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Why Institutional Investors are Bullish on U.S. Real Estate




This article is sponsored by Marcus & Millichap.

Written by Mark Taylor, Senior Vice President Investments, Senior Director, National Retail Group


Most commercial brokerage firms had their best year ever in 2015 in terms of transactions closed, dollar volume closed, and revenue. (At Marcus & Millichap, we closed 7,667 transactions totaling $33,139,000,000). We expect 2016 to be another strong year for investment real estate in the United States. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew modestly last year, and we believe it will grow 1.5%-2.5% in 2016. Trade imbalances related to the stronger dollar and weaker foreign economies could subdue economic expansion in 2016 to a limited degree. Following an addition of 2.65 million jobs in 2015, we see continued job growth and project roughly the same amount of new jobs in 2016.

Overall, in a recent Urban Land Institute (ULI) survey, 70% of real estate professionals think 2016 will be a good year for U.S. investment real estate.

Though January 2016 has seen a sharp decline in the stock market with a lot of volatility, we believe there are still good reasons to feel positive about the U.S. real estate market:

New construction for most property types remains low given the current stage of the cycle
Falling gas prices, a tightening unemployment rate and rising wage pressure will boost discretionary income
Strong corporate performance underpins demand for office space as residual space is burned off
Favorable demographics and pent-up demand will support the housing sector – both apartment and for-sale housing
Rising consumption and emergence of Internet retail lift industrial demand at major hubs and in local markets
Steady gains in both business and leisure travel generating record-setting hospitality performance
Specialty commercial real estate including self-storage and seniors housing performing well as limited construction amplifies positive demand drivers
Competitive commercial real estate yields benefit from a still historically low interest rate environment
Influx of domestic and international capital seeking security of hard assets boost commercial real estate liquidity and support increased property values


Our Multi-Family Investment outlook remains healthy. Potential demographic-driven upsides drove capital into the apartment sector in 2015. Primary markets accounted for the majority of deals and dollar volume during the year, but secondary markets also stood out, posting sizable gains in transactions and dollar volume. With cap rates for Class A assets in preferred and primary markets at less than 5 percent, development will continue to become an option for groups seeking to capture higher yields. Locations near mass-transit hubs in urbanized markets are prime targets.

The Office Market both in CBDs and in the suburbs in 2015 saw absorption at brisk levels with vacancy down 90 basis points and rents up 2.9% on average. With the “co-working” trend accelerating, and job growth steady, we think 2016 will bring continued absorption and rent growth in the office sector.

Growth across multiple industries enabled U.S. employers to add 292,000 jobs last month, pushing total new jobs in 2015 to 2.65 million, the second-highest annual total of the current expansion cycle. Service providers led the way in December, with professional and business services adding 73,000 workers during the month. The sound state and security of the job market continues to provide the means for many workers to pursue educational goals that were put off during the recession and in the early stages of the recovery.

Several gauges of labor-market slack ended 2015 on a high note and will provide confidence to Federal Reserve policymakers. The underemployment rate registered 9.9 percent in December, marking the third consecutive month with a reading of less than 10 percent, the first such occurrence since 2008. The number of workers who could find only part-time work also fell for the second consecutive year in 2015, a sign of greater employer willingness to make long-term commitments that was not evident in the early phases of the current expansion. Vacancy was on track to fall modestly in 2015, but the sector could perform more vigorously this year as recent staffing gains translate into actual requirements for larger workspaces.

The Net Lease Sector is still going strong even if it has slightly decelerated from its frothy peak in the first half of 2015. Demand is strong from 1031 exchange buyers and net lease funds. Net lease retail cap rates have flattened a bit, but still are in the 5.0 to 6.0 range for investment grade tenants.

Due to the ease of capital migration, net-leased assets remain highly attractive with institutional and private buyers seeking to deploy money outside their home markets.

