Lost in Transaction

January 24, 2024 | ,

This chart description is for illustrative purposes only and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Please see full disclosures at end of PDF document in the web post. General description: Five-line chart displaying commercial real estate transaction volume in recent years. Chart subtitle: Record low transaction activity has led to pricing opaqueness in the market for commercial real estate. Chart source: RCI, MSCI, AEW Global Real Estate Investment as of December 31, 2023. Chart visual description: Y-axis labeled “Month Over Month Cumulative Transaction Volume,” and ranges from $0B to $1,000B. X-axis is labeled by month. 2019 data plotted in blue line; 2020 in slate; 2021 in purple; 2022 in green, 2023 in orange. Chart data description: Please contact us for the full dataset. Each year’s end total: 2019 $610B, 2020 $440B, 2021 $881B, 2022 $764B, 2023 $369. End chart description. See disclosures at end of document.

The 10-year Treasury yield notably displayed significant movements throughout 2023. Specifically, it was largely range-bound over the summer (between 3.5%–3.8%), then shot up to around 5.0% in October before falling back down to under 4.0% before year-end. It currently hovers slightly above 4.1%. Thanks in large part to these movements in yields, the real estate market seized up and very few transactions occurred in the fourth quarter of last year. As a result, the full calendar year of 2023 exhibited the lowest transaction volume in the last five years. Limited transactions in the market provide a hurdle for real estate managers and third-party appraisers to accurately determine asset values. As such, the pace of contraction for the private real estate index NCREIF-ODCE has been choppy, with the latest quarter responsible for nearly one-third of the benchmark’s gross return correction of -16.4% since late 2022.

Quarterly returns for the underlying index managers have been volatile in recent time as well. Based on a sample of 18 of the 25 ODCE index funds, the average spread of gross returns over the last five quarters has been nearly 6 percentage points. For context, the longer-term spread is closer to 4 percentage points. Additionally, each fund in that sample has underperformed the ODCE benchmark in at least one of the last six quarters. These figures underscore the notion that recent marks have displayed an elevated degree of dispersion and noise.

Even with the considerable drop in valuations, real estate fundamentals remain relatively healthy outside of the office space. Most do not believe assets are broken, and rent growth still exists within the multifamily, industrial, and self-storage sectors (albeit at lower levels than in prior years). As it relates to the road ahead, real estate investors should remain patient as market dynamics play out. To that point, it may take several quarters for buyers to come off the sidelines, after which more transactions can occur and ultimately be reflected in valuations. Marquette will continue to monitor the real estate landscape while emphasizing the importance of prudence and a long-term perspective.

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The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.

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