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Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics and founder of Economy.com told more than 1,000 attendees of NAIOP’s CRE Converge conference taking place in Miami Beach, that while the pandemic is altering the U.S. economy, changes in store bode well for commercial real estate.

On the positive side, the economy has recovered 17 million of the 22 million jobs that were lost due to the pandemic. The policy response on the part of the Federal Reserve, Congress and the White House, including maintaining low short- and long-term interest rates, the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, have collectively kept the economy from failing.

“I’m assuming that the pandemic is going to continue to wind down, and that with each new wave the disruptions to the economy will be less significant. Over the course of the next 18-24 months, the pandemic doesn’t go away but it largely fades away in terms of what it means in terms of our work and lives,” Zandi said.

Zandi noted that however it shakes out, the infrastructure spending packages will also be beneficial to the economy. And he said that with respect to monetary policy, the Fed will slowly take its foot off the monetary accelerator – raising short term interest rates by spring of 2023 and tapering the quantitative easing of buying bonds.

The pandemic has not only accelerated certain trends, it is causing permanent shifts. These include remote work, less domestic travel generally, less business travel and an increasing net migration from urban cores.

Prior to the pandemic, a net of 275,000 people on average were leaving urban cores in the U.S. to live in other locales; during the pandemic, that number jumped to more than 600,000.

Zandi also identified the risks inherent in the post-pandemic economy:

  • The Delta variant of COVID-19 has unnerved consumers and workers.
  • Fiscal policy is at risk with Congress threatening to not fund the government’s fiscal year, which begins Oct 1.
  • Housing prices are stretched and possibly primed for a correction as interest rates begin to increase.
  • Maybe not today, but at some point down the road, government debt and deficits will become a problem.
  • Supply chain shortages continue to make it difficult to obtain building supplies and consumer goods.

Meanwhile the pandemic has also fueled a significant rise in productivity.

“There are fundamental things going on in the economy that argue for stronger productivity growth. Businesses are investing in labor-saving software, baby boomers are retiring, and the workforce is becoming younger,” Zandi said. “That’s a big deal for the economy. It goes to profits, wages, and our ability to address our fiscal policies.”

 

Source: GlobeSt.

 

Midsection of businessman with true and false wooden blocks on seesaw at desk

Panelists representing the industrial, office, retail and multifamily sectors of commercial real estate made the case for investment in their respective sectors at NAIOP’s CRE.CONVERGE, the virtual conference recently taking place.

In a real-time audience poll, the attendees cited industrial as the sector they would be most likely to invest in.  However, much of the discussion pointed to the upsides in what, so far in 2020, has been mostly seen as a negative story for the other sectors.

“Retail may be the sector everyone loves to hate, but all that means is that it’s at the bottom of a cycle that is going to rebound,” said Wade Achenbach, executive vice president, Portfolio Management at Kite Realty Group. “The strip sector and the mall business were struggling for a lot of reasons, and COVID has dramatically made them the hardest hit. If you just look at that trend alone, that’s going to be short lived. You have to be very careful of what you’re looking at. There is no online-only retailer that’s making money today, nor has there ever been. What’s really happening when somebody says e-commerce?  It’s more of an omnichannel. Even Amazon realizes the value of stores with its purchase of Whole Foods.”

The old adage, buy low and sell high, applies.

“I think there is more of an opportunity (in retail) than any of the other sectors,” Achenbach said.

Speaking on behalf of the office sector, which many are questioning in light of the shift to work from home, George Hasenecz, senior vice president, Investments at Brandywine Realty Trust, said its demise has been incorrectly predicted in the past — just as it is now.

“When you think about all the economic events and social trends that have occurred, the dot com bust, September 11, the densification of the office and COVID, people have always said that office is dead. Office has always reinvented itself,” said Hasenecz. “Work from home has been successful in response to the crisis, but it’s very difficult to work in a collaborative environment. How do you maintain your culture, bring new employees on and recruit? Work from home really does go against people’s needs and desires to come together. We think that Class A office is going to be in high demand. Companies want to make sure their employees and their talent feel safe. There still is the competition for talent and office space will be used as a recruiting tool.”

A similar story is playing out in the multifamily sector, said John Drachman, co-founder at Waterford Property Company. The pandemic has driven many people out of dense urban areas and into suburban multifamily units. The turnaround has been sharp in large markets such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, where vacancies are increasing and rents are falling. One year ago, the main story line in these markets was a lack of affordable housing.

“As with retail and office, a wider perspective will benefit investors,” Drachman said. “People will move back to urban areas. If you can stomach a little bit of pain, over the long term there could be great buying opportunities for urban apartments.”

Rene Circ, senior managing director and COO at GID Industrial and GID Investment Advisors LLC, spoke on behalf of the industrial sector, which to no one’s surprise seems to be strong. He said there are essentially very few people who are not buying things online.

“I would argue that too much capital is allocated to multifamily and way too much is allocated to retail,” Circ said. “Investors will need to invest in industrial.”

The panel was moderated by Will McIntosh, head of Research at USAA Real Estate.

 

Source: GlobeSt.