Bottom of property yield cycle nears: CBRE

Bottom of property yield cycle nears: CBRE
Bottom of property yield cycle nears: CBRE

Property yields will continue to compress before bottoming in the second half of 2017, according to CBRE’s latest report.

The rate of compression in H117 differs between sectors and markets.

Bond yields are expected to rise in 2017 but with property risk premiums currently high there is room to absorb higher bond yields before property yields start to rise, says CBRE's Asia-Pacific Real Estate Outlook report.

Transaction volumes in Australia (office, retail, industrial and hotels >$5 million) declined 23% from $36.5 billion in 2015 to $28.1 billion in 2016.

The decline in the number of deals was less (18%), meaning that 2016 saw average deal size shrink.

Hotels recorded the largest decline (40%), office and retail declined roughly in line with the average, and industrial declined 9%.

The key contributing factor to the decline in transactions was lower volumes of stock for sale. Investor appetite for Australian real estate remains strong.

The proportion of foreign investors declined from 40% in 2015 to 32% in 2016 but there remains a large pool of overseas capital seeking allocation in Australian real estate assets.

A main factor contributing to less stock being available for sale is that owners are increasingly happy with portfolio weightings, having invested/divested assets in active capital markets since 2012.

Furthermore, recycling capital becomes more difficult as yields approach the bottom of the cycle and there are fewer opportunities to purchase assets.

Figure 22 illustrates the inverse relationship between transaction volumes and prime office yields, noting that the trend in the latter is a reasonable proxy for all property yields.

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Bottom of property yield cycle nears: CBRE

“Our forecast of rising property yields from 2018 is consistent with expectations of lower transaction volumes,” the report stated.

As for 2017, with yields levelling out in the second half, a lack of stock for sale will constrain transaction markets, as was the case in 2016.

Yield compression was recorded in all sectors in 2016 on the back of lower interest rates and continued strong buyer interest.

Compression was strongest in the office and retail sectors, in particular secondary office and large format retail (Figure 23).

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Bottom of property yield cycle nears: CBRE

“We expect further, albeit moderate, compression before yields bottom in the second half of 2017.

Property risk premiums – approximated by the property yield spread over the interest rate on 10-year Australian Government Bonds – since 2011 have been at a historically high level, primarily due to low interest rates.

Figure 24 illustrates that the spread for Sydney commercial property (office, industrial and retail) has averaged 290bps since 2011.

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Bottom of property yield cycle nears: CBRE

The Sydney market was used in CBRE’s analysis due to it being the most comprehensive dataset; other markets would yield a similar relationship, albeit with higher spreads.

As bond yields have trended downwards since the 1980s, property risk premiums have increased (Figure 24).

In the immediate post-GFC period, property yields blew out to their previous highs but bond yields were marginally lower – property risk premiums increased, which could be expected in the aftermath of an extreme economic shock.

The average spread (for Sydney commercial property) was 183bps.

“We see this spread as being too high in a risk-neutral market, preferring a value around 150bps, which is closer to the 135bps average observed form the late 1990s to December 20015,” the report stated.

The spread is currently around 280bps, meaning that interest rate could rise another 130bps before reaching the 150bps spread.

This is unlikely to happen, of course, but it helps illustrate the point that rising bond yields don’t immediately translate into higher property yields.

Evidence of investors moving up the risk curve can be found in changes in quality and locational compositions of the overall transaction pool.

In terms of asset quality this was apparent in the office and retail sectors, where a higher proportion of sales were secondary grade.

By contrast, the industrial sector saw the proportion of super prime and prime grade assets increase in 2016.

In terms of locational composition, in the office, retail and hotel sectors CBD sales (by number) accounted for 16% of transactions in 2015 but fell to 13% in 2016, meaning that a higher proportion of sales occurred in non-core locations.

On a risk/return basis CBRE’s near-term total return forecasts leads them to expect that investors will retain a geographical preference for the lower risk markets of Sydney and Melbourne, with the former likely to be the only capital city market to achieve total returns above the long term average (Figure 25).

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Bottom of property yield cycle nears: CBRE

While Perth and Brisbane are seen as diversification plays, the near-term outlook for limited growth suggests investors will remain selective.

Yield convergence between high and low yielding real estate in 2016 was most prominent in the office and retail sectors.

This is consistent with these sectors recording a higher proportion of secondary grade transactions.

At the national level, yields on large format retail converged 25bps to (an average of) prime CBD retail and regional shopping centres.

The current spread of 228bps is consistent with the post-1999 average. Yields on secondary offices converged 22bps to prime office yields.

This trend was more pronounced in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Brisbane, Adelaide and west Perth bucked the trend and saw the secondary yield spread widen.

Nationally, the spread between secondary and super prime industrial was static in 2016. Strong convergence in Sydney was offset by spreads widening in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Secondary spreads for all markets except Sydney are above long-term averages.

The prospects of secondary yield convergence in 2017 will be hindered by rising interest rates and also domestic banks limiting growth in their loan books.

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