According to an industry expert at the “Top 10 Issues Affecting Real Estate” session at the 2013 National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Conference and Expo, interest rates will rise and capitalization rates will too. Those two issues topped the list of upcoming changes that will impact the real estate industry.
Scott Muldavin, president of The Muldavin Company Inc., a consulting firm in San Rafael, Calif., shared his insights into the top issues that could potentially impact homeowners, real estate markets and the industry in the coming years.
According to Muldavin, historically low interest rates have driven the economy and real estate markets in recent years; but as rates start to rise, it could raise capitalization rates – the ratio between the income produced by an asset and its cost – which could create anxiety among real estate investors.
“Interest rates are going to rise significantly, so my advice is to be careful about your investments today and lock in those low rates if you can,” said Muldavin.
Healthcare is also an important issue with real estate implications. As the U.S. population ages, demand for senior housing with go up. That will change the configuration and size of available housing, and it will increase the need for medical care, which will create a demand for expansion among medical facilities.
Muldavin said there’s been a capital market resurgence, which is good news for residential and commercial real estate. In commercial markets, transaction volume is up, credit is available, underwriting has loosened and a full range of debt options has returned. For residential markets, underwriting remains tougher, but rates are near historic lows currently and affordability remains high.
Future housing demand from echo boomers, the 80 million Americans born between 1982 and 1995, will also impact real estate markets.
“We are the only developed country that has had an echo boom, and that’s a positive thing if the country can react and respond to it,” said Muldavin.
Echo boomers often prefer a more flexible and active urban lifestyle. They rely heavily on mass transit, and are often willing to trade home size for location. However, Muldavin said that the suburbs are fighting back with better mass transit, new bike paths and repurposed properties to attract more future buyers.
Climate change and more extreme weather patterns will also have an impact on coastal homes and many other properties across the country. Muldavin cited the impact of recent storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and how property owners in these markets are now dealing with changes in code and zoning standards, and they’re paying significantly higher insurance premiums.
As always, unknown events can also impact the real estate market, and they can sometimes do it quickly – like major global events, such as acts of terrorism, war, global debt crisis and financial and economic downturns. “The risk of future events is high, and while it’s always hard to anticipate these risks, they need to be considered because their impact is often great,” said Muldavin.
Increased natural gas and oil production in the U.S., which has an impact on the economy and environment, is another issue with real estate implications. Muldavin said there’s been an increase in fracking and oil and natural gas production in recent years, and while this is creating greater employment opportunities and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, it’s also contributing to climate change, environmental degradation and contamination.
Muldavin also cited globalization as a trend to watch. While that benefits many U.S. markets, it also puts real estate at risk for foreign investment losses since the real estate market becomes more tied to the economies of other countries.
Another issue to watch: how new technology will impact office spaces. Muldavin said many corporations are already creating work-from-home policies and other mobility solutions that allow individuals to work when and where they want. That change could significantly reduce office space requirements.
“Many people are replacing physical items with electronics and free or virtual products, such as e-books and smartphones enabled with cameras, GPS and flashlights,” he said. “This means businesses will continue to require less retail space, so I believe the trend in the future will be for fewer and smaller stores.”
For real estate, Muldavin said the impact of the Internet on bricks-and-mortar retail stores is a growing issue. He said retail demand is down across the country due to an increase in Internet sales, which are expected to rise from the current 6.5 percent to nearly 15 percent by 2020.