Historically low interest rates and rising property values have encouraged investors to expand their holdings in a search for yield. Due to the ease of capital migration, net-leased assets remain highly attractive with institutional and private buyers seeking to deploy money outside their home markets. Extremely low Treasury yields have led to robust competition among potential bidders wishing to rebalance or exchange their assets, and many closed sales consisted of high portions of cash. Assets with a large majority of the lease remaining and corporate credit tenancy will often exchange ownership in excess of the asking price, depending on traffic counts and location. Foreign capital also remains active, particularly due to recent volatility in overseas currency and equity markets, with investors keen on the safety and security of U.S. based assets. An expected interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve will encourage elevated trading activity throughout the remainder of 2015. We expect net lease cap rates to decompress 25-50 basis points in 2016.


The Retail Sector

Total retail sales climbed 2.2 percent in 2015 despite a double-digit tumble in gas station sales for the entire year. A bright spot was spending at food service and drinking establishments, which surged 6.7 percent for the year, indicating consumers remain confident in the direction of the economy. Housing-related categories, however, were mixed. Sales of building materials and garden equipment jumped 4.2 percent last year as homeowners undertook home improvement projects, but furniture sales were up only slightly. A low homeownership rate and growing preference for rentals continue to suppress growth in this category.

Including the 7.1 percent increase last year, online sales have expanded more than 50 percent since employers resumed hiring in 2010, far outpacing the 23 percent bump in store-based sales over the same stretch. Sales online rose 20 percent during the holiday shopping season, easily surpassing the results posted in other retail categories. The rise to prominence of sites including Amazon will continue to prompt retailers’ strategies to reach consumers, such as Macy’s and Saks have recently announced.

Overall retail property vacancy was on track to fall to 6.1 percent last year as completions remained minimal and space demand grew; tighter vacancy was also supporting rent growth in the low-2 percent range. Some additional vacancy may arise, though, as Walmart shutters more than 150 U.S. stores, including 102 Walmart Express locations.

The rise in the online retail segment continues to generate new demand for space for warehousing consumer goods and order fulfillment. Absorption of space by retail tenants contributed to a 30-basis-point decrease in U.S. industrial vacancy last year to 6.5 percent. An additional decline will occur in 2016 as demand rises and limited speculative space comes online.

Institutional capital is flowing into places like Philadelphia, Nashville, San Antonio, Austin, Denver and San Diego in search of better yields on all asset classes.


One trend we are seeing is capital being invested in what some call “18 hour” cities given the very low yields in “gateway” cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. Institutional capital is flowing into places like Philadelphia, Nashville, San Antonio, Austin, Denver and San Diego in search of better yields on all asset classes. Another trend is anticipating the residential and work habits of the Millennial generation. Many are deferring marriage and children to later, but when they do marry, will they stay in urban hubs or will many move to suburbs? We predict many will stay in urban hubs, but a significant percentage will go to closer in suburbs with amenities, mass transit, and mixed use within 20 minutes of the downtown urban core.

Automobile use by the Millennials is down 23% according to the Urban Land Institute. Last, the Baby Boomer generation is working longer and downsizing their households, which will effect both the multifamily and office sectors.

Where to Invest?

Of course, the big question is where to invest. Gateway cities have become very expensive, and cap rates are at their lowest point ever. Many young people are being priced out of places like New York and moving elsewhere. The United States is a large country and there are many markets that have economic drivers, are sustainable, and have demographics that are appealing To pick up on the theme of 18 hour cities previously mentioned, we see more capital seeking a higher yield by looking in secondary markets, suburbs of primary and secondary markets, and other areas where there are identifiable economic drivers, such as “university towns”, port cities, highway distribution hub areas, and infill areas in the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston. Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Austin, and Nashville are a small sample of such markets. There are more, and they are a safe haven. Quality multi-family, retail, office and industrial assets exist in many parts of the country and investors seeking yield are remiss in not seeking them out and understanding the markets they are in.

