US commercial real estate sales in the first half of 2010 were just a quarter of the average of the previous six years as owners kept properties off the market, according to a new figures. Buyers and sellers completed $34.2 billion of deals, some 26% of the average first half dollar volume since 2004, according to data from Real Capital Analytics.
The total was about 12% of the 2007 peak, when $277.7 billion of properties changed hands in the same period but the report shows that sales increased 58% from last year’s first half when purchases dried up after the US credit crisis and recession sent values tumbling.
Demand for properties is strongest in New York, Boston, Washington and San Francisco with these four markets accounted for 20% of first half sales, compared with about 15% last year, according to Real Capital.
But a lack of available properties is leading to a lot of frustration in the commercial real estate sector and has sparked demand for the few deals being offered, according to Alan Kava, co-head of Goldman Sachs Group’s Real Estate Principal Investment Area in New York.
‘People are frustrated that not a lot has been trading. When something does come to market, that lack of supply is causing almost a feeding frenzy. People have real estate funds that are not on an infinite time line, they need to put capital to work,’ he explained.
One reason that there are a lot of buyers and few sellers is that much of the money raised by private equity firms was in anticipation of a rush of foreclosure sales that failed to materialize, according to Sam Chandan, Real Capital’s chief economist.
In top cities such as New York and Washington, owners who owe more than their properties are worth are instead finding new sources of equity and lenders are willing to restructure their loans, he said.
‘Many people were looking to acquire distressed assets, but those opportunities have been few and far between. That’s been leading to bidding more aggressively for some of these core assets,’ he added.
Also record low interest rates make it easier for owners to hold a distressed property.
‘The Armageddon scenario that several people predicted two or three years ago just hasn’t occurred. Part of it is the lenders realize the current borrowers are in a better position to work out problems than they the lenders are,’ said Tom August, president and chief executive officer of Equity Office Properties, a unit of Blackstone Group.
There is little incentive for owners who bought as the market climbed to sell now. Values in April were down 41% from their October 2007 peak, according to figures from Moody’s Commercial Property Price Index.[Property Wire News]