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NAIOP Roundtable 2011 - AZRE Magazine September/October 2011

NAIOP Roundtable 2011

NAIOP Roundtable 2011

The commercial real estate industry is clearly recovering. Companies are absorbing vacant space, build-to-suit development is active and abundant capital is pursuing core real estate. The key question remains, however, how do we compare with the other major markets when it comes to job and population growth?
In short, when will the market justify new development and how will the state and our local commercial real estate industry assist in this effort? To be sure, the future remains bright in Arizona but the recovery will last longer before the next boom.

— Mike Haenel


NAIOP Roundtable Participants KeyNAIOP Roundtable - AZRE Magazine September/October 2011

Roundtable Participants

 

1 — SB: Scott Bjerk
President
Bjerk Builders, Inc.

2 — MC: Megan Creecy
Leasing and Development Manager
EJM Development Co.

8 — JD: John DiVall
Senior VP
Liberty Property Trust

MH: Mike Haenel
Executive VP, Industrial Group
Cassidy Turley BRE Commercial
Chairman Profile

6 — TH: Todd Holzer
VP of Development
Ryan Companies US

5 — KM: Keaton Merrell
Principal
Legacy Capital Advisors

7 — BM: Bob Mulhern
Managing Director Greater Phoenix
Colliers International

3 — DW: Deron Webb
Managing Principal
Wentworth Webb & Postal

4 — CW: Clay Wells
Director, Business Development
McShane Construction Co.


Q: What is different in July 2011 in our local commercial real estate industry than a year ago?

BM: The short answer is that the market is stronger, but still burdened by vacancy rates that are high by historical standards, despite being lower than recent peaks. What is decidedly different, however, is that the outlook is considerably brighter than it was a year ago.

Last year at this time, uncertainty was the overriding theme and it plagued the market. The industrial market had posted just one quarter of positive absorption, and it was unclear whether that was a one-time burst in activity or a sign that tenants were more optimistic and the industrial market was beginning to turn a corner. Now we can see that tenant demand for industrial space has been sustained for more than a year, vacancy is tightening, and rents are stabilizing. We are also seeing headline-making announcements from companies such as Amazon and First Solar that not only improve the numbers, but also renew confidence in the market as a whole.

The office market has been slower to bounce back, but it is far more stable today than it was a year ago. A year ago, we were averaging negative net absorption of more than 500,000 SF per quarter, and the vacancy rate was shooting higher. While absorption has been mixed in recent quarters — up one quarter, down the next — the overall vacancy trend is essentially flat. The market hasn’t necessarily started to improve, but it’s no longer in free fall. We’re forecasting slightly positive absorption in the second half of 2011 and then positive absorption of nearly 1 MSF in 2012. We think rents will likely tick lower through the remainder of this year, because the high availability of space will continue to create competition in the marketplace.

MC: Activity is up, but it is still the quintessential “tale of two tenants.” National companies with 200,000 SF+ warehouse requirements are in the market. And, there are definitely more of those types of requirements (including build-to-suits) in the market today than there were last year at this time.

When looking, however, at say deals in the 5,000 SF to 20,000 SF range, there has been an increase in activity, but the regional and local tenants who comprise a large portion of that market segment are still facing a lot of challenges, such as difficulty obtaining financing, and economic uncertainty. These challenges result in a constraint on their ability to expand and the lack of confidence needed to make long term real estate decisions, which is why we are still seeing a number of these tenants in the smaller size ranges wanting only short-term extensions in their current spaces.

TH: I sense that we are now a local real estate industry made up of survivors. The attrition of firms is over for the most part. Those remaining have right sized for this “new normal” that we find ourselves in. Companies in our business have had to make changes in their business plans and doing activities that they did not anticipate 4 to 5 years ago. I think that this transformation has completed where a year ago it was still finding itself.

Q: How would you compare our Metro Phoenix commercial real state market to other major markets throughout the Western U.S.?

BM: At present, the characteristic that best describes the Phoenix commercial real estate market is the vacancy rate, which is among the highest, if not the highest of the major markets in the Western U.S. In the period immediately preceding the recession, development in Phoenix was fairly active, and when the economy cratered and companies slashed payrolls, there was a significant supply/demand imbalance.

The difference between Phoenix and the major California markets — where employment losses were nearly as dramatic as losses here — is that those markets didn’t have nearly as much speculative construction in the pipeline. As a result, vacancies rose in California, but not to the heights that they rose in Phoenix.

The other state that makes for an interesting comparison is Texas, where development has historically been quite active — just like Phoenix. The primary difference between Phoenix and the major Texas markets in the recession and thus far in the recovery is that the Texas markets weren’t hit nearly as hard by job losses during the downturn and the state has led the way with job gains during the recovery.

Looking ahead, the picture brightens significantly. Most forecasts call for Phoenix to rebound favorably once the economic recovery really gains traction nationally. Long-term forecasts call for annual population and employment gains in the 2.5% range, which should be similar to the major Texas markets and far outpace the California markets. This anticipated expansion is the primary source of optimism in the Phoenix market — now we’re just waiting for it to happen.

