NEW YORK CITY—Few things inspire the same level of economic uncertainty as a presidential election. But now that Donald Trump is on track to be sworn in on January 20, 2017, what does this mean for commercial real estate, and what will the 45th President be inheriting? In this guest column for ICSC New York National Deal Making, Rick Chichester, president and CEO of Faris Lee Investments, breaks down what investors can expect during the next administration, and what changes are on the horizon. The views expressed below are the author’s own.
The November election, both historic and unprecedented, certainly has everyone asking the obvious questions of how, why and what. How did this happen? Why did this happen? What does this mean?
In my opinion, the answers lie in what only a few have really grasped and understood (certainly Trump did), and that is for as much as we claim to be in a state of economic recovery from the “great recession” there are many who did not experience the recovery.
As imbalanced as the recovery has been and with the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies implemented for far too long, we now have a frustrated middle class who feels left behind and not able to grow its economic prospects. At the same time, we are developing significant asset inflation in many sectors, including real estate, as a result of the Fed’s low rate policy.
The very clear change is how real estate is now performing as compared to all other asset classes. More investors are seeking real estate as a larger part of their investment portfolio as it looks to be a safer, more predictable and secure source of income and equity.
Looking back, 2016 performed as many expected, which was a continuation of the past several years.
Investment activity was good, but not as robust as the recent prior years. Buyers began to be more disciplined in their underwriting and valuations, and there was some dislocation in pricing expectations between buyer and seller.
Generally speaking it was the year that real estate became fully priced. In addition to this, we are experiencing: an economic recovery that is well into its seventh year; corporate profits not only not expanding but in many cases contracting; and the equities market priced at historic highs relative to their PE ratios. This is all causing investors to manage to the down-side risk of an economic slowdown sometime within the next two years. As we near the end of 2016, we now have unemployment, as defined by the Fed, at an 11-year low, recently announced robust consumer spending (which should carry through the Holiday season), strong 3rd quarter GDP growth, and president-elect Donald Trump.
I believe that 2017 will be a very interesting year. With Trump at the helm, there are many actions that we expect to see. We are likely to see the Feds raise rates, as Trump moves from monetary policy to economic expansion via infrastructure investments at an unprecedented pace. He is not afraid to use debt, and he will do his best to lower taxes, repatriate U.S. corporate dollars, and ease the capital markets from the constraints of Dodd-Frank.
Trump believes in the “Free Market” and he will lead accordingly. In the near term this should be a catalyst for strong economic expansion and more acceptable inflation growth, which all bodes well for real estate. With this as a backdrop, real estate will remain extremely relevant as an asset class and even expanding as more investors increase their allocations.
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