals worth over $403 million. This will be just the tip of the iceberg as distressed sales will increase significantly during the next six to twelve months. It is expected that a diversified portfolio of CRE assets in red states and cities to outperform a similar portfolio in blue states during the next ten years.

3. Acquire Deeply Discounted Mall Assets For Repurposing

The distress in the retail sector has been amplified by the pandemic and many retail experts expect 15,000 stores to close in 2020. This is up from 10,000 closures in 2019. However, there is a burgeoning CRE industry in buying old, dilapidated, and distressed retail malls and repositioning them with hotels, industrial space, bowling alleys, food courts, pop-up drive inns, medical tenants (see the article on the growth of medical retail) and residential space. There have been numerous examples around the country of CRE firms acquiring old malls and power centers at deeply discounted prices of $20-$50 per square foot, closing 50% or more of the retail space and converting the vacant space to other uses as shown above. There are very few firms around the country that have the CRE investment and development expertise to complete these types of deals which require a change in the “highest and best use” of the asset. Although these projects have high risk and are difficult to finance, they can produce substantial investment returns.

4. Develop Suburban Office Buildings Around Blue Cities

The flight of individuals and businesses from blue cities is real and one of the prime beneficiaries will be suburban office markets that ring these blue urban locations. The suburban office building market nationally had been fairly anemic pre-Covid, with vacancy rates over 12% and slow rent growth. Many suburban markets are littered with 1980s and 1990s vintage office buildings that never attained an occupancy above 85%. However, in a post Covid world, this metric will turn around with a substantial increase in demand for suburban office product. Currently, the bright spot is suburban Class A office which saw an addition of 3.9 million square feet (aided largely by flight to quality and expansion into new campuses) and an increase of .3% in average rents to $32.15 per square foot. During the first half of 2020, the U.S. office market per Jones Lang Lasalle, recorded 14 million square feet of occupancy losses, bringing the net absorption to a negative 8.4 million square feet, or -0.2% of inventory. The blue cities of New York City and San Francisco, which have seen substantial out migration of companies and residents, were responsible for 26.7% of all net occupancy losses in the second quarter. Sublease space rose by 10.6% and 5.2 million square feet to a mammoth 61 million square feet nationally. Developers of office buildings should shift their focus to blue and red state suburban areas as demand for quality office space will surge.

5. Sell Urban High-Rise Apartment Buildings; Reinvest In Suburban Garden Apartments

The out-migration of renters from high priced blue cities that are technology centric is a permanent structural change for the rental markets in the U.S. According to Yardi Matrix, YoY rent growth through August 2020 has declined -5.5% in San Jose, -5.1% in San Francisco, -1.0% in Portland, -2.1% in Los Angeles and -1.8% in Washington D.C. Forecasted rent growth for these same cities for the rest of 2020 will decline further and substantially. If you are a millennial tech worker and can work from home, why would you spend $3,500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, if you could rent an apartment in Lake Tahoe or Reno, NV, for $1,200 per month? Even though apartment metrics will further deteriorate in these urban wastelands, demand will surge in suburban markets that surround these areas. One of the most over-priced CRE assets during the last few years has been new urban high-rise apartments that were trading at sub-4.0% cap rates in many core markets. Owners of these assets should sell them before they fully realize a decline in net operating income and higher cap rates.

 

Source: GlobeSt.