* More than 70 pct are commercial real estate bears-survey
* Most blame Washington and weak job growth-survey
Oct 3 An overwhelming majority of U.S.
commercial real estate investors are bearish on the outlook for
the sector over the next 12 months due to a lack confidence in
the Obama administration, poor job growth and gridlock in
Washington, according to survey by law firm DLA Piper.
More than 70 percent of those who responded to the survey
described themselves as bears, up from 60 percent from a year
earlier and second only to the 90 percent who answered
similarly in 2008.
The 29.6 percent who described themselves as bulls,
attributed their optimism to what they see as opportunities
created by a market correction and an abundance of equity
capital ready to be put to work.
While sales have improved significantly since the credit
crisis, the U.S. commercial real estate market is struggling to
regain its momentum, mirroring much of the U.S. economy.
"What you now see is a growing degree of uncertainty, and
uncertainty begins to push money to the sidelines because
people are much more reluctant to make a decision," said Jay
Epstien, a partner with DLA Piper. Those decisions run the
gamut from relocating a company to buying a shopping center or
an apartment building, he added.
As of the end of July, U.S. commercial real estate prices
were 42.5 percent off from their peak in October 2007 but had
regained about 12.6 percent of their prices since hitting a low
in April 2011, according to the most recent Moody's/REAL
Commercial Property Price Index.
A slowdown in sales of commercial mortgage-backed
securities (CMBS), in which loans are securitized and sold in
the form of bonds, is expected to prolong the bottoming of the
market as a whole, Moody's said.
The DLA Piper survey coincided with the firm's 2011 Global
Real Estate Summit in Chicago on Oct 4. Some 280 real estate
chief executive, operating and financial officers responded to
the survey in September.
Nearly 74 percent said they did not expect interest rates
to change significantly over the next six months, according to
the survey. More than 67 percent said that they believe cap
rates, which are based on interest rates and move in the
opposite direction as real estate prices, also will not change
About 24 percent said they believed cap rates could rise,
suggesting falling commercial real estate prices.
Not surprisingly, 44.6 percent said they believed that
multifamily housing was the most attractive of commercial real
estate investments over the next six months. For about the past
year, multifamily housing has been attracting investors as
demand for apartments has risen, in part on the back of
tenants' aversion to own a home.
Of the types of real estate investors, about 35 percent
said they expected private equity to be the most active
investors with foreign investors coming in second at 25 percent
and pension funds in third. Despite being flush with cash, real
estate investment trusts (REITs) were fourth this year at 16
percent, down from 29 percent last year.
Nearly nine out of 10 of the respondents said they expected
the CMBS market, an important source of commercial real estate
financing, to cool this year. So far this year, $26.74 billion
of CMBS have been issued, according to real estate financing
information company Trepp LLC.
That is up from $12.6 billion last year but far off of the
$243.3 billion issued in 2007, Trepp said.
About 48 percent say they expect the total CMBS issued this
year to reach only $25 billion to $30 billion. About 46 percent
said they expected new CMBS to top out between $30 billion and
$40 billion, the survey said.
(Reporting by Ilaina Jonas in New York; Editing by Steve