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The Commercial Real Estate Market: Crash, Train Wreck, Or Apocalypse? – Forbes

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Dire warnings about commercial real estate appear almost daily these days. While office markets are stressed due to increased working from home, some real estate professionals see an increasingly bifurcated market, divided “into haves and have-nots.” Investors, renters, and cities—especially those with older, declining buildings— will need to pay close attention in the coming months to see where they fall and how bad things might get.

Dramatic negative evaluations of commercial real estate are easily found. The San Francisco Standard foresees an “epic commercial real estate crash” looming over that city, comparing it to an approaching train with “the city, its budget, and its ability to provide services tied to the tracks.” Not to be outdone, Bloomberg tweeted “remote work is killing Manhattan’s commercial real estate market” with similar problems extending to other cities.

But even that language pales against what NYU professor Arpit Gupta and his colleagues are saying, predicting an “office real estate apocalypse.” Using New York City data, they estimate “a 45% decline in office values in 2020 and 39% in the longer run, the latter representing a $453 billion value deduction,” which could plunge the city into a “fiscal doom loop.” Similar damage could hit other cities, and by extension the national economy.

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How then do we make sense of other bad—but not apocalyptic—data? CommercialEdge’s monthly “National Office Report” for September found stagnant average office listing rates, $38.70 per square foot, “down 0.1% year-over-year.” Bad, but not apocalyptic. And as I recently noted, some cities, especially in the Sunbelt or those with strong life sciences industries, are seeing strong rental markets.

What do other data tell us? Moody’s documented that securities backed by commercial mortgages saw “a huge spike in elevated delinquency rates” in the second quarter of 2020, right when the pandemic hit. But banks, life insurance investors, and others restructured loans and offered forbearance, lessening their delinquency rates. That strategy will be harder to follow if new pressure comes on the office market, especially with the Fed raising interest rates, making borrowing more costly across the board.

So far, at least commercial banks now seem to have their real estate loans under control. Their charge-off and delinquency rates hit 0.07% in the second quarter of 2020, the height of the pandemic. But in the first two quarters of 2022, the Fed reports those rates at zero, not a signal of dramatic falls in loan quality.

And even 2020’s bad numbers were nothing like the 2008 financial crisis. Between 2009 and 2010, commercial bank loan delinquencies were over 2% for seven consecutive quarters. Tighter regulation has since helped control loose bank lending, so thankfully we don’t have signs that commercial lending failures are pulling down the entire economy.

Going behind the aggregate numbers shows some positive signs in commercial real estate. In the past year, Sunbelt cities like Charlotte and Austin, or cities with concentrations of life sciences like Boston, saw double-digit increases in rents. Google
GOOG
and other tech firms have been leasing large amounts of space in cities like New York and Chicago.

The biggest risk in commercial real estate is older, less desirable office space. The amount of that in any city is central to assessing its overall risk. A magazine roundtable from PERE, which tracks private equity real estate investing, found a “very challenged” but uncertain market, with risks ranging from inflation in construction and financing costs to a looming recession.

PERE’s experts see a “bifurcated” market, with more modern buildings (especially those that are ESG compliant) and some cities in good position to weather the crisis. The PERE investors see a “new normal” with less full-time office occupancy, but with offices still facing “unknown” overall demand from clients.

But these the views of real estate investors, who could be (as they say on the Street), “talking their book” and putting a positive spin on the numbers. In contrast, consider the “apocalypse” analysis from NYU and Columbia professors. By combining working from home data with financial information from real estate investment trusts (REITs) other financial information, they predict “long-run office valuations that are 39.18% below pre-pandemic levels” with “lower quality office stock…a more substantially stranded asset.”

If they are right, cities—and the economy—are in for a rough ride. Although some older buildings might be converted into housing, that’s not an easy or immediate process. Collapsing real estate values could lead to substantial fiscal problems for many cities, resulting in cuts to social services, education, public health, and other essential government functions. We aren’t in an apocalypse yet, but we all need to keep one eye on the possibility.

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BRAUN: Pace of real estate decline finally slowing – Toronto Sun

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The downturn in the housing market might be slowly coming to a close, suggests a new report from the Royal Bank.

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Prices will likely still fall in Toronto, but the decline has begun to slow and expectations are that prices will bottom in the spring. 

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Some areas in the GTA have done better than others.

As predicted, areas outside the city where prices skyrocketed once remote work became a possibility are among the hardest hit.

Prices in Cambridge, for example, are off 22%, while London and Brantford have seen an 18% decline. Kitchener-Waterloo, Kawartha Lakes and Hamilton/Burlington have all had a 17% drop in prices.

While Toronto’s decline has been 11%, prices are expected to fall further.

Toronto also saw a drop of almost half (49.3%) in numbers of home sales in October versus October 2021, while new listings were down 11.5%.

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“The market downturn may be in a late stage, but it doesn’t mean things are about to heat up again,” said Robert Hogue, RBC’s assistant chief economist, in the report.

“We expect high — and still-rising — interest rates will continue to challenge buyers for some time. This will keep activity quiet for a while longer, even if it stabilizes near current levels.”

