While net lease remains one of the most stable asset classes, volatility and uncertainty in the market will present challenges for the sector.
David Sobelman was invited to write the following article for the January issue of Commercial Property Executive.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief that the worry and stress of 2016 are over and we can now focus on the year ahead. Politics, interest rates and even sports have made us all wonder what could transpire and should we even try to fathom what the coming year entails. Every interview from our nation’s leading experts, in their respective fields, begins with an explanation on our nation’s micro and macro economies with the words, “I think.” We’ve all heard it before but give it little attention when it’s spoken. For instance, a moderator asks, “Where are cap rights going in the next twelve months?” and the expert answers, “‘I think they will (insert answer here.)” Or the moderator asks, “What will happen to commercial real estate values in 2017?” and the expert answers, “I think values will (insert answer here.)” You get the picture.
But my colleagues and I, who are asked to opine on the state of the overall commercial real estate market and how tangential and outside influences may either impede or bolster the coming real estate cycle, are wondering ourselves how to navigate our and, in some cases, our clients’ decisions in the coming year. With the vast differences in answers to the questions we’re receiving, its clear that pinpointing a specific response is 2017’s greatest challenge. Even Hessam Nadji, president & CEO of Marcus & Millichap (M&M), who is a regular face on national television and a historical proponent of bringing into account the strength of the markets, chose to publicly sell 37,296 shares of M&M stock in the final months of 2016 at a value of roughly $2.5 million. “I think” that sale may speak volumes to what his real thoughts may be on the coming market cycle.
But what we should all consider is that net lease investments have become an industry in and of themselves. The asset class is seen as one of the most stable types of commercial real estate investment, with as little as 250 basis points of variance from the trough of the recession to the peak of the market. Compared to other asset types, that spread is very manageable for most investors. Additionally, the International Council of Shopping Centers has begun to embrace the product type as it has instituted the N3 conference series around the country: panel discussions that highlight various regional topics focused on net lease assets. ICSC has also established the first education and information session for continuing education (CE) credits at its annual RECon conference in Las Vegas in May. These developments could be a strong indicator that the world’s largest real estate association has now embraced the building type as it has been clearly shown that the issues surrounding that market appeal to the masses. This is drastically different than just 10 years ago when a single-tenant investment was rarely mentioned outside its core practitioners.
2017 will prove to many, in and out of the net lease industry, that even in the most drastic of economic circumstances, a single-tenant property and the growing industry that surrounds the asset type will continue to resonate as the safe haven for landlords and investors. Few investment vehicles, real estate or otherwise, provide the risk-adjusted returns of triple-net lease properties. Add in the opportunity for an appreciating real estate asset and annual returns could far outpace anything in its peer group. But despite its stability, the sector will face its challenges. History has shown that the hurdles of the net lease sector are not solely in the ups and downs of the market, but in attempting to precisely time the market—that is this year’s biggest challenge.
David Sobelman is the founder & CEO of Generation Income Properties (a public net lease REIT)