Monday, April 30, 2018

Asian Capital Powers Record Global Growth in Real Estate Investment

The highest level of real estate investment on record was achieved in 2017 with a global total of $1.62 trillion (US), compared to $1.43 trillion (US) in 2016, according to Cushman & Wakefield’s “The Global Investment Atlas 2018” report. The investment climate is anticipated to further improve in 2018.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Carlo Barel di Sant’Albano, says, “Global real estate performed exceptionally well in 2017 with volumes up sharply and increasing valuations. This has provided good momentum going into 2018, and the balance of pricing, supply and demand all point to a further healthy year.”

Asian investors were the major driving force behind the record levels of real estate investment, with money from the region accounting for more than half of all capital deployed, and 46% of all cross-border activity. What is more, with the range of sources of capital within the region still increasing, this is likely to signal a period of sustained dominance.

Global investors from APAC increased their exposure to most markets, with the U.S. a notable exception. North America’s loss was Europe’s gain however, as investment from Asian sources grew by 96% year-over-year, primarily a result of several very large-scale transactions.

Sources: Hutchings, David. "Global Investment Atlas 2018". Cushman & Wakefield. Mar 14, 2018. Web Apr 30, 2018.

U.S. Food Hall Market Expected To Triple By 2020 - Retail

U.S. Food Hall Market Expected To Triple By 2020

Food halls have become the hottest trend in retail, and a new report projects the market will nearly triple in size by 2020. 
Quarter Market Food Hall Ballston Quarter
Courtesy of Forest City
A rendering of the Quarter Market food hall in Forest City's Ballston Quarter redevelopment

When Cushman & Wakefield first began tracking food halls, open eatery concepts developers across the country are putting into mixed-use projects, in 2015, it found 70 projects across the U.S. That number had grown to 118 by the end of 2017. Based on under-construction and planned projects, the firm's 2018 report projects there will be 180 food halls by year-end and 300 by the end of 2020. 

That projection represents a conservative estimate, according to Cushman & Wakefield Vice President of Retail Intelligence Garrick Brown. Since the report's publication Monday, he has been sent information on at least eight additional projects, and there were some he could not include in the report because owners did not want to make their plans public. "For retail concepts, I can't think of anything that's exploded in growth this way," Brown said. 
Cushman & Wakefield food hall graph
Courtesy: Cushman & Wakefield
Cushman & Wakefield projects an explosion of new food halls over the next three years.

The trend is driven by a confluence of factors, Brown said, such as the emergence of foodie culture, the headwinds facing other types of retail and the urgency of developers to drive activity to mixed-use projects. 

"In the past, malls had the view that people were going there for shopping and food was an extra amenity," Brown said. "What we're seeing in the last two to three years is that it's been flipped completely. Shopping center owners are realizing that you've got to do everything you can to get people to your stores, and food brings people out. It has the same draw of retailers, if not greater. There's urgency with developers to get in on the food hall craze."
The rise of food halls has also been driven by their own success. Of the more than 100 that have opened, Cushman & Wakefield found just three across the U.S. that have failed. Of the roughly 25 food halls that have opened in Manhattan, not a single one has failed. 

Since they are composed of several small users, the struggling of one concept does not doom the whole project as it might for a new restaurant. And the wide range of users, from food truck operators to celebrity chefs, gives food halls a bevy of options to fill open stands. 

"Because it's such a small bit of space and startup costs are low, they are very easily replaced," Brown said. "It's a whole different ballgame." 
Chelsea Market
Having food halls as an anchor has not only helped drive leasing for other components of mixed-use projects, it has also made properties much more valuable and sought-after for acquisitions. Brown cited Google's recent $2.4B purchase of Manhattan's 75 Ninth Ave., the building that houses Chelsea Market, which he said was a deciding factor in the deal. 

"Google could have chosen any building in Manhattan," Brown said. "They chose a location their employees are going to love working at. Having that amenity for their employees is outstanding." The food hall movement started in busy downtown locations, but has recently begun to expand to the suburbs, Brown said. 

