What are investors telling us about real estate?

Last week, I wished you all a Merry Christmas. This was my way of adding some levity to decorations appearing in stores the last week of September.

But I then got serious and discussed the chats I’ve had recently with investors, tenants and owner-occupants. If you tuned in, interesting challenges were disclosed. If you missed the column, below is a quick recap of what I’m hearing from investors.

Our industrial market crossed a pivotal point in the middle of 2020. For the first time I can remember, the occupant premium disappeared and investors started paying more for offerings than those who bought them to house businesses.

Deep pools of capital, a rabid appetite for return in a stable asset class and skimpy supply caused pricing to hit a crescendo in May of 2022. With all the world happenings – inflation, recession, global strife, and rising interest rates – investors, especially institutional investors, have hit pause.

Private folks also are proceeding quite cautiously. Many require debt to acquire income properties. As rates have now eclipsed 5.5% – the resulting capitalization must be north, lest negative leverage will occur (return on invested dollars less that cap rate). So with fewer buyers and higher rates – yep. Prices have started declining.

Another week and several more conversations have gone by. One in particular I believed was column-worthy.

We are marketing an investment opportunity in Chatsworth. Included is the owner’s desire to sell the building and remain – after the close – as a tenant. Known as a sale-leaseback, this deal structure has curried favor recently as our values have eclipsed sanity.

This particular offering has a bit of hair, however. Configuration, company ownership and re-use once the occupant vacates in 10 years. Yes! Investors are concerned with the next round. Akin to a game of billiards where the current shot pales compared to the “leave” – investors look past the return today vs their risk once the tenant bales in the future.

As the market changes, an investor’s propensity for risk is padded by a need for more return. Generally, institutional investors – those who are publicly traded or invest in pension funds as correspondents – seek one of two types of deals – a core or value add. The former falls right in the mayor’s office and the latter involves some work to get the engine revving. Our listing is neither.

Plus, with the market and global gyrations, many institutional types are playing wait and see and not transacting.

What buyers are left? Private capital such as your neighbor, who owns a strip shopping mall or office building.

Many private investors have considered our listing. Most have passed. Too risky if the tenant leaves, we don’t like the layout, how do we retrofit the building in the future, and what insurance do we have the occupant will remain in residence – are common refrains.

But another interesting dynamic is occurring. Unless motivated by the need to place money via a tax-deferred exchange, private capital can earn 3-4% investing in government treasuries. These afford a return of 10x versus a year ago and come with the full faith and credit of the United States government – aka, very little risk.

If I’m buying at a 6% return and I choose to finance the purchase, I must be keenly aware of my borrowing costs as loan constants are now north of 7%.

Allow me a simple example. Let’s assume you buy income property for $2 million. If $1 million is borrowed at 5.5% interest, the simple interest payment is $55,000. Easy.

But, how is the $1 million principal repaid? That’s where amortization comes in. A fancy way of repaying the principal over the loan term. So. If the $1 million principal is repaid over 25 years at 5.5% interest, now the annual payment is $73,690. Your return on the $1 million (rent from your tenant) is $120,000, but your loan payback is $73,690, for a net of $120,000-$73,690  or $46,310.

See the problem? Your $1 million invested brings in $46,310 per year. Take the same $1 million and throw it into treasuries and you make $40,000. Hmmm.

So what does all that mean? Continued downward pressure on pricing. If you want to sell to a private investor, be realistic. Times, they are a’ changing!

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at or 714.564.7104. His website is

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