Development has been a key growth strategy for many real estate investment trusts over the past decade, but will that continue during the next 10 years?
“There has been some dislocation in the short-term operating metrics,” CIBC World Markets REIT analyst Dean Wilkinson said. “I think the question we’re all struggling with is: Is this a permanent structural shift in a downward direction with the underlying fundamentals of the real estate, or have we overshot?“
“Projects are getting bigger and more complex, and we’re seeing a lot of mixed-use,” said Altus Group cost and project management senior director Marlon Bray, who noted he’s being inundated with proposals. “I’ve got people sending me six, eight, 10 projects to look at in the space of two or three weeks.
“They’re looking long-term at pipelines and thinking of the future and not just what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Transit-oriented and mixed-use development
Immigration has slowed considerably during the pandemic, but it’s starting to rise again and those people will need places to live and work.
While public transit ridership has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, SmartCentres REIT (SRU-UN-T) development VP Christine Côté said transit-oriented development is still desirable and should remain a focus for REITs and all levels of government.
Dream Unlimited (DRM-T) chief development officer Daniel Marinovic said a lot of critical transit infrastructure work began in the Greater Toronto Area in 2008 and, while it will be ongoing for years to come, he believes it’s a “phenomenal” long-term investment.
“I’ll continue to be a big believer in density,” said Marinovic.
Allied Properties REIT (AP-UN-T) executive VP of development Hugh Clark remains a strong advocate of the “live, work and play” concept and believes it will continue to prosper. He said mixed-use projects need amenities to help people socialize.
Grocery stores, restaurants and services and amenities catering to the daily needs of the local community will become more important additions within residential buildings, according to Côté.
“We feel strongly that value-oriented retail will continue to be strong,” she said.
Construction costs levelled off from April through June, but have ramped back up due to supply and demand factors.
Bray attributes some of the increase to the 7,000 condominium units and 10,000 rental units under construction in the Greater Toronto Area, more than double the numbers from 10 years ago.
Bray pointed out construction costs comprise less than 50 per cent of residential development expenses.
Land can account for as much as 30 per cent, while development charges and taxes are also major costs. Development charges have increased by multiples and are always changing and hard to predict, said Bray.
Wilkinson said the saving grace over the last several years is that rent increases have “probably gone at, or at a level higher than, the inflation surrounding those construction costs. But if the script gets flipped and it goes the other way, what could happen?”
Specific issues for REITs
No more than 15 per cent of a Canadian REIT’s funds are generally allowed to be spent on development, which Wilkinson said is lower than in other countries.
The potential build-out for some Canadian REITs, particularly those with retail sites with inherent density, is larger than their current gross leasable area.
Wilkinson added that development activity isn’t included in the underlying value of a company until a building is finished. Thus, a short-term construction expenditure is a diluted effort because capital is put into something that’s not creating immediate cash flow.
There’s an increase in NAV after the completion of projects, but the public market is still focused on quarterly results instead of longer-term cycles, according to Wilkinson.
As a result, Allied is taking a prudent, market-driven approach to development and isn’t looking to expand just because it can.
Clark said the REIT may slow the launch of new projects and ensure it hits certain pre-leasing requirements before starting construction so it doesn’t put itself in a “position of strain.”
Returns for REITs are getting smaller
Clark said it’s “getting harder and harder to make some big gains, with eight or nine or 10 per cent returns on investment.” While it’s possible with some high-priced condos, those are few and far between.
Clark thinks REITs will be lucky to keep a 100- to 150-basis point spread going forward. A development yield of 150 basis points over the acquisition cap rate is much lower than the 400- or 500-point spreads of the past, Wilkinson added.
The convergence between the two figures could mean the elimination of compensation for development risk, so developers may have to start looking more closely at portfolio quality versus straight economic accretion.
“There’s value to that, but it remains to be seen how the market wants to treat that,” said Wilkinson.
Apartment rents have sagged recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Wilkinson said there are concerns market rents may be just 10 per cent higher than in-place rents when apartments being built now are completed.
“The premium that was afforded to a lot of the apartment REITs was really based upon the fact that their in-place rents were 20 to 25 per cent below what was deemed to be market rent. So, they were trading at 20 to 25 per cent premiums to NAV.”
Côté has been with SmartCentres for 17 years, and her focus in that time has changed from building Walmarts and shopping centres to intensifying existing properties across Ontario.