"If you're a Class-A mall in a suburban location, it's a perfect fit," Brown said. "One of the things that kept it from the suburbs initially was density, you need considerable foot traffic for these things to be successful. If you're dealing with a mall setting, especially a Class-A mall where foot traffic decline has been the least, that's something that you already have." 

In the suburbs of Washington, D.C., for example, multiple food halls have recently opened or are underway. Celebrity chef Mike Isabella opened a 41K SF food hall at Tysons Galleria in December, though recent sexual harassment allegations against Isabella have created challenges for the concept.

The National Market food hall at MGM National Harbor in Maryland opened in late 2016, and the 25K SF Quarter Market food hall at Forest City's redevelopment of the Ballston Common Mall in Arlington, Virginia, is expected to open in September. 

As food halls have exploded, Brown said finding quality operators has become a challenge. Landlords often do not want to manage the food halls themselves so they seek out third-party operators to lease the space, but the list of reliable companies is short. 

"Once you get away from a handful of names, what we're finding is there are a lack of operators that have all of the goods," Brown said. 

The localized and authentic nature of food hall users makes it difficult for national companies to emerge, but Brown said he is beginning to see large investment groups traversing the country with plans to operate in five to 10 markets. 

The most common question Brown gets from developers about the rapid rise of food halls is if the concept will become overbuilt. His answer? Of course, but overbuilding will happen market-by-market and no cities are there yet. 

Brown described New York City as in the seventh inning of its food hall growth, while cities like Denver and Miami are in the fifth and Washington D.C. is in the fourth. Others like Phoenix, he said, are still singing the national anthem. The nation's sixth-largest city does not have a single food hall concept, he said. "There is a whole lot of unexplored terrain out there," Brown said. "I don't see this going away any more than I see co-working going away. I think it's here to stay, and it's really in its infancy." 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Connect Media Presents the Winners of Our 2018 Top Broker Awards

Connect Media presents the winners of our 2018 Top Broker Awards sponsored by Buildout.

Based on more than 500 nominations received, we recognize 40 leading commercial real estate brokers, or teams of brokers, in property sales and leasing for this honor. Transactions considered included 2017 total dollar volume, total deal square footage and total number of transactions.

We chose 10 National winners, as well as 10 leaders from each of the three areas covered by our regional newsletters: California, Texas and New York. 

Thank you to all who submitted and congratulations to this elite group of CRE professionals.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

7 Key Retail Property Valuation Considerations

Unsplash/Alessandro Sparato

As retail evolves and adapts to a new competitive landscape, so do the criteria used for assessing property values. Retailers face new pressure to refine, differentiate and Amazon-proof their business models, often by combining excitement, digital integration and a high level of service. 

Here are the top seven factors investors, appraisers and landlords should weigh when considering existing and potential retail properties. 

1. Highest And Best Use 

In some cases, a property may no longer be financially feasible to continue operating as a retail property. A growing number of landlords are realizing retail may not be their property's maximally productive use, according to RSM Real Estate Valuation and Advisory Director Kenny Kim. 

Symbolic of this shift is the repurposing of the 676K SF Lord & Taylor flagship store in Manhattan into WeWork’s new global headquarters, with plans to convert all but the lower three levels to office. The co-working giant acquired the iconic property from Hudson’s Bay for $850M. 

2. Tenant Mix 

Investors historically sought retail properties with traditional anchors like Macy’s and Nordstrom because they drew a strong consumer base, Kim said. There were 34 billion visits to U.S. stores in 2010, nearly twice as many as the 17.6 billion recorded in 2013. 

Some forward-looking landlords are hoping to attract customers, refresh their malls and, in some cases, quadruple their rental income, by replacing these struggling department stores with a number of smaller, experiential shops. 

“As investor demand shifts toward malls with more experiential tenants, such as movie theaters and food and beverage, real estate appraisers or investors need to have a fresh mindset in how the preferred tenant mix impacts value,” Kim said. 

Unsplash/Shravan Vijayabaskaran 

3. Retail Category 

According to Kim, some property types, such as lifestyle centers, entertainment-centric malls and Class-A regional malls may continue to thrive, while big-box retail may transform into a combination of store and distribution/warehousing space. 

