Rents are rising, occupancy is dropping and interest rates are somehow remaining low. Last year was good to property owners, and the speakers at Bisnow's 5th Annual Los Angeles State of the Market think 2015 will be different, but perhaps even better.
Kilroy Realty CEO John Kilroy (snapped with Allen Matkins partner Tony Natsis) says though the market is healthy and robust, his firm has turned its eyes away from acquisitions. John was a huge buyer coming out of the recession, but with skyrocketing prices, the company spent only $200M on property last year (small for them at least). Now John is thinking about development, and has more than $3B in the pipeline for the next 18 months.
John told the 500 attendees his biggest regret in business is simply not buying more when prices were down. A big focus going forward, John says, is sustainability. All of those development projects will be LEED Gold or greater. Rising Realty president Chris Rising (who tried his hand at just about everything before finally giving into real estate) is still in the buying business, but looks at an entirely different product. The firm is soon to close on yet another DTLA property (The PacMutual Campus has been a wild success) that will be repurposed and marketed toward the coveted Millennial tech tenant, which Chris considers the greatest driving force in commercial real estate.
Younan Properties CEO Zaya Younan (snapped with Chris) says he watches the economy to see where the LA market is heading. While some have questioned the conventional office market, Zaya has purchased office assets across the greater LA area in the last year, including 14 in the bedroom communities of the Conejo Valley in the last six months alone. Zaya thinks a major driver going forward will be falling oil prices, which allow for more disposable income. He says 2015 will prove even more profitable for landlords, as rents continue to be pushed.
Liberty SBF managing director Alex Prombaum (snapped with VTS head Andrew Flint) says there are some challenges in such a robust market: numbers (Alex just moved out to LA from Philly four months ago and isn't complaining about the weather one bit). He says LA is killing other markets around the country, but that the buying spree makes things tough on lenders, as the average cap rate hovers around 6%, with low 4% for multifamily.
Another place to make some money, says Oro Capital Advisors co-managing partner Vicky Schiff, is in secondary markets. The firm has been aggressive buying empty industrial assets in Vegas (which it flipped to owner/users at a healthy yield) and thinks multifamily and even storage is the way to go. She questions all the work that goes into office, including regular renovations and TI. Oro picked up about 2,000 units last year alone, mostly focused on secondary markets, where product is more affordable.
But the talk of the house is the multimillion-dollar renovation coming to the US Bank Tower. OUE president and CEO-The Americas Richard Stockton says the observation deck on the top floor will be nothing short of a tourist attraction, bringing more money into DTLA. Richard says OUE sold more than $2B in assets in China and Singapore last year, with an eye on putting that capital in the US market (if that doesn't show that LA is in a strong position, nothing will).