“We’ve got countless master plans that are in place now and we are preparing, submitting and processing development applications for those initial phases of redevelopment across the portfolio,” she said.
SmartCentres has made applications for more than 20 development projects since the onset of COVID-19 and will submit another 20 over the next six months, according to Côté.
The REIT has more than 40 million square feet of density planned, mainly on sites it already owns, and has a long-term plan for much more than that.
Côté said SmartCentres is taking more time with new building design to increase efficiencies and make them more economical.
Despite the recent softness in rents, Côté doesn’t think the REIT’s planned purpose-built rental apartments will be switched to condos.
She believes the market will be past its short-term challenges by the time those buildings are ready for occupancy.
5 Affordable Markets to Buy Real Estate Close to Vancouver – RE/MAX News
The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) recently published an shocking report about the province’s housing market in September. It found that home sales soared to $49.7 billion for the first nine months of 2020, up 25 per cent from the same period a year ago. Instead of enduring a COVID-19 pause, the province’s housing market was instead hyperactive over the course of 2020.
BCREA data also highlighted that homebuyers acquired more than 65,000 properties from January to September, a 12.5 per cent jump year-over-year. The average price year-to-date swelled 11.2 per cent to $764,298.
But how could this be happening? The association published a separate report, titled “The Unusual World of Pandemic Economics.” It assessed how the province’s real estate market is booming, citing higher savings rates, government income support, a tight housing supply, uneven job losses, and historically low interest rates.
“One thing we know for sure is that pandemic economics are very unusual and in these unprecedented times, history may not be as strong a guide,” the report stated.
Put simply, although the Canadian economy is in a recession, this economic downturn is anything but normal.
While the impressive resilience and recovery of the Vancouver real estate market has made national headlines, what about other cities that are in proximity to the nation’s third-largest city? While recovery within these municipalities has also been strong, prices have yet to swell to unattainable levels, making them viable destinations for homebuyers with sights set upon the Vancouver area. We have compiled a list of five the top 5 real estate markets that have managed to strike the balance between desirability and affordability a little better than neighboring Vancouver.
5 Affordable Markets to Buy Real Estate Close to Vancouver
Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board (OMREB) reported that 21.79 per cent more homes were sold in the Kelowna region in September compared to the same time last year. The numbers pointed to rising property valuations, with single-family homes, townhomes, and apartment condos booming. OMREB President Kim Heizmann noted that the COVID-19 public health crisis had forced homebuyers to assess things differently, including their living space. Kelowna sees some properties still reasonably priced as you could scoop up a condominium for as low as $244,400.
According to the Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB), 60.6 per cent more properties were sold in September 2020 than September 2019. It should be noted, however, that on a month-to-month basis, home sales were up just one per cent. The Multiple Listing Service® Home Price Index benchmark value for a single-family home in the Victoria Core increased year-over-year by 3.5 per cent to $879,200. But the benchmark value for the same home slipped by 1.1 per cent in August.
What was the reason for the monthly decline? New supply entered the market, says Victoria Real Estate Board President Sandi-Jo Ayers.
“We had some much-needed new inventory enter the market over the course of September,” stated Ayers in a news release. ”But the supply has not been sufficient to outstrip the heightened demand. We continue to see multiple offers and pressure on pricing across many neighbourhoods. Looking forward, it is impossible to determine what our fall market will look like, but if the past couple of months are an indication, we may see higher seasonal numbers than we would have expected in a more predictable year. That said, since our situation can change in a blink, we cannot look at the past months as the start of a trend, but instead as a moment in our market during an unpredictable time.”
Local Victoria real estate agents are hopeful that prices (and some of the fierce competition) may ease in the coming months amid these new stocks arriving on the market.
Kamloops is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada, so it’s not surprising that this riverside city is drawing homebuyers from the Vancouver Core as well as from across the country. Although demand is strengthening, the average residential price remains reasonable for new market entrants.
New data from the Kamloops and District Real Estate Association (KADREA) found that the average home price rose 15.3 per cent year-over-year in September to $493.597. Home sales advanced 23.8 per cent from the same time a year ago.
KADREA President Wendy Runge thinks it could be hard to forecast the short- or medium-term future of the Kamloops real estate market.