“As the integration between online presence and retail stores evolve, so too will the retail physical spaces,” Kim said. “These changes may have a material impact on rent and expense levels that drive the valuations.” 

4. Co-Tenancy And Go-Dark Clauses 

Kim said leases should be examined for co-tenancy and go-dark clauses, which can dramatically impact the rental income collected. 

A major tenant’s departure can have a devastating effect on surrounding retailers’ foot traffic and sales. Co-tenancy clauses protect remaining retailers by lowering their rents in this instance. But because the stores’ sales may decline as a result of the overall property occupancy fluctuations, the rent paid to landlords as a percentage of store sales can also diminish, Kim said.  

Depending on the overall health of the mall and its anticipated response to store closures, future cash flows may be significantly lower and difficult to estimate. 5. Lease-Up And Downtime Newly developed retail properties may take longer to lease up vacant space as the uncertain competitive climate inspires greater caution, according to Kim. Historical property data and assumptions may no longer be valid forecasting tools. “Downtime and re-leasing assumptions of vacated space will require reconsideration,” Kim said. 

Unsplash/Tom Sodoge 

6. Tenant Improvement Allowances And Capital Expenditures 

Landlords may need to allocate more money for tenant improvement allowances to incentivize new tenants. 

As ambience becomes increasingly necessary to lure shoppers, additional capital expenditures may be required to update common areas and building exteriors, Kim said. 

7. Investment Rates 

The capitalization and discount rates are key assumption drivers of value in the discounted cash flow analysis. 

“As e-commerce continues to challenge retail properties, many retail assets will be in a state of being nonstabilized, and the estimation of the capitalization and discount rates will require much greater consideration,” Kim said. “An appraiser or investor will need to evaluate the risk inherent in the cash flows projected, such as the net operating income growth over the analysis period, and properly reflect market and execution risk in the investment rates.”

Sources: Berkman, Alec. "7 Key Retail Property Valuation Considerations". Bisnow National. Nov 13, 2017. Web Nov 28, 2017.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Outlook 2018: Foreign Investment Remains Strong, Cost To Retain Tenants On The Rise