CW: The Metro Phoenix commercial real estate market has actually fared no worse or better than the other major Western U.S. markets. Retail and office continue to struggle in most markets while industrial vacancies for building over 500,000 SF have started to decrease. Recently a 500,000 SF speculative building broke ground in the Inland Empire and I believe if the economy stays as is we will see a speculative industrial building in Phoenix breaking ground by 3Q 2012. Where the Phoenix market differs from the rest of the Western U.S., with the exception of Las Vegas, is the residential real estate market. Metro Phoenix was too dependent on the residential construction market for creating jobs.

The reason this is so important until we create new jobs to replace these lost jobs, the retail and office sectors will continue to be slow to recover. People have to have a job, which allows them to have diposable income to spend at stores creating a need for new retailers. The same can be said for the office market. Until new companies locate to Metro Phoenix or are created here the need for office space will remain depressed. Most activity we are seeing in the office market are new investors coming to Metro Phoenix and buying distressed properties at a discount. This allows them to quote reduced rents forcing a downward pressure on existing landlords, who must rent space at a loss or lose a tenant. Office markets in some cities that have a more diverse economic base are recovering at a better pace than Metro Phoenix.

MC: While there has been increased activity across the Western U.S., the divergence is in the stage of recovery in primary markets such as the Inland Empire, vs. secondary markets like Phoenix.

The Inland Empire, for example, is one of the strongest industrial markets in the country with vacancy at 6.3%, which is the lowest vacancy rate in 14 quarters. By comparison, Phoenix’s Q2 2011 industrial vacancy rate was 13.9%, which was our 5th consecutive quarterly decline. But, I would say that the steady decline in vacancy we are experiencing here in Phoenix is a positive indicator, and it is only a matter of time before our recovery picks up speed.

Property Taxes, AZRE Magazine May/June 2011

Property Taxes: Keep A Keen Eye On County Valuation Notices

What if your business was overcharged for its electricity, natural gas, or perhaps new computers or furniture? Most of us would take a look at our bills, determine where the mistakes occurred and then take the needed steps to resolve the discrepancies. But what if your business is being overcharged for its property taxes by thousands of dollars each year? Is there a course of action to fix this potentially costly problem? The answer is yes.

Each year, typically in February, the county assessor releases “postcard” valuations for each property in the county. In some cases, these valuations exceed the properties’ market value. The problem that we see in Arizona is that many people do not take notice of their property taxes until the county treasurer’s office mails its annual tax bill. But in Arizona, you cannot protest your taxes — only the postcard valuation. Therefore, the time to review your property taxes is when your values are mailed in February, not when you receive your tax bills in October.

What does this mean for local business owners?

Without protesting a postcard valuation, a business owner’s taxes may be substantially higher. In many cases, they need not be. If a business owner paid $4M for an office building last year, on average, the owner will owe approximately $100,000 in real property taxes. However, if the county assessor values the property at $7M based on its computerized mass appraisal, and the business owner does not protest, the owner’s taxes may exceed $175,000.

Why would my property be overvalued?

Over the past several years we have seen significant changes in commercial values, with prices quickly rising in 2005 and 2006, and falling over the past couple of years. Today, however, there are signs of hope. According to William Spart, senior vice president of Wells Fargo Bank, “some submarkets and property types, including apartments, are showing signs of firming up.”

These drastic changes in the market over the past several years have made it difficult for county assessors to determine property value. It is not feasible for the assessors to separately analyze the unique characteristics of each and every parcel. Therefore, the assessor must rely on a blanket formulary approach that attempts to classify buildings and land into various categories to produce a valuation.

The positive is that many people, including Pete Bolton, executive vice president and managing director of Grubb & Ellis, says he believe that we are at the bottom of the market. According to Bolton, the “market has definitely stabilized and we are seeing five to seven main groups, including the FDIC, national banks, CMBS special servicers and others slowly releasing property to the market with market values bouncing along the bottom.”

What if I recently acquired my property?

In Arizona, real property is assessed on an annual basis by the assessor’s office of the county, where the property is physically located. Property tax values are released around February prior to the tax year. While existing owners of real property are required to file all administrative protests within 60 days of release of the postcard values, Arizona has special rules for new owners.

Under Arizona law, new owners have the ability to either take over the old owners’ appeal or if an appeal was not filed, they can typically appeal their valuation to the County Superior Court until Dec. 15 of the valuation year. If the prior owner did not appeal the current year taxes (prior year’s postcard values), you may be able to appeal these taxes as well.

For more information about property taxes, visit wwptax.com.

AZRE Magazine May/June 2011

 

NAIOP, AZRE Magazine September/October 2010

NAIOP Roundtable 2010: Q&A With Members of NAIOP

NAIOP Roundtable 2010: Q&A With Members of NAIOP

Members of NAIOP-AZ sat down with AZRE magazine in a roundtable discussion, discussing the state of the local commercial real estate industry.