“Real estate sales numbers for last month have once again shown us that the impact of the pandemic on the market has been more positive than originally predicted,” Runge explained in a statement. “For the fourth month running, the number of units sold has been setting records that not many would have contemplated at the beginning of the pandemic. While sales usually dip in September and then pick up again during the fall months until winter, the trend we are seeing right now is unlike anything that we have seen before.”
Real estate agents are describing the housing situation in Surrey and the broader Fraser Valley region with one word: historic. For the fourth consecutive month, the housing market experienced robust growth as the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board recorded a 9.4 per cent increase in September from August.
The benchmark price for a single-family detached house rose 1.3 per cent month-over-month to $1.032 million. But how would this be affordable?
The first factor is that interest rates are near zero; more homebuyers are taking advantage of these historically low rates, borrowing greater amounts to snatch up real estate that may have previously been out of reach. Plus, the Bank of Canada (BoC) has signaled that it is not raising rates for a few more years, meaning that homebuyers can lock in these extremely low rates.
The second aspect is that new supply is coming to market, which could alleviate the upward trend and allow newcomers to scoop up properties. In September, the number of new listings climbed 6.2 per cent from August.
“For many existing homeowners and first-time buyers, their buying power is greater than it’s been in a long time. Interest rates are very low, people have saved money over the last few months, and they’re choosing to invest it in their most important asset. Sellers are also recognizing that with lower than normal inventory, this is a smart time to list,” said Fraser Valley Real Estate Board President Chris Shields in a news release.
Burnaby Now recently sported a headline that accurately summarized the city’s housing market: “COVID can’t stop Burnaby real estate as Metrotown project nearly sells out in 2 weeks.”
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), which covers Burnaby, reported that residential home sales in the region surged 36.6 per cent in August 2020 from the previous year. But for people who are considering relocating to Burnaby, the numbers suggest that new supply is coming. There was a 55.1 per cent increase in newly listed properties – detached, attached, and condominiums – for sale in August. This was 34.8 per cent above the ten-year August new listings average.
Put simply, the demand is strong, but supply is beginning to keep up, which should slow down price growth.
Is Affordability Gone from British Columbia Real Estate?
For people who have been sitting on the sidelines and wanting to finally submit an offer on a property, the rising prices across the province and the rest of the country can seem rather intimidating. While the fleeting COVID-19 discount is unlikely to return, many cities near Vancouver do offer affordability if you know where to look. Remember, it might not seem like it, but 75 per cent of Canada’s regions are “undervalued,” and this includes some parts of B.C. Many B.C. cities are beginning to witness new inventory come to market, which could relieve some of the higher prices seen this year.
Real Estate Roundup 10.21.20 – Real Estate Daily Beat
Real Estate Roundup:
National Acquisitions Roundup
- Blackstone has agreed to purchase an office complex in Silicon Valley that’s leased to Roku for $275 million. The two buildings are part of a project called Coleman Highline, a new development that’s walking distance to a Caltrain station and the stadium where Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes play. The purchase price translates to roughly $770 per SF. (Bloomberg)
- The Stro Cos. has purchased a fully occupied, 78,000-square-foot industrial property in Fairfield for an undisclosed price. The property, located at 140 Clinton Road, is home to two tenants and sits directly along Route 46, offering quick access to interstates 80, 280 and 287, among other highways. (RENJ)
- Realterm US Inc. has acquired a property under renovation for use by Amazon from Bridge Development Partners for $81 million. The Torrance, CA property is located at 2751 Skypark Drive, and consists of 118,000 of warehouse space, with 12,500 SF will be set aside as an office and reception area. (LABJ)
National Financing Roundup
- AvalonBay has secured a $167 million construction loan from a syndicate led by Bank of America for its 475-unit multifamily project in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District. The development sits on a 3.75-acre site at 668 S. Alameda Street, and will also have roughly 60,000 SF of commercial space. (LABJ)
- Starwood Retail Partners is giving up on the nearly 1 million-square-foot Louis Joliet Mall in Chicago, handing over the keys to its lender after first defaulting on a loan payment in the spring. The move comes two months after parent company Starwood Capital Group lost control of a seven-property regional mall portfolio. The landlord is reportedly in negotiations for a deed in lieu of foreclosure or a foreclosure sale. (TRD)