NEW YORK—Tenant improvement (TI) allowances and free rent are up nationwide and growing at a more rapid pace, and there’s been a significant slowdown in velocity despite ample capital in the market, Scott Latham, vice chairman and co-lead for Colliers International’s New York capital markets and investment services, and Andrew Nelson, the firm’s chief economist, tell As 2017 draws to a close, we spoke with Latham and Nelson about current CRE investment trends, both on a national and global level, and the role of rising interest rates in investor strategy for 2018.
One overarching trend Latham notes is the increasing cost of attracting and retaining tenants. “Tenant improvement allowances and free rent are up about 70% in midtown Manhattan over the last five years, which equates to $65 per square foot in TI allowances and eight months of free rents,” he says. While those are approximations and each transaction is different, it is getting more expensive for landlords to both attract tenants seeking space and retain the tenants they already have.
From an investment-sales perspective, there has been a real slowdown in transaction velocity, according to Latham. Year-over-year, high-level activity is down 50% in Manhattan and about 19% nationally. “It’s not that there’s any shortage of capital, but there simply hasn’t been a lot of trading activity this year,” he says. In Manhattan, this trend is particularly pronounced because of $160 billion of Manhattan real estate has sold since 2014.
But that’s not the only reason for the slowdown, says Latham. “Some things happened last year that started to create uncertainty in the minds of investors, and as a result investors started to be more cautious and be a little more cautious.” The first factor was Brexit, and uncertainty over how it would impact the European markets and what it would do to the markets in general. This created a situation where transactional activity slowed in Europe and in the US. Second, the US elections produced uncertainty on the part of real estate owners and investors.  That uncertainty has continued because of proposed tax cuts. “They don’t want to transact now if taxes are going to be reduced shortly.”
The third factor influencing the Manhattan marketplace, in particular, is cap rates, which have started to plateau after a number of years of cap rate compression. “We’ve seen cap rates begin to stabilize, which is not terribly surprising in a mature part of the market cycle,” says Latham. “People stop underwriting growth as they do in the early part of a cycle.”
While property transaction volumes are continuing to trend down, price appreciation is generally remaining moderate, says Nelson. “This is consistent with our conclusion that we are nearing the end of this real estate market’s cycle.”
As a whole, the US economy is still viewed as strong and stable, Nelson says, which—combined with ultra-low interest rates—makes US commercial real estate an appealing investment, notwithstanding the Fed’s continued slow push to higher interest rates.
There is at least one caveat to this rosy picture, however. “Globally, the big news of the summer was China’s announcement that offshore investment will receive greater scrutiny from Beijing, likely reducing direct acquisitions from Chinese entities, particularly for big-dollar properties,” says Nelson. But, he adds, impacts from any Chinese pullback are likely to be relatively limited and focused on a few key markets.
As foreign investors go, Latham says that in 2016, two of the top 10 most active participants in the entire US sales market were Chinese and one was Canadian, and those three accounted for about 15% of the activity. In the US market this year, there were no Chinese investors in the list of top 10 most-active investors in the market from a dollar perspective. However, there were three foreign buyers in the top 10 this year: the government of SingaporeCase (a Canadian company, and historically Canada has been the steadiest foreign capital provider to the US market) and APG Dutch, a pension fund. Those three foreign buyers account for about 34% of the market activity.
“We continue to see a large influx of foreign capital in spite of the fact that Chinese capital for the last half of 2017 has been largely absent due to the Chinese government’s focus on capital controls,” says Latham. There has been a lot of foreign activity—this market cycle we have a seen true globalization of the real estate industry—and investors are more comfortable now scouring various markets around the world as they make their investment decisions while factoring in stability, rule of law and other factors as they attempt to balance risk with reward.
For both foreign and domestic investors, interest rates are playing a role in their strategies, but not an outsized role. Latham says there is an overwhelming sentiment that the rise in interest rates will be slow and moderated by future growth. “Rising interest rates mean we’re in a growing economy,” he says. “This translates to tenants feeling good about the way things are going. ” He says when tenants feel this way, they tend to grow and expand, which are good things for the real estate sector.
Of course, a rise in interest rates could slightly lower returns, but investors tend to “price in” those interest rates, and higher rates point to a stronger dollar, which bodes well for foreign investors who hedge against it or rise against their own currencies, says Latham.
Another factor related to the rising interest rate environment is the refinancing risk for those who have loans coming due. This remains in the borrowers’ favor. “Most real estate deals are either five-year or 10-year money,” says Latham. “Interest rates are now 75 bps less than five years ago and 275 bps less than 10 years ago, and values have appreciated.”
On balance, the market is very healthy and has done a very good job of maintaining some serious discipline this time around that will prevent the type of correction we saw in the last cycle, where things were out of control, says Latham. “There’s modest leverage, a strengthening economy and currency that will strengthen as rates tick up a bit. Smooth sailing for at least some period of time is expected as the economy continues to improve in the US.”
Sources: Rossenfeld, Carrie. "Outlook 2018: Foreign Investment Remains Strong, Cost To Retain Tenants On The Rise". Nov 1, 2017. Web Nov 16, 2017.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Commercial Bank RBB Bancorp Prepares For IPO


RBB Bancorp is set to IPO on Wednesday (7.26) and plans to raise $82.8 million through the offer of 3 million shares at an expected price range of $22-24 per share.
Assuming RBB Bancorp prices at the mid-point of its proposed range, it would command a fully diluted market cap value of $373 million.
We are hearing that there is solid demand for this deal.
We recommend investors buy this IPO.


LA-based commercial bank, Royal Business Bank (RBB) will make its market debut on Wednesday (7.26) and expects to raise 82.8 million pricing its shares between $22 and $24. The bank is offering 2.1 million shares with 892,000 shares being offered by selling shareholder. The company intends to contribute approximately $25 million of its net proceeds to Royal Business Bank, its wholly-owned banking subsidiary, and to use the rest for general corporate purposes such as growth initiatives like future acquisitions.
Assuming shares price at the mid-point range, RBB Bancorp will have a market cap value of $373 million.
Underwriters for the IPO include: Sandler O'Neill, Keefe Bruyette Woods, Stephens Inc., FIG Partners.
We previewed the deal on our IPO Insights Platform.

