Marcus & Millichap/NREI Investor Sentiment Survey

Earlier this week, Marcus & Millichap and National Real Estate Investor (NREI) distributed the results of their second-half Investor Sentiment Survey.

Researchers collected data by emailing invitations to participate in this online survey to public and private investors and developers of commercial real estate. Recipients of the survey included Marcus & Millichap clients as well as subscribers of NREI selected from commercial real estate investor, pension fund, and developer business subscribers who provided their email addresses.

The survey was conducted in the third quarter of 2018, with 543 completed surveys received. Survey respondents represent a broad cross-section of industry respondents that include private investors, developers, advisors, lenders, and REITs among others.

The largest percentage of respondents are private investors at 45%. Respondents are invested in a variety of property types with a majority of 66% invested in apartments.

Tax Reform and How it Has Affected Investor Sentiment

After the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act was approved, investor confidence was high and trending upward, but the most recent survey shows that same confidence level has regressed to 150 – the same level as the second half Investor Sentiment Survey of 2017. See Figure 1 for a visual representation.

Despite the lowered confidence level, many survey participants maintain positive views of tax reform. According to the collected data, 57% of respondents think the economy will grow faster as a result of the new taxes compared to the 68% who held the same view in the first half survey. Furthermore, one-third of respondents expect growth to remain the same and 10% expect slower growth in the future.

The 60% of respondents who said they consider tax reform to be favorable for commercial real estate also reflects a drop compared to the 71% who held the same view at the beginning of the year. See Figure 2 for a visual representation.

John Chang, senior vice president of research services at Marcus & Millichap, expressed uncertainty regarding the effects of tax reform by stating, “Investors are still getting their arms around the new tax law, so it’s still a little too early to anticipate a lot of change resulting from tax reform.”

That said, over 50% of survey respondents do expect tax changes to increase the flow of investment capital and 46% think the new tax laws will raise property values.

Interest Rates

Continually increasing interest rates have become one of the biggest concerns for investors. Approximately 65% of respondents note rising interest rates as their primary concern followed by unforeseen shocks to the economy at 48%. Both political uncertainty and rising operating expenses round out the top investing concerns for respondents at 44%. See Figure 4 for a visual representation.

“The Fed has implied that it will likely raise rates again in December, although whether or not they follow through with that remains to be seen,” says David Shillington, president of Marcus & Millichap Capital Corp. He also noted that there could be some risk to the economy if short-term rates were to rise above the long-term rates, which is often interpreted as a sign of an upcoming recession.

Apartment Outlook

Investors maintain a bullish outlook on apartment performance, but the desire to increase holdings has consistently declined over the past few years. 50% of apartment owners think it is better to hold, while the other half is torn between buying and selling. Although, buying confidence has decreased since hitting a peak in 2010 when over 70% of respondents were eagerly targeting multifamily properties.

The apartment sector has performed well for a number of years now, but investors are becoming concerned about the volume of construction coming into the market. On average, developers are delivering roughly 270,000 new units per year for the past five years.

However, thanks to the robust economy, absorption of new units has been keeping pace with construction. John S. Sebree, first vice president, national director of the National Multi Housing Group at Marcus & Millichap, credits the health absorption rate to significant household formation. In addition, Sebree noted that housing demand is expected to outpace completions on a national level.

The majority of survey respondents have a favorable outlook on apartment performance. Similar to past surveys, 62% of survey responders expect the general value of apartment properties to increase. The average expected value increase is 3.5%, down from the predicted 5% in the first half survey, but still, a very healthy level compared to other property types.

Investor Strategy

Despite indications of caution, survey responders are maintaining their optimism for the economy and real estate performance. 79% of respondents believe strong job growth will continue through 2018 and into 2019.

Most respondents agree real estate continues to offer more favorable returns than other investment classes and that it is better to invest in real estate rather than the stock market. Investors are also well-resources with 56% of respondents claiming they have an abundance of capital to invest.

Overall, investors are becoming more selective at this point of the economic cycle, but remain active and confident in the market.

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*All statistics, figures, and quotes accredited to Marcus & Millichap/NREI Second Half 2018 Commercial Real Estate Investor Outlook

Click here to view the Investor Sentiment Survey Report in its entirety

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