In just more than six months Transwestern’s Atlanta investment sales team has marketed and sold three distressed office buildings in the city on behalf of their lenders or receivers.
According to Kevin Markwordt, managing director of investor services for Transwestern, the deals illustrate the increased willingness of buyers and sellers to deal in riskier assets, especially as investors looking for value-add opportunities look to capitalize on an expected recovery in the office market. Markwordt, along with partners Jon Kleinberg and Mike McGaughy, have brokered three transactions featuring distressed office buildings that sold for a combined $20.2 million.
The transactions include the $7.7 million sale of the 165,397-sq.-ft. 1090 and 1130 Northchase Parkway, a two-building office park in Northwest Atlanta, the $6.0 million sale of the 123,000-sq.-ft. Five Points Plaza in downtown Atlanta and the $6.5 million sale of the six-building Roswell Business Center. The sales occurred in October, May and March, respectively. Crossgates Partners and Easlan Capital acquired Northchase from Glass Ratner, the property’s receiver. Nakash Holdings acquired Five Points from LNR Property Corp. And Johnson Hailey Investments acquired Roswell Business Center from an unnamed buyer.
“I would say that if you’re buying offices in Atlanta, it’s difficult to lose right now,” Markwordt says. “Prices people are paying are very attractive, especially for assets that are below the radar. If you find a private buyer that knows what they are doing and knows how to find tenants, they can have success.”
Investors in Atlanta are buying in the face of high vacancies. As of the end of the third quarter, the overall vacancy rate for the offices in the market was 21.1 percent—up 20 basis points from the end of 2010, according to a report from Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services. The increase was due to net negative absorption of 285,000 sq. ft. during the first half of the year. However, in the second quarter the vacancy rate had dropped by 30 basis points after 427,000 sq. ft. of positive absorption.
Asking and effective rents, meanwhile have remained flat. At the end of the second quarter, asking rents averaged $21.20 per sq. ft. and were up 0.1 percent from the end of 2010, according to Marcus & Millichap. Asking rents were unchanged. Effective rents were up 0.2 percent to $16.72 per sq. ft.
The median price of properties sold over the past year was $94 per sq. ft., according to Marcus & Millichap, down 10 percent year-over-year. The median price in the market was $160 per sq. ft. in the year preceding the onset of the recession.
The three buildings Transwestern sold all experienced spikes in vacancies or face some renewal risk going forward. For example, Five Points Plaza is fully leased, but the tenant is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and deficit reduction efforts by the federal government raise the possibility that it may reduce its footprint nationally.
“In some cases, you can be fully leased and cash-flowing, but if one big tenant moves out you drop to 40 percent leased,” Markwordt says. “So if you take it at a discount today, you are banking on the odds of you renewing that big tenant.”
However, in today’s market, Markwordt says that some tenants are moving to new offices in part just to give themselves a fresh appearance as they emerge from the difficult economic environment of recent years. As a result of the vacancy rate in the market and the fact that tenants are shopping for space, he expects value-add opportunities for investors to persist through 2012.