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For those on the sidelines wondering when or if to buy, a Toronto mortgage expert (who prefers not to be named) has some words of wisdom.

For starters, he prefers to keep all the gloom and doom on the down-low.  A correction notwithstanding, real estate remains a solid investment. 

So on the plus side, “with the correction have come reduced prices and reduced closing costs, especially in the GTA,” the expert said.

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And maybe no bidding war, although some neighbourhoods have not lost value because the three rules of real estate — location, location, location — never change.

If you’re wondering what the bank will lend you for a mortgage, the expert offered a useful rule of thumb: 4.2 times your salary will tell you what you qualify for.

That’s provided you don’t have a lot of other debt, obviously.

As for figuring out your monthly mortgage payments, calculate $6 per thousand; a $500,000 mortgage will cost $3,000 a month, for example.

The fact that a one-year mortgage is currently at the highest rate and the five-year rate is lower — an inverted yield curve — is a sign of uncertainty.

“For the first time in my career, I’m not telling people what to do. Instead, I’m telling them their options,” he said.

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As for that swift rise in interest rates tamping down inflation, that’s working “to some extent.”

The government should have started two years ago and raised rates more slowly, he explained. 

The consensus seems to be that the worst is behind us, “but we’re heading into stagnation. Things will level off, but we need stability.”

There’s very little on the market right now, but the expert’s expectation is that things will pick up after March break, when young families will start looking again in earnest.

“The banks aren’t taking any chances. Anyone who thinks the banks are just giving money away — no! It’s never been tougher to get credit.”

Last word: focus on your debt. “I used to say, ‘Continue to save.’

“Now I say, ‘move from investing to getting rid of debt.’”

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Durham real estate broker says 'date the rate, marry the house' – durhamregion.com

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Durham real estate broker says ‘date the rate, marry the house’  durhamregion.com



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LACKIE: Buyers in driver's seat as sellers ride out real estate rough seas – Windsor Star

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I got some blowback last week when I suggested that while quite clearly the housing market is in the throes of a strong correction, life and real estate continues on.

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No, I was not shilling for my industry and, by extension, one might assume, my livelihood.

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Yes, I still absolutely believe that things are rough and about to get rougher.

But notable to me is the fact that even amidst all of the scary headlines and all of the well-founded doom and gloom, there are still real estate deals happening in this city. And while as far as I can tell, the who and the how and the why has shifted from the who and the how and the why that drove that wild market that already feels like a distant memory, I’m not sure what we’re seeing should be written-off as anecdotal outliers.

Transaction volume is down by half compared to this time last year. Interest rates currently stand at levels inconceivable less than a year ago. New homeowners are stressed, would-be home buyers are spooked, and everyone else is trying to figure out how worried they need to be.

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Yes, yes and yes.

  1. Real estate for-sale sign.

    https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/lackie-good-homes-still-selling-amid-turbulent-real-estate-market

  2. Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, address media outside of the Premier's office at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ont. on Monday, May 27, 2019.

    LACKIE: Can housing crisis be fixed by tapping into the Greenbelt?

  3. A real estate sign is displayed in front of a house in the Riverdale area of Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.

    LACKIE: Real estate market looking more like ‘crash’ than ‘correction’

But here’s what I am observing in real time: buyers are absolutely still out there.

Our transaction volume may be down by half, but the remaining half of what was truly record-levels is not inconsequential. It maybe just feels that way.

Case in point: I listed an adorable house in a central Toronto neighbourhood last week. The perfect starter home for first-time buyers. It would have been an absolute bun fight last winter.

I wasn’t sure how it would go. And because of that, I left nothing to chance. We shined her up, I spent a small fortune on staging, the photos were perfect. We did all the things.

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I also spent a lot of time managing expectations. All we need is one buyer, I explained to my clients — just one.

Never would I have guessed that we would end up with twenty-five groups braving the miserable cold to come to the open house. And these weren’t people just out killing time on a Sunday. These were buyers, with parents in tow, and home inspection reports in hand, armed with their questions and their critical eye. The same buyers that are supposedly priced out or debilitated by the fear of catching falling knives.

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Offer night yielded four offers. But unlike the offer nights of days prior, these prospective buyers weren’t armed with letters to the sellers and waving their bank drafts around. They were cool. They had conditions. And their numbers were conservative. Even in competition.

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The house sold for less than I expected, but with the four offers the market was clearly speaking and my clients were willing to listen.

And this experience tracks with what I am hearing from my colleagues: the buyers still out there will participate at the right price. They will come forward when they’re good and ready. There is no FOMO. They will offer on things, sure, but will walk if it’s not right for them.

And this will be how the prices continue to grind downwards.

So while yes, the market has slowed right down, I wonder if the stasis is also due to the logjam of sellers determined to wait out these unfavourable conditions.

I suspect that once reluctant acceptance of new-new normal settles in, we will see inventory rise and sales volume increase. But I feel pretty confident in saying that it will be quite a long time before sellers leave the table feeling like heroes again.

@brynnlackie

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