Company Background

RBB Bancorp was founded in 2008 with the mission of providing commercial banking services to first generation immigrants, initially concentrating on Chinese immigrants, and now, marketing to other Asian ethnicities as well. The bank’s management team has utilized its strong local community ties as well as relationships and credibility with federal and California bank regulatory agencies to build up its client base and operations.
RBB Bancorp serves all ethnicities. However, its marketing focus was initially on first generation Chinese-Americans who favored working with banks which conducted business in their native languages.

Source: Dion, Don. "Commercial Bank RBB Bancorp Prepares For IPO". Seeking Alpha. 25 July 2017. Web. 27 July 2017.

More Over Gateway Cities: Why Texas Is Attractive To Foreign Investors

Foreign investors have historically been interested in one type of property: trophy office assets in the central business districts of gateway cities. But as the foreign investment climate diversifies and evolves, Texas has come to stand out as one of the most attractive markets for global dollars. 

Courtesy: KDC, Four CityLine in Richardson, Texas

Texas now outpaces both California and the U.S. average for foreign investment as a percentage of total sales volume, according to CoStar. Its increase in direct foreign investment since the Great Recession is rivaled only by New York. (CoStar tracks mainly direct and announced joint ventures and does not typically include fund investments.)
“Foreign investments in Texas have changed, and while I wouldn’t say it’s been a huge paradigm shift, you should pay attention,” Cushman & Wakefield executive managing director Beth Lambert said. “As [foreign investors] get more sophisticated in our country, they tend to spread out from product type and still need to chase yield. If you’re looking to gather incremental return, gateway cities are tough to do that.” 

Since 2011, Texas has been behind only New York and California for total new foreign direct investment projects. Last year, foreign buyer sales volume exceeded $5B in the Lone Star State, or about 15% of all sales, according to CoStar. That is a huge leap from 2008 and 2009, when foreign investment accounted for less than 2% of all sales volume in Texas. The tail end of 2016 and Q1 of 2017 saw a modest decline in Texas, but that seems to represent a blip rather than a strong negative trend. 

More than 50% of foreign direct investment projects into Texas originated from western Europe, predominantly the United Kingdom, Germany and France, according to the Texas Economic Development Corp.

Courtesy of CoStar Foreign Buyers in Texas, California, New York and the U.S.

Different asset classes, particularly industrial, have become more attractive in recent years. Industrial’s low cost per SF allows investors to buy more property, CBRE vice chairman Jack Fraker said. Metros with high concentrations of industrial assets, including many Texas cities, naturally benefit from more foreign interest in the asset class. And more recently, a trend of acquiring industrial portfolios has arisen. 

In 2015, $3.1B of cross-border investment was pumped into the Texas industrial sector compared to $4.6B of domestic investment, according to Real Capital Analytics. That $3.1B far exceeds the $156M invested into industrial assets from cross-border funds in 2016. So far in 2017, foreign investment has pumped $227M into Texas industrial product.
“Ten or 15 years ago you started to see industrial portfolios spread across multiple cities [trading],” Fraker said. As e-commerce and last-mile distribution become more imperative, industrial portfolios offer opportunities of scale, Fraker said. 

Part of what makes Texas ripe for global investment is its infrastructure, PPA Group chief investment officer John Latham said. PPA's value-add multifamily acquisitions throughout Texas are funded largely from Chinese and other foreign investors. More direct flights and better highways allow investors to tour properties before they invest, Latham said. Plus, high-quality infrastructure makes the industrial markets in Texas that much more attractive for transporting goods.

“Over the last 20 years, it’s gotten easier to get to Texas from the coasts. But Texas is the next logical place,” Latham said.

Kyle Hagerty, Bisnow, Downtown Houston skyline

Push factors can be just as important as pull factors, Latham said. Many countries with high concentrations of wealth are facing currency valuation issues, overbuilding and government instability. 

