How Will Labor Market and Job Creation Rate Influence Commercial Real Estate Projections?

Despite widespread job openings now totaling well in excess of 6 million, a lack of skilled labor possessing the qualifications needed to fulfill the responsibilities required of those openings is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the health of the labor market as well as job creation — not to mention the potential effect on the commercial real estate sector’s outlook.

With unemployment reaching its lowest percentage (4.3 percent) in more than 16 years, along with more than 80 consecutive months of positive economic gains — and an economy close to, if not already at, full employment — it is clear that the outlook for the commercial real estate sector will continue to be linked to the overall economic growth rate as well as the rate of job creation.

The positive economic indicators have inspired a greater level of confidence from members of the workforce, including those previously wary — whether warranted or not — of the potential for a sudden backslide into economic instability. Since this newfound confidence is especially apparent among the demographic of young workers still likely to be living at home with their parents, the sustained strength of the labor market is expected to have a positive influence on apartment absorption.

Due to a strong sense of confidence and stability in the economy, the youngest generation of workers is increasingly looking to rent an apartment for the first time. Although the workforce is showing indications pointing to greater levels of confidence in the strength and stability of economy, the lack of skilled workers has still had a limiting effect on new job creation.

Even though job creation numbers may be experiencing the adverse effects of a tight labor market, there is reason to believe that, despite the adverse impact, the commercial real estate market will benefit nonetheless. This optimism can be attributed to the fact that despite a substantial shortage of skilled workers to fill open positions, demand for commercial real estate currently exceeds the pace of construction.

Of course, it is fair to wonder why commercial real estate demand is still on the rise in the midst of a labor shortage in which 6 million open positions remain unfilled. This is because certain companies, including those in the professional, business, and financial services employment sectors, have adopted a recruiting strategy revolving around recent graduates for positions requiring the use of office space. Even in an economy currently enduring a significant labor shortage, the jobs created by these companies alone have spurred increases in demand for commercial office space.

It’s worth noting that the economy has not entirely avoided the drawbacks that typically accompany a labor shortage of 6 million or more, as top-line growth has undoubtedly been limited by the inability of American businesses to fill open positions with skilled workers. As it stands now, however, the labor shortage might not necessarily hinder the current rate of economic momentum. After all, the income gains associated with a 4.3 percent unemployment rate and an 8.4 percent underemployment rate — which is the lowest in the past decade — should continue to have a positive impact on economic consumption for the foreseeable future.

Strong Job Creation Numbers Inspiring Young Workers to Enter Housing Market for First Time

For an entire generation of young people, growing up during a time of economic uncertainty has had an undeniable impact on way they approach all manner of financial decisions. Members of this generation have exercised great caution while adopting a risk-averse financial philosophy, and this philosophy has in turn limited their willingness to consider entering the housing market for the first time.

The limited interest among members of this youthful demographic has had a measurable effect on the real estate industry, but it appears that the strength of current economic conditions might finally be enough to convince these young people to test the housing market. It appears that the recent reports of strong job creation numbers — along with a wealth of job openings representing a record high — have inspired a sense of confidence among the group of people least likely to act hastily based on a report of the most recently available economic statistics.

Of course, this does not mean that this youthful generation has not faced difficulties upon entering the housing market for the first time, particularly since the inventory of single-family homes available for purchase is currently at an all-time low. Combined with the fact that apartment vacancies presently stand at just under four percent (3.8 percent, to be precise), it is clear that the sudden increase in demand cannot be met given the currently available supply even when one considers that 371,000 new units are expected for delivery in the next 12 months — not to mention the fact that new apartment construction has never been higher in the past 30 years.

It is not only the residential real estate market that is experiencing the influence of the continued return of strong economic indicators, as the commercial real estate market is also dealing with a level of demand that cannot be met by the current pace of new commercial real estate construction.

