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These Things Make CRE Execs Antsy, Seyfarth Shaw Says

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U.S. commercial real estate executives have a sneaking suspicion that 2019 is going to be the last strong year for the economy for a while, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw’s fourth annual Real Estate Market Sentiment Survey.

Worried man

The end of the current growth cycle, a potential recession and rising interest rates are the top three concerns of 2019 for CRE, according to the survey.

It is a near-certainty that interest rates are going to rise more this year, though probably not as much as in 2018

Only 6% of respondents surveyed in January expect three rate increases in 2019, down from 37% last year. However, as in every previous year of the survey, respondents expect some rise. Fully 91% expect at least one increase this year.

Concern doesn't mean that CRE execs are being sluggish in chasing opportunities. Nearly one-third of survey respondents (32%) said that they will be taking advantage of the federal opportunity zone program as either an investor or sponsor in 2019. 

Of that group, 32% are investing in opportunity zones as a new source of investment capital, while another 25% plan to use the program as a way to defer current taxable gains, Seyfarth Shaw said.

On the other hand, most CRE execs (85%) will not be investing in the cannabis industry in 2019, the report noted. There is still too much uncertainty for their liking, considering that the industry remains in a legal gray area that inhibits banks' involvement in the industry, among other considerations.

CRE executives aren't especially worried about political risk at the highest levels — such as increased investigations of the White House — or stock market volatility, the report said. Those finished near the bottom of this year’s list of concerns.

President Donald Trump faces a new power dynamic in Washington for the remainder of his term, but that shift doesn’t bother half the industry, who report it will have no impact on the market. Only 37% believe the recent blue wave in the U.S. House of Representatives will have a negative impact on commercial real estate.

In 2017, over two-thirds of respondents believed that the Trump administration would have a positive impact on the real estate market and one-third named Trump the best presidential candidate for the industry in the firm’s inaugural survey in 2016.

Seyfarth Shaw surveyed 140 CRE executives in January to compile the report. Among those surveyed were owners, developers, asset managers, brokers, lenders and consultants.