As with most investor markets and economic issues, commercial real estate is an ever-changing reality. What might look like a safe bet today could lead to huge losses tomorrow. Government regulations, environmental factors, and a looming recession are just a few of the ways that the commercial real estate landscape can change at any moment. Yet seasoned real estate veterans understand that these changes are just a surface disruption of CRE wisdom which generally holds true over time.
With all of this in mind, here is a brief report on the current realities of commercial real estate in the US as well as some insights into the near future.
2019 Commercial Real Estate by the Numbers
The commercial real estate market is currently valued in the ballpark of $1.1 trillion. To put that in perspective, if a trillion dollars represented $10,000, a billion dollars would be $10. Needless to say, there are massive amounts of revenue being generated in the CRE market in 2019. Here are a few other statistics to give a clearer picture of the current state of CRE:
- The commercial real estate industry experienced an estimated growth of 2.2 percent in 2019. This is down from an average of ~4 percent annual growth in the CRE industry over the past five years.
- Commercial real estate growth has outpaced overall real estate growth, rental rate growth, and leasing growth in 2019.
- Seasonalized annual construction values from Q2 2019 are down by about five (5) percent compared to similar estimates from 2018. Newly constructed commercial structures saw the largest value losses over this time period.
- Commercial property valuations are on a steady rise beginning with the recovery period in 2009-2010. During this time period, prices have risen the most in the Western United States with the Midwest lagging behind.
- Rental rates have flattened to a relatively low 1.4 percent year over year growth from 2018 to 2019. This trend is expected to continue with many market indicators pointing towards a stagnant apartment market overall.
The State of the US Economy Looking to 2020 and Beyond
Before we stare into the proverbial crystal ball, we should first state the obvious: nothing is guaranteed. That being said, here are some likely events in the US economy over the next several years.
A recession is all but unavoidable in the next few years
As of the writing of this article, the latest news is that doom and gloom predictions about the next US recession may have been exaggerated. Despite this sudden onset of optimism, the plain truth is that recessions are a part of modern free markets. The most optimistic, realistic view of the situation is that our next recession may not take place in 2020 but in the years to come. Whether the next economic downturn occurs in 2020, 2021, or beyond, it will almost certainly have a material impact on commercial real estate just as it did during the Great Recession of 2008.
Climate change will continue to be a major player for the economy and for CRE
Recent scientific studies have predicted that extreme weather events in the United States will rise by approximately 50% by the end of the 21st century. This continues the already observable trend of extreme weather patterns like more frequent and stronger tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. This will impact both the overall economy and commercial real estate industries for obvious reasons. Building codes are likely to be updated, insurance costs will rise, and other incidental expenses will almost certainly take a hit. Economists warn that climate change will likely cost the US economy 100’s of billions of dollars by the year 2090.
Young adults will continue to struggle financially
Last but not least, the population of adults who should be representing the largest buyers in the US economy will continue to be hit by crippling debt, healthcare costs, and stagnant wages. Barring an unlikely dramatic shift in the political and/or economic landscape, the US Debt Crisis will be a huge factor in the economy for the foreseeable future. This has already played a role in lagging rental rates, home ownership, and spending habits. It is difficult to predict how this situation will play out, but younger generations have proven that they are willing to cut costs, something that is not a great sign for economic health.
The commercial real estate sector has been reliably strong for nearly 10 years now. After a two year dip in 2008-09, investors have enjoyed solid returns and steady growth. While it is reasonable to expect another downturn at some point in the next few years, it is also reasonable to believe that the US economy will bounce back and investments will continue to pay dividends. It will continue to be important for investors to keep up with the latest CRE trends such as co-working, energy construction projects, infrastructure construction, and much more. The commercial real estate world’s evolution is ongoing, and the only certainty moving forward is change.