This is especially true as it relates to financial services employment as well as professional and business services employment, all of which have outperformed the labor market as a whole. Since companies within these fast-growing categories have primarily targeted recent college graduates for recruitment to new, office-based positions, the demand for new commercial real estate has increased at a rapid rate greatly exceeding the current pace of commercial sector construction.

With the expectation that 2 million new jobs will be added by the close of 2017, there is some concern that a large percentage of these positions will nonetheless go unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers available for what is now a total of 6 million job openings currently available in the United States. Keeping these and other economic figures in mind, the Fed has continued to favor a moderate monetary policy in an economy lacking any sign that it may be prone to overheating.

Chinese Real Estate Investors Increasingly Targeting Big Cities With Strong Education Programs

Over the past few years, the United States real estate market has experienced an influx of foreign investment, with Chinese buyers continuing to outpace all other foreign real estate investors. While there has already been a great deal of discussion and analyses regarding the multitude of factors driving Chinese investors to put their money in U.S. real estate, until recently much less was known about why these investors ultimately prefer one particular geographic location over another.

Recognizing the inherent value associated with developing a clear understanding of the various factors at play during the decision-making processes employed by foreign real estate investors, a number of recent studies have identified several key reasons behind regional real estate demand. As a result, the data collected through these studies has made it possible to create a projection system delineating the specific U.S. cities Chinese real estate investors are most likely to target over the course of the next year: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Miami.

The projection is quite revealing for a number of reasons, including the fact that even a cursory review of the characteristics common among the five cities highlights the factors Chinese real estate investors find most appealing. In addition to featuring the nation’s most prominent cultural centers and strongest local economies, each of the five cities listed in the projection is also known for offering outstanding educational opportunities to its residents.

Whether it is the proximity to so many of the elite colleges and universities located in the city of Boston or access to one of the many outstanding public campuses associated with the University of California, Chinese investors clearly value educational opportunities when selecting real estate properties (obviously, New York and Miami are also home to outstanding academic institutions as well).

Of course, there are other factors to consider beyond access to exceptional academic opportunities, as Chinese investors also weigh the value of U.S. investment properties relative to international properties. The combination of its excellent public school system and comparatively low — in terms of both national and international prices — property costs are among the primary reasons that Los Angeles is expected to be the top housing market targeted by Chinese investors over the next year or so.

Weather also plays an important role as Chinese investors attempt to identify the ideal region for a real estate investment, so it should not come as much of a surprise that warm-weather climates like Miami and Los Angeles are among the top options in the United States. A lack of year-round sunshine is not necessarily a deterrent, however, as each city’s economic outlook as well as its unique cultural makeup also figure prominently among Chinese investors seeking U.S. real estate.

With all else being equal, Chinese investors appear most interested in properties that range in cost from $300,000 to $700,000. Even though property values vary widely among the five cities most likely to appeal to Chinese real estate investors during the year that follows, a price range of $300,000 to $700,000 still ensures access to a broad array of options in the part of the country that each individual investor ultimately concludes as most appealing according to their own personal preferences.

Investor Anxiety Over Global, Domestic Unrest Push Fixed Mortgage Rates to Two-Month Low

It is one of the most basic rules of economics: Any uptick in political unrest — whether it is global unrest, domestic unrest, or some combination of the two — consistently provokes anxiety among investors. The product of this anxiety can be seen in a multitude of ways, but the most common is the shift in investor focus away from stocks and toward bonds.

With these specific economic conditions, mortgage rates are almost always affected as well. It should come as no surprise, then, that the most up-to-date information provided by Freddie Mac reveals that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate reached a new two-month low, dropping to an average of 3.89 percent.

The rate is still up from one year ago, when the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate checked in at 3.43 percent. That being said, many analysts have noted that investors — many of whom expressed high hopes for an economic boon in the form of sweeping fiscal reforms — have thus far ignored the near-constant political drama associated with the new administration in the White House.