- In a regulatory filing made public Tuesday, AMC said it will be selling 15 million Class A shares in an offering valued at approximately $45 million. The firm estimates that on September 30 it had $417.9 million in cash and cash equivalents—an amount that “would be largely depleted” by the end of 2020 or early 2021 without any additional sources of liquidity. Last Tuesday, AMC disclosed in a regulatory filing that it resumed operations at 494 of its 598 U.S. theaters with limited seating capacities of between 20% and 40%. (Forbes)
- With outdoor space at a premium, shopping malls and garages are opening their parking lots to tenants and other vendors for open-air stores and other events. At a time when most brick-and-mortar retail is suffering, landlords are grateful for anything that brings in any additional revenue or foot traffic. Some use lots for public-service functions like job fairs, voting stations and drive-through Covid-19 testing. Others have become gathering spots for trivia or bingo games where participants play from their cars. (WSJ)
- JEMB Realty has filed a lawsuit that claims that Greenwich Insurance Company should have covered their losses at 1293 Broadway because the pandemic is defined as a pollutant. The insurance policy defined pollutants as “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal pollutant, irritant or contaminant.” The coronavirus qualifies, given that it spreads through the air or via surfaces, JEMB claims. The firm is seeking $3 million in remediation. (TRD)
New to the market
- Brookfield Asset Management is exploring a sale of its life-sciences real estate portfolio, and seeking about $3 billion. The firm is working with advisers to sell roughly 2.3 million square feet of life-sciences real estate it acquired as part of its 2018 purchase of Forest City Realty Trust. (Bloomberg)
- Nontraded real-estate investment trusts are again bringing in money after a pandemic slowdown… The funds typically take investments of as little as $2,500 and have been paying dividends above 5% without the volatility of the stock market. In the third quarter, the funds raised $1.37 billion. That was $450 million more than they raised in the previous quarter. In the first quarter, a record number investors tried to get their money back and some weren’t able to redeem shares. In the second quarter, redemption requests eased to $515.8 million from $724.1 million in the first quarter. (WSJ)
- With New Yorkers rushing to the suburbs, Fairfield County, Connecticut — the home of tony Greenwich — suddenly has the fastest-rising real estate prices in the U.S. The median home price climbed 33% in September from a year earlier to $499,000, while sales jumped 80%. By both measures, the county was the hottest U.S. housing market, based on an analysis of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. (Bloomberg)
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Hudson Bay aims to 'unleash' real estate values – Western Investor
A plan by Hudson Bay Company (HBC) to unlock the real estate values of its vast property holdings could run into dramatic price differences among its holdings in Western Canada.
On October 19, the venerable retailer, founded in Canada in 1670, announced it had formed HBC Properties and Investments (HBCPI), a dedicated real estate and investments business to “manage, maximize and enhance” the 40 million square feet of gross leasable space that HBC owns across North America.
Richard Baker, HBC’s executive chairman and CEO said, “This is an exciting phase of our company’s transformation and provides us with a significant opportunity to unleash the full potential of our real estate and investments business. Under this new organization, we will build upon our strong foundation of valuable real estate assets in key demographic areas. We will also continue our strong track record of maximizing our portfolio and generating value from these assets, as we did through the sales of the Lord + Taylor flagship building and our interest in European real estate assets,” He added, “HBCPI is well-equipped to further elevate and increase the value of our portfolio.”
HBCPI sold HBC’s Lord + Taylor building in New York City last year for $1.1 billion. It unloaded the company’s share of European assets for a reported $1.5 billion.
The plan to monetize real estate could include downtown locations in Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
The 168,000-square-foot Edmonton store is slated to close this fall. The Winnipeg downtown store, once the HBC flagship outlet in Canada, is scheduled to close February 2021 after more than 125 years in business.
In Vancouver, HBC had a conditional agreement in 2018 to sell its downtown store at 674 Granville Street to RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust for $675 million, but the transaction failed to go through.
The site, which includes 767,000 square feet of land at the corner of West Georgia Street, is currently assessed at $251.6 million by BC Assessment.
As a comparison, the 650,000-square-foot Winnipeg downtown building was valued at zero in a January 2020 appraisal done by Cushman & Wakefield.
According to the appraisal, the building is worthless, but the site would likely be developed with retail and other commercial uses, such as offices or multi-residential development.
This would likely be the fate of other HBC downtown locations in Canada.
HBCPI now owns New York-based Streetworks Development, a large-scale property development division that specializes in mixed-use redevelopments.
“This new division focuses on creating multi-use spaces that feature a variety of services and experiences across the workplace, retail, residential and entertainment categories,” according to a HBCPI statement October 19.
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