Seeking ?Stable? Investments: The Net Lease Demand

Written by admin on May 11th, 2011

It looks like another banner year for the triple net leasing market, with demand far exceeding supply in most areas of the country. Thanks largely to the baby boomer population seeking out new types of retirement investments, demand continues to be high, and the demand, for the most part, comes from people who are in the midst of 1031 tax deferred exchanges. And even in light of interest rates trending upwards, cap rates tend to remain low with prices holding steady. Shopping Center Business recently spoke with several companies that are active in the triple net market to find out more about these trends and what we can expect for 2006.
Demographic Shift
The main reason for the current state of the triple net market is the significant demographic shift of baby boomers moving into their retirement years. According to Bruce McDonald, president of Net Lease Capital Advisors, there are about 75 million baby boomers, the oldest of which are just hitting the age of 60, so there are a lot of older Americans who have built up substantial wealth in real estate portfolios. Their ability to go into the net lease market allows them to avoid paying capital gains tax and move from management-intensive real estate to passive real estate that provides a stable income. “There are a lot of people who have built their portfolios out of single-family, duplexes or triplexes, and they are getting too old to bother with that and now have a yin for a management-free investment that produces a regular cash flow,” says Ralph Bunje, president of Reverse Exchange Services, Inc. “The traditional triple net model for these investors was a single-tenant property, such as a Burger King or post office because it fit their criteria. Now, as a result of this demographic shift, there has been the creation of the TIC [tenant in common] industry.”
In addition to a management-free investment, a lot of these retirees are looking for “safer” investments as opposed to the traditional stock market approach.
“There are a lot of people who had perhaps previously invested in the stock market or other investment opportunities and feel more comfortable getting into the triple net market now,” says Leith Swanson, president of Prime Net Realty Advisors, Inc. “There are a lot of very wealthy investors — individuals and entities — that are in the market and, at the same time, there has been a shortage of quality investment-grade net lease properties available for that pool of investors to buy. So what you’ve ended up with in the last couple of years is a huge pool of investors that are investing because of 1031 requirements or simply because they’re in the market and they are doing a dozen deals a year.”
Though most agree that triple net investing is becoming more and more popular, one person we talked to thinks the stock market still has some appeal. “I think the media has been successful in helping create the perception of the real estate bubble out there,” says Keith Sturm, principal with Upland Real Estate Group. “I don’t think there is a bubble, but certainly clients have been a bit more hesitant about real estate just based upon what they hear on TV. With that, I’m noticing that the stock market has become sexy again. People have very short term memories and have forgotten how their 401Ks turned into 101Ks over the last stock market ‘crash.’ Those memories have been fading, and people are thinking about jumping back in.”
Gaining Interest
Interest rates on triple net investments may be rising, but cap rates so far have not necessarily followed, according to several people we talked to, and pricing still remains steady. “The demand continues to be strong because folks are simply looking for non-management properties and net lease seems to fit the bill,” says Jay Bastian, senior vice president of acquisitions for Commercial Net Lease Realty.
“If treasuries stay where they are or trend lower, I think cap rates will probably maintain their current levels, but obviously treasuries are a driver of cap rates in some respects. Everyone talks about increasing interest rates, but I don’t see the demand sliding because of it; it’s just going to change pricing on deals.”
“It’s still an incredible seller’s marketplace,” notes James Dwoskin, president of ICA Realty. “Sellers are still holding tight to prices that were originally put in place at a lower interest rate environment, but there doesn’t seem to have been any movement in the cap rates on the highest credit deals. On the lesser credit deals, there’s always been more flexibility and play in the pricing.”
According to William H. Winn, president of Passco Companies, LLC, supply is still constrained and there is more demand by buyers. “However,” he says, “the movement of the interest rate has changed the market somewhat. Rising interest rates have, and will continue, to put downward pressure on yields, and as the trend continues, demand will be reduced on the buyer’s side.”