Marcus & Millichap knows those markets better than anyone. As of early January 2016, we had over $12 billion in inventory listed in the four major asset classes.

There are thousands of private equity owners, merchant developers, and 1031 exchange buyers throughout the United States. Good advisors and real estate professionals can create portfolio opportunities as well as sale/leaseback opportunities for acquisition and disposition across multiple asset classes. New data resources and technologies allow investors to mine information and drill down to look at these markets at a granular level. It’s a big country. Explore it, and invest in it.

Marcus & Millichap
Since 1971, Marcus & Millichap (NYSE: MMI) has been the premier provider of investment real estate brokerage services. The foundation of our investment sales is the depth of our local market knowledge. Our 44-year history of maintaining investor relationships in local markets enables us to be the best information source and transaction service provider in North America.

In 2014, Marcus & Millichap closed 7,667 investment transactions for private and institutional investors. By closing more transactions annually than any other firm, our investment professionals provide clients with an unparalleled perspective on the investment real estate market locally, regionally and nationally. Included in these transactions were shopping centers, office and industrial buildings, apartment properties, single-tenant net-lease properties, hotels/motels, seniors housing facilities, healthcare/medical office, student housing, manufactured home communities, self-storage facilities, golf and resort properties and land.

Marcus & Millichap has established itself as a leading and expanding investment real estate company with over 1,500 investment professionals in 80 offices throughout the United States and Canada.

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Sponsor Content

How Does Geopolitics Affect Financial Markets?



This article is sponsored by State Street Global Advisors.

In Alexandre Dumas’s 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo, news of an impending cross-border revolution in Spain leads to financial panic among French investors. Some investors end up selling Spanish bonds at a great loss, only to see the price bounce back after the news proves to be erroneous.

Geopolitics matters to markets in the real world too and has been a major theme in 2018, as the post-war global order is dismantled and protectionism takes hold. But, as in Dumas’ tale, it can be hard for investors to know how to react to such uncertainty. In this paper, we examine attempts to assess the impact of geopolitics on markets and conduct our own analysis on how it plays out over different time periods. Our hope is that investors can use this analysis when considering how best to respond to future geopolitical events, in terms of both the risks and opportunities they may present.

By clicking on the link to view the report, you acknowledge you are an institutional investor or other accredited investor.

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Sponsor Content

Through the looking glass



This article is sponsored by Dominion.

The decision taken by the British Government to require the 14 British Overseas Territories (BOTs) to establish Public registers of the beneficial owners of Companies registered in these territories has so far created a divided reaction. The BOTs, have generally taken the view that it is grossly unfair for the UK Government to use ancient Constitutional rights to impose the new legislation whereas the Crown Dependencies who are not affected by this decision have unsurprisingly provided a more measured response. This is reflected by Deputy Gavin St Pier in statements very similar to those issued by Politicians in Jersey stating that ‘Guernsey will introduce a public register if that becomes the agreed global standard.’

Gavin St Pier’s words have I am sure been chosen carefully since the body that has the necessary authority to end this debate is The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (Global Forum) that has been the multinational framework within which work in the area of transparency and exchange of information has been carried out by both OECD and non-OECD economies since 2000. The Global Forum is the only international body endorsed by the G20 on issues of transparency and Exchange of Information for tax purposes.

So what does the Global Forum have to say on this issue. Well, paragraph 14 of the report of the Plenary Meeting of the Global Forum held in Cameroon in November 2017 states ‘The second round of peer reviews launched in 2016 reflects the latest developments in international tax transparency, including the requirement to have beneficial ownership information which strengthens the fight against anonymous shell companies and the use of legal arrangements to conceal ownership of identity.’ So reasonably one might expect, this issue should already have been dealt with. Unfortunately not it seems. The information sharing framework created by the Global Forum is designed as an exchange of information programme between Governments. Information exchanged is not available to the Public. So therein lies the problem. Public disclosure of beneficial ownership, despite what paragraph 14 might say, does not appear to have been clarified by the Global Forum, leaving it to Governments, pressure groups and other Organisations around the World to set the Public Agenda on this thorny subject.