NAIOP Roundtable 2010NAIOP Roundtable 2010 Participants

NAIOP Roundtable 2010 Participants:

1 — DW: Deron Webb, Managing Principal, Wentworth Webb & Postal5 — BM: Bob Mulhern, Managing Director Greater Phoenix, Colliers International

2 — JB: Jodi Bailey, VP Property Management Services, Transwestern

6 — KR: Kurt Rosene, Senior VP, The Alter Group
3 — WS: William L. Spart, Senior VP & Manager, Middle Market Real Estate, Wells Fargo Bank7 — TH: Todd Holzer, VP of Development, Ryan Companies US
4 — MH: Mike Haenel, Executive VP, Industrial Group, Cassidy Turley/BRE Commercial8 — JD: John DiVall, Senior VP, Liberty Property Trust

Economy

TH: We are more than two years into the so-called “Great Recession.” How much longer will it last? Will Arizona pull out the same time as the rest of the nation? Since the commercial real estate industry is closely tied to the job market, it’s been a bumpy ride.

Q: What is different in July 2010 in our local commercial real estate industry than a year ago?

MH: The two biggest differences today compared to a year ago, are that tenant demand is on the rise and there are limited distressed industrial real estate opportunities available for sale. It’s important to note that, because we have not seen the oversupply of distressed real estate hit the market, values are higher than we thought they would be given the overall market conditions. This has translated into a significant and noticeable increase in tenant demand.

JD: It is marginally better. As part of the Arizona NAIOP, I wish I could say substantially better, but it’s not. There is more activity, but rates are still depressed, and we are now in the summer doldrums. We are clearly experiencing a jobless recovery. With no new construction on the horizon, we should gradually absorb space and improve.

WS: There are more lenders jumping into the market. We are seeing conduit, CMBS, life and other banks. A year ago we did not see much activity.

Q: How would you compare our Metro Phoenix commercial real estate market to other major markets throughout the Western U.S.?

BM: Phoenix’s metro commercial real estate market has been hit harder than most Western cities, with Las Vegas being the exception. At the end of the second quarter Phoenix vacancies for office (29 MSF/22.5%), industrial (41 MSF/17.7%) and retail (28 MSF/13.3%) were all in historically high ranges, and they remain significantly higher than other Western cities such as Denver (6.7% industrial/14.8% office), San Diego (8.7% industrial/16.2% office), and Los Angeles (not including Orange County and the Inland Empire — 5.0% industrial/12.7% office). Most of the basic fundamentals that draw people to the Valley are still in place, but the lack of job growth, coupled with the depressed residential housing market, are continuing to act as detriments to a commercial real estate rebound. Recognizing these realities, it should be noted that multi-family sales, for which purchase financing is available, are very strong, and that foreign investors, especially from Canada, are entering the market and helping create some velocity in the private client sales market.

JB: Phoenix is a very dynamic commercial real estate market with a highly skilled labor force, an abundance of labor because we are a right-to-work state with competitive wages, and reliable, lower cost energy sources for large users. Ultimately, this means that we attract a wide variety of users from semiconductor manufacturers, biotech/life science laboratories, aerospace and Department of Defense manufacturing, as well as back office and data center occupiers of space. Each building occupier has their reasons for choosing Phoenix over other markets, but we find ourselves to be very competitive as compared to other regional markets.

TH: Phoenix is in the infamous Bermuda Triangle of both residential and commercial real estate, which also includes Las Vegas and the Inland Empire of California. Because of the housing market dive, cities in this area went into recession mode before the rest ofthe nation, and the drop in our economy has been greater than most. Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle keep their economy above water due to Pacific Rim trade. Denver has energy and high tech, and Salt Lake City was not overbuilt. Texas has fared well due to energy and the George W. Bush presidency. It will be a long and difficult struggle for Metro Phoenix to pull out of the tough times it finds itself in.

Q: How are the boycotts and state public policies affecting our industry?

BM: I have not heard one comment about the boycott in our offices or from any of our clients, which is an indication to me that the boycotts, though serious issues, do not rank high in the commercial real estate priorities of concern. Shrinking rents and occupancies are a much bigger issue these days.

Regarding public policy, the inability of the federal and state governments to implement policies and programs to stimulate job growth is prolonging our recession. There will not be a jobless recovery so, until jobs are created, our industry is continuing to experience high levels of tumult.

Public policy toward banks is also prolonging our recession as the de-leveraging process is being allowed to be spread over time, preventing the painful, but inevitable total market reset necessary to stabilize the real estate market and allow it to begin to create some positive momentum.

TH: The boycotts are affecting the convention and tourist sector, but I do not believe that they have affected the office and industrial markets here in Arizona. Companies choose to come here due to the ease of doing business and quality of life, not due to our state’s policy on immigration. That being said, our state needs to make job creation and business attraction a primary focus. We need the Legislature and the governor’s office to make jobs our No. 1 priority. I suggest a formal jobs bill from our legislative leadership should come forward that includes a lower tax burden on hiring businesses and commercial property owners.

DW: After the initial national “knee jerk” reaction of higher deficit spending and dubious stimulus policy, leaders underestimated the outcry and we did not do a good job of getting the message out nationally. Projects have been stalled and some major players are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Any time there is substantial disturbance, those active in the market cool.