Winn continues: “If sellers do not lower their price expectations, the result will be less transaction volume because buyers and sellers will not be able to agree on purchase price.”
McDonald says he has yet to see a change in pricing.
“Everyone would think that the cap rates will track interest rates,” he notes. “If interest rates continue to go up, there may be a change in pricing at some point, but so far it’s early. There’s usually a delay anyway, but I think in this market, there’s likely to be a longer delay between the interest rates and the cap rates.”
Jonathan Hipp, president of Calkain Companies, takes a similar view.
“There’s a lot of activity with tax-motivated buyers and plenty of fresh equity that’s not tied to an exchange,” says Hipp. “Although interest rates have gone up, cap rates have not correspondingly seemed to move in conjunction with the interest rates, so there are some pretty aggressive cap rates compared to what the debt is.”
According to Sturm, the lower-priced, quality properties are holding their cap rates, and in the category of non-investment-grade properties that are in the .5 to million range, there’s real pressure to increase cap rates.
“The trend I’m seeing now is there’s incredible pressure on cap rates, based upon interest rates rising, that is causing a little bit of a slow down in the market until cap rates can adjust to interest rates,” says Sturm.
2006 Market
So what effect will the demographic shift and rising interest rates have long term?
The great risk is that people are buying at a market high, according to Bunje, but how long that will last is the burning question.
“The demographic shift will probably continue to push for this type of investment for the next 10 years, at least,” he says. “But the question is, will these investments be popular and will the demand be there if the housing market should fall apart? If housing values go down, the whole focus is going to have to be on long term interest rates. So you just watch the 10-year Treasury rate and that will tell you what happens in that marketplace.”
There are several forces that are going to cause cap rates to ease in 2006, says Barry Silver, senior partner with Silver Willis Investment Real Estate.
“For the first time in my experience, investors are not willing to accept such small returns and they’ve turned to the TIC market,” he notes. “And they are being sold a higher current return without giving a tremendous amount of thought to the ramifications of what’s going to happen when the debt adjusts up to the interest rates that they’ll be seeing in 5 or 10 years.”
Swanson says cap rates for net lease properties are going to be higher in 2006.
“We may not see a fourth quarter that will look as good as the third quarter results are looking. But cap rates historically have lagged behind movements in interest rates, and though cap rates have continued to drift lower in September, October and November, interest rates have been fairly stable overall. But there are some inflationary pressures, and we’ll see an increase in cap rates possibly late next year.”
“An average cap rate for a long term triple net property is between 8 and 10 percent,” adds Bunje. “Many of them are selling at 5 and 6 percent today, and that’s largely because of low interest rates. If interest rates go up, then cap rates go up, and as cap rates go up, investors who invested will lose their money because the cap rates will change.”
While competition remains fierce, it may be a tougher market in 2006, according to Paul Domb, asset manager for United Trust Fund.
“As interest rates increase, the primary players — the large REITs and the CNLs — will continue to do business, and I think a lot of the Johnny-come-lately’s will not be able to compete and will find a very tough market.”
Hot Property
What, where and how 1031 investments are being made. With the success of triple net leasing and 1031 exchanges, what types of investments make the most sense these days? Shopping Center Business recently talked to James Dwoskin, president of ICA Realty; Paul Domb, asset manager for United Trust Fund; Ben Simon, partner with The Simon Companies; Leith Swanson, president of Prime Net Realty Advisors, Inc.; Bruce McDonald, president of Net Lease Capital Advisors; Jonathan Hipp, president ofSusan H. Fishman ; Keith Sturm, principal with Upland Real Estate Group, Inc.; Michael Shephardson, executive vice president of Trustreet Properties; and Dan McCabe, president of Investment Exchange Group to find out more about the types of properties and investments that are at the top of the list for today’s investor.
SCB: What types of properties are hot for 1031s right now?
Domb: From our perspective, one type of property is no better than the other, and we do everything — office,

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