For months, a yawning gap between buyers' and sellers' expectations combined with a drop in available financing for highly leveraged buyers has led to a massive drop in investment sales volume on retail real estate properties. In the early months of this year, year-over-year volume dropped by as much as 85 percent.
Many in the industry had been looking to ICSC's RECon to possibly ease that impasse. The logic? With more than 40,000 pros getting a chance to sit face to face for the first time since the credit crisis broke, perhaps buyers and sellers would come to a better understanding of fair valuations. But based on the sorts of conversations and deal-making that occurred, it doesn't seem that the convention will ultimately serve as that panacea. Anecdotally, full service brokerage firms like CBRE and Jones Lang LaSalle are reporting that while leasing activity remained robust at the conference, there wasn't nearly as much activity on the investment side.
“Transactions are still off 80 percent,” says Paul Andrews, CFO for Washington, D.C.-based developer, owner and manager Madison Marquette. “The stuff that's trading is at least 5 percent to 10 percent off its peak. And there's another tranche that's not trading at all.”
The deals getting done are also different from the sorts of deals that were happening 12 months ago, according to Mehran Foroughi, senior vice president of Sperry Van Ness, an Irvine, Calif.-based commercial real estate firm.
“The way Southern California is changing, in the past few years, geographically, there was not much difference between properties located in Los Angeles and properties located in San Bernardino,” Foroughi says. “Today, there is.” As a result, there's no agreement in the market as to what is the appropriate pricing for retail real estate. “We don't have statistics today to tell you what a good cap rate is,” Foroughi says.