04/16/2013 | by
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Fundamentals in the commercial real estate industry are expected to improve significantly over the next three years, according to a recent survey of economists and analysts from real estate organizations. 

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) noted that equity REITs are projected to post double-digit returns in 2013 and 2014 in its recently released ULI/Ernst & Young Real Estate Consensus Forecast for April 2013. 

Calvin Schnure, NAREIT’s vice president of research and industry information and contributor to the semi-annual survey, explained that underlying this favorable performance is an expectation that GDP growth will re-accelerate to 3 percent or more in 2014 and 2015.  This rebound comes after slowing slightly in 2013, due to the federal sequester and fiscal cliff deal.  The unemployment rate is projected to move down steadily over the next few years, to 6.5 percent in 2015.

“The overall economy continues to improve, despite bumps in the road like the recent government sequester,” said Schnure.  “The recovery in commercial property markets is still in the early stages, with lots more upside than downside risks."

When it comes to individual sector returns, the survey noted that multifamily will likely continue to lead the way, but with other sectors not far behind. 

Schnure said that conditions are expected to stay tight in multifamily housing, with vacancy rates remaining at or near their current low levels.  He added, however, that rent growth is expected to decelerate, especially as the single-family housing market rebounds.  Single-family housing starts are projected to rise from 535,300 in 2012 to 700,000 this year, and reach 1 million by 2015.

Vacancy rates are projected to trend down in office and retail as these sectors benefit from sustained economic growth, according to the survey. Rent increases are likely to be modest, though, as vacancy rates remain elevated. 

Additional findings include a projected rise in CRE transaction volumes and the issuance of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). CMBS issuance is expected to rise from $48 billion in 2012 to $70 billion in 2013, and reaching $100 billion in 2015.

“After a prolonged period of uncertainty, we’re seeing a revival of investor confidence as the economy continues to recover,” said ULI Senior Vice President Dean Schwanke, executive director of the ULI Center for Capital Markets and Real Estate.