The outlook for all of the major commercial real estate sectors is slightly improving despite disappointing economic growth during the first quarter of 2014, according to the National Association of REALTORS® quarterly commercial real estate forecast.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the sluggish growth experienced in the first quarter is not indicative of the actual health of the economy. “Gross Domestic Product should expand closer to 3 percent for the remainder of the year. The improved lending for commercial loans and continuing job gains we’ve seen this spring bode well for modest progress in commercial real estate leases and purchases of properties.”
However, Yun cautions that with rising long-term interest rates on the horizon, consistent economic growth is imperative to solid commercial real estate investment in the years ahead.
National vacancy rates in the office market are forecast to decline 0.2 percentage point over the coming year, while international trade gains continue to boost use for industrial space, which forecasts a decline of 0.3 point. The outlook for personal income and consumer spending is favorable for the retail market, likely leading to a vacancy decline of 0.2 percent.
“The multifamily sector continues to be the top-performer in commercial real estate with the lowest vacancy rates. However, tight availability – despite new construction – is causing rents to currently rise near 4 percent annually in many markets,” says Yun. “Many renters who are getting squeezed may begin to view homeownership as a more favorable, long-term option.”
NAR reported earlier this month in its annual Commercial Member Profile that despite subpar economic expansion, REALTORS® who practice commercial real estate saw an increase in sales transaction volume and medium gross annual income in 2013.
NAR’s latest Commercial Real Estate Outlook offers overall projections for four major commercial sectors and analyzes quarterly data in the office, industrial, retail and multifamily markets. Historic data for metro areas were provided by REIS Inc., a source of commercial real estate performance information.
Office vacancy rates should decline from an expected 15.8 percent in the second quarter of this year to 15.6 percent in the second quarter of 2015.
Currently, the markets with the lowest office vacancy rates in the second quarter are New York City and Washington, D.C., at 9.4 percent; Little Rock, Ark., 11.5 percent; San Francisco, 12.6 percent; and New Orleans, at 12.8 percent.
Office rents are projected to increase 2.5 percent in 2014 and 3.2 percent next year. Net absorption of office space in the U.S., which includes the leasing of new space coming on the market as well as space in existing properties, is likely to total 39.7 million square feet this year and 49.8 million in 2015.
Industrial vacancy rates are anticipated to fall from 9.0 percent in the second quarter to 8.7 percent in the second quarter of 2015.
The areas with the lowest industrial vacancy rates currently are Orange County, Calif., with a vacancy rate of 3.5 percent; Los Angeles, 3.9 percent; Miami and Seattle, 6.0 percent, and Palm Beach, Fla., at 6.5 percent.