Hopefully at this years Plenary Meeting of the Global Forum guidance will be provided on this issue that will feed through into legislation in all Countries that have adopted CRS. In the Plenary Meeting in Cameroon it was noted that ‘Some Members expressed concern that the ongoing EU listing process (referring to a proposed blacklisting of certain jurisdictions by the EU) is occurring outside the framework of the Global Forum… Statements like this would not I imagine encourage the Crown Dependencies to make further comment on this issue or to take any specific action as the Global Forum is clearly through these remarks reinforcing it’s mandate granted to it by the G20. The direction of travel, if one considers EU anti-money laundering Directives and bodies such as the EITI of which the UK is an important Member, would appear to favour a new regime creating a framework for Public Disclosure but when and in what form all stakeholders in this process will just have to wait and see what develops and whether the Global Forum will opine and then issue model legislation on this important issue.

To read more on this subject please visit:

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Sponsor Content

How Do Public Pension Funds Invest?



This article is sponsored by State Street.

Public Pension Funds (PPFs) are highly idiosyncratic and distinct from other types of institutional investors. The universe of investors that fall within our definition of a PPF is numerous and varied. We count 115 institutions in 70 jurisdictions, diverse in geography and economic development. For the purposes of our study, we examined the top 16 funds whose assets constitute just over two-thirds of the total universe. Despite all the idiosyncrasies of PPFs, we have found some shared characteristics in the evolution of their asset allocation over the past decade.

According to our definition, PPFs held around $5.9 trillion in total assets of 2016 and over 4% of all publicly traded assets, making them a significant global investor group. In particular, given their preferences for specific asset classes, their share is disproportionate in some segments. For example, we estimate that by year-end 2016, PPFs owned over 7% of global tradeable fixed income assets (including 8% government bonds and over 13% of inflation-linked bonds) and over 3% of listed public equities.

Similar to other asset owners, PPFs have undertaken a major reallocation of assets over the past decade. However, the motivating driver has not only been the low yield environment, but also changing regulatory and macro policy settings, which either permitted or encouraged greater diversification along asset classes and geographical exposure.

In detail, the most dominant trend has been the move away from holding domestic (local currency) bonds; in their place, PPFs have redeployed assets towards equities and alternatives, with a small share also diverted into foreign bonds. These allocation trends have been almost universal despite a huge diversity of geography and economic development.

It is important to acknowledge how much this investor group has changed over the past decade, with the asset pool growing by over 40% in dollar terms, and even more if measured in local currencies. While some funds are still predominantly captive buyers of government debt, the bulk of PPFs have been transforming into financial institutions with independent firepower and income-generating capacity. The long-term trend towards more diversified fixed income portfolios is likely to continue, as is the shift towards taking on more risk via equity allocations, subject as ever to changes in market cycles. In this context, we expect most PPFs to not only continue taking on more risk overall, but to further internationalise their portfolios.

Finally, one consideration is that maturing funds catering for aging populations will have to make further adjustments to their asset allocations to account for changing cash flow directions and seek greater contributions and investment returns to bridge any funding gaps.

All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such.

This document may contain certain statements deemed to be forward-looking statements. All statements, other than historical facts, contained within this document that address activities, events or developments that SSGA expects, believes or anticipates will or may occur in the future are forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and that actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements.

Tracking Code: 2172159.1.1.GBL.RTL


By clicking on the link to view the report, you acknowledge you are an institutional investor or other accredited investor.

Elliot Hentov, Ph.D. Head of Policy and Research, Official Institutions Group
Alexander Petrov Policy and Research, Official Institutions Group
Sejal Odedra Business Analyst, Client Strategy, Official Institutions Group

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