“The demand is driven by what’s going on in their home country besides what’s going on here. We often look stable comparatively,” he said.

While those factors do not make Texas more attractive than, say, New York or San Francisco, the Lone Star State often serves as a next frontier for foreign money looking to spread itself out into other markets or increase its amount in real estate holdings. 
“When looking at risk profile, there’s a natural tendency to diversify, and Texas is a diverse state in all aspects,” Lambert said. DFW's economy is supported by many sectors, Houston has strong ports, Austin is blossoming into a major metro, and San Antonio provides incremental and stable economic growth. 

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas

Institutional investors, both foreign and domestic, have also increased their percentage of real estate holdings from about 5% of total equity 10 years ago to double that today, Fraker said. 

As real estate becomes a larger percentage of total investments, Lambert has seen a lot more direct investments from foreigners who have opted to drop their local partner. 
The opportunity to generate positive yields transcends foreign investors specifically. “The demand for yield is common across most investor groups; that’s not a U.S. phenomenon,” Transwestern Corporate Properties president Laurie Dotter said. Dotter and her Transwestern Investment Group team bought State Farm’s campus in Richardson in a sale-leaseback with Seoul-based Mirae Asset Global Investments last fall. “We see foreign investors saying, ‘I can comfortably generate good yield here in Texas,’” Dotter said.

Source: Bunch, Julia. "More Over Gateway Cities: Why Texas Is Attractive To Foreign Investors". Bisnow Dallas/Fort Worth. 23 May 2017. Web. 27 July 2017.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sources: Chinese-based home goods retailer readying massive project in Frisco

A Chinese manufacturer of building materials, hardware and home goods is readying plans to make way for a massive retail hub along the U.S. 380 corridor in Frisco, sources say.

The real estate rumblings come after an affiliate of Lesso America Inc., a subsidiary of China Lesso Group Holdings Ltd., acquired two tracts of land totaling more than 76 acres in Frisco for a new mall development site in June 2016.

Lesso America President Victor Lin did not respond to interview requests. Real estate sources say Lesso America is working on plans to build a multi-story retail center that would be a hybrid between an Ikea and a Home Depot with a focus on serving the growing North Texas suburbs.

If developed, this could be one of the first Lesso Mall developments to appear in the United States. But other U.S. locations could be in the mix.

In April, China Lesso acquired an underperforming mall, called Mall at the Source, in Westbury, New York, for a reported $90 million. The company has kept quiet about plans for the East Coast retail property.

Upon Lesso making its foray into Australia with a new store in Sydney, Lin told The Australian this was part of the company's larger global strategy to diversify its holdings amid challenging conditions in China.

The new store, called Lesso Home, brings all the Lesso-manufactured products available in other shops throughout Australia under one roof, Lin told the reporter. He also said the company was diversifying its interests amid challenging conditions in China with plans to open more locations in North America, the Middle East and Asia.

Two years ago, China Lesso Group made its move in America, launching its U.S. pipe production in Corona, California.

DFW's rapidly growing population along the U.S. 380 corridor could make this an ideal launch site for this type of retail concept in Texas, said Ken Reimer, partner and co-founder of Dallas-based Venture Commercial.

"There's no doubt there's a growing population in this part of the region that could handle a store like this," said Reimer, who works with numerous retailers searching for land sites for storefronts along the corridor.

Reimer, who did not know about Lesso Group's plans, said with few retail competitors along the growing U.S. 380 corridor and a building boom, he could see why a retail company like Lesso would be attracted to the site.

Plus, Frisco has received international attention with its rapid population growth, which has attracted global companies and investors to the city, he added.

"Collin County and Frisco have done a good job of attracting companies from throughout the world," he added.

An affiliated entity of China Lesso Group, called Lesso Mall Development (Frisco) Ltd., acquired the land last summer. Officials with the Frisco Economic Development Corp. have declined to comment on the project.

Sources: Carlisle, Candace. "Chinese-based home goods retailer readying massive project in Frisco". Biz Journals 22 July 2017. Web. 24 July 2017.