It is possible that the most recent political turmoil ultimately comes to be viewed as an inflection point in which even the most optimistic of investors see it as less and less likely that the administration will be able to enact the kind of fiscal reforms that had been hoped for. If this is indeed the case, the impact of this increased level of apprehension and anxiety among investors may contribute to an even greater drop in mortgage rates over the weeks and months to follow.

Of course, it’s also possible that even with all the tension and turmoil — including the threat of military intervention in places all over the globe, not to mention the ongoing saber-rattling emanating from officials in both the United States and North Korea — will only have a relatively minor impact on mortgage rates. In fact, many experts expect mortgage rates to remain relatively stable in the coming weeks, as evidenced by the results of a recent survey conducted by Bankrate.com, which showed that half of all the experts surveyed felt that mortgage rates should be expected to enjoy relative stability — at least in the short term.

There are other factors at play that are expected to influence mortgage rates, including the ongoing discussion among officials at the Federal Reserve regarding the potential for another rate increase in late 2017. While the Fed has been relatively transparent concerning its intentions — including in its plans to address the need to correct the balance sheet — analysts have nonetheless found it difficult to accurately predict the impact of the many different factors that might influence mortgage rates.

The economic ambiguity and the hazy expectations concerning the not-too-distant future is evident in the data recently released by MBA (the Mortgage Bankers Association), which showed that mortgage applications essentially remained unchanged over the same week in which fixed mortgage rates continued to fall. Additionally, the purchase index fell by two percent during that same period, and the refinance index increased by two percent. The latter increase serves as a strong indication that borrowers are increasingly recognizing the benefit of taking advantage of the two-month low in fixed mortgage rates by refinancing.

MBA’s data also revealed that although purchase application volume indeed dropped by nearly two percent as fixed mortgage rates hit a two-month low, the overall purchase application rate is still well ahead of 2016’s pace. While 47.8 percent of the loan application volume could be attributed to activity relating to refinancing, the purchase application volume is nonetheless close to 10 percent ahead of pace when compared to the previous year.

Nearly 5 Million Apartments Needed in US by 2030

Several critical factors — including an aging population, international immigration, and couples increasingly choosing to delay marriage — have resulted in projections indicating a need for the United States to add close to 5 million more apartments by 2030 in order to meet the demands of its rapidly changing population. This is according to a recent study conducted on behalf of the NMHC (National Multifamily Housing Council) and the NAA (National Apartment Association).

As it currently stands, the approximately 39 million people dwelling in apartments is already stressing the capacity of the apartment industry, a product of the fact that, over the past five years, an average of one million new renter households formed each year. Based on those figures, the United States needs to create 325,000 new apartment homes per year in order to meet the projections for future demand. The fact that an average of only 244,000 new apartment homes were built per year from 2012 to 2016 illustrates some of the inherent challenges associated with the growing demand for apartment housing.

It’s important to take a closer look at some of the underlying factors driving the rapid increases in demand for apartment homes in the United States. Since life events play such an important role in driving home purchases, the fact that so many Americans are waiting longer to get married is affecting the level of demand for apartment homes. Married couples with children account for less than 20 percent of households in the United States, a 25-percent drop compared to 1960.

The aging population of the United States is also contributing to the rising demand for apartment homes, as the research conducted by the NMHC and NAA indicate that people 55 and older will be responsible for over 30 percent of future rental apartment homes. Over the last 10 years, the demographic of people age 45 or older made up more than 50 percent of the net increase in rental apartment households, a trend that is expected to continue going forward.

Immigration will also have a substantial impact, but disproportionately so in the border states: 51 percent of all population growth in the US is expected to come from immigration, which will in turn drive the increased demand for apartment housing across the country.

Although the entire country should expect to be affected by the changing population and the growing demand for apartment housing, certain regions of the country are likely to experience greater increases when compared to others. Western states, along with Texas, North Carolina, and Florida, should expect to see the sharpest increase in demand for rental apartment housing through 2030, particularly in cities like Austin, Raleigh, and Orlando.