Author Archives: levercp

What Rising Interest Rates mean for Commercial Real Estate

By: Daniel Li

2022 will be a transformative era for capital markets in all sectors of the U.S. economy. In order to combat inflation caused by the stimulus measures implemented by the Federal Reserve during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve has recently decided to accelerate plans to increase interest rates. On December 15th, 2021, the Federal Reserve announced that it would end its pandemic-era bond purchases in March of 2022 and plan for three 25 basis point interest rate hikes by the end of 2022. 

Due to the leveraged nature of commercial real estate, the rate hike by the Federal Reserve will have significant impacts on both debt and equity markets. As properties are often financed with commercial mortgages, commercial real estate markets are most exposed to interest rate alterations. With the rise in interest rates, we see the cost of debt rising accordingly. There are many debates regarding whether there will be increases or decreases in cap rates as a result of the interest rate increase and current macroeconomic factors. 

Fundamentally speaking, increased interest rates lead to more expensive financing. From an equity perspective, acquiring new properties will have narrower margins, and in turn, may create a more conservative market. From a debt perspective, the increased rates may cause a decline in deal flow, however that loss in volume may be balanced by increased margins on invested capital. 

The record low federal fund rate at the beginning of the pandemic (0% to 0.25%) reduced the cost of financing, and as a result, instigated a surge in buy-side activity, development, and increased prices. As with any artificial injection of capital to stimulate the economy, there are repercussions; one of which being the rapid increase in inflation. Thus the Federal Reserve’s upcoming move to not only increase interest rates but to raise them ahead of schedule has been a long time coming.  

To look at lasting effects on commercial real estate markets, lenders and investors are looking towards two factors regarding interest rates. One, the effect of the interest rate hikes on cap rates, and two, the adaptability of commercial debt markets in regards to a rate hike. Concerning cap rates, there are generally two ways they can move. One, many believe that a rise in interest rates correlates with a rise in cap rates as property values decrease. Two, others believe that with increased interest rates, investors pay more to borrow capital, cutting into profits, and thus decreasing cap rates. However, when considering cap rate movement in relation to interest rates, we must consider a longer timeframe. As a result, it becomes hard to predict changes in cap rates as a result of increased interest rates, as other factors come into play such as capital flows, investor sentiment, and real estate fundamentals. Historically, changes in federal interest rates have not resulted in immediate changes in cap rates. The ultimate question is whether the market is well prepared to adapt to such a change. 

Broadly speaking, the effects of rising interest rates are unpredictable. In addition, recent geopolitical developments such as the Russia-Ukraine War make it uncertain where the Fed will go with interest rates. However, we are certain that they will go up, and as such, create an environment for the movement of cap rates and the exacerbation of current squeezes on markets.

Graph 1.1

Graph 1.2

Secondly, we will see some asset classes take the hit worse than others. From the graphs above, we can see how historically speaking, with previous interest rate increases in 2015-2018 and 2004-2005, cap rates have generally compressed. However, stable cash-flowing asset classes with high occupancy rates such as multifamily will fare better than higher risk higher reward asset classes such as industrial, office, and retail. Since the margins on rent from these asset classes become tighter through the increase in interest rates, the risk of industrial, office and retail in regards to defaults will increase. We can see this through Graph 1.2, where apartment cap rates saw less compression than industrial, office, and retail asset classes. While the previous two interest rate hikes have led to cap rate compression, this is not indicative of what will occur in the present day. However, we do see that multifamily generally can withstand these macroeconomic trends better than office, industrial, and retail asset classes.

With the increase in the cost of financing, we will see spreads tighten as value add opportunities diminish. Since the market for many stable cash-flowing asset classes such as multifamily are already facing extreme demand and competition, the increasing cost of debt due to interest rate hikes will continue to chip away at the returns of value-add opportunities. According to Forbes, many investors in 2020 faced a difficult decision of either accepting lower returns with the appropriate amount of risk or finding ways to add more value to hit more opportunistic returns. The interest rate hikes of 2022 will exacerbate this trend as financing becomes more expensive. Ultimately, the interest rate hike will make competitive markets less viable, pushing investors to do two things. One, more conservative strategies such as core and core-plus will be adopted in order to accommodate for the increasing competitiveness of value-add opportunities, and two, we will see expansion towards suburban areas. Regions such as many of the Sun Belt states (i.e. Texas, North and South Carolina, and Florida) have high suburban demand for multifamily. According to Matthews Real Estate Investment Services, the demand in this region is driven by rapid population growth and increasing employment opportunities. With these growth and demand drivers, investors are looking to those areas to find more lucrative value-add opportunities.

According to Cushman and Wakefield, in the long term, this rate increase will benefit the health of property markets. The purpose is ultimately to reduce the potential for inflation to become entrenched, giving way to a more aggressive hike in the future, and potentially causing a recession. In the short term, interest rates are not necessarily a shift away from the current norm, but a force that can exaggerate many of the effects we saw in recent years. Multifamily will continue to offer stable returns, despite its slow yet steady cap rate compression, and investors will become more risk-averse and/or find opportunities in emerging markets. 

In a constantly changing market, one slow step could be a missed opportunity. At Lever Capital Partners, our steadfast team of industry experts track the latest trends and understand how to source and utilize the best available capital. Whether you are looking for an equity partner, a lender, or a combination to fund your next project, Lever can advise you on obtaining the most attractive financing the market has to offer. Here at Lever Capital Partners, we pride ourselves on our wide range of experience in refinancing, recapitalizing, converting assets, ground-up construction, acquisitions, and our overall creativity in getting our clients the capital they need for any commercial real estate related transaction. Our industry professionals look forward to speaking with you about your next project.


Short Term Rentals Are on the Rise

By: Jacky Cheng

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to recognize how quickly society has adapted to new work routines and in turn how that has impacted certain areas within the real estate market. With the significant migration from metropolitan to suburban and rural areas, the office and retail markets have struggled, requiring many investors to get creative in how they capitalize on the distressed opportunities. Additionally, working from home has increased the demand for single and multifamily properties. In turn, residential housing prices have skyrocketed, leaving many hopeful homebuyers unable to afford homeownership. As a handful of employers start to welcome their employees back to the office, there is one pandemic trend that is here to stay: the demand for flexible and short-term apartment and single-family home rentals.

Most US workers were not traditionally accustomed to working from the comfort of their own homes. However, due to the stay-at-home restriction during the pandemic, many workers started to utilize short-term rentals in more remote locations. With the uncertainty around when people would be able to return to the office and the risks associated with densely populated metro areas, many employees fled major cities. An astounding number of professionals took the opportunity to experience a nomadic lifestyle, living in a new place every month. While hospitality struggled due to sanitary concerns and regulations, short-term rental demand increased exponentially, leaving Airbnb as the big winner. Because of Airbnb’s business model, they quickly adapted to the changing landscape and were able to offer “covid proof” lodging accommodations that traditional hotels couldn’t compete with.  Although many workers are returning to their normal commutes, housing companies are predicting that 20% of workers will continue to work remotely. That 20% represents about 36 million workers, leaving a significant market for short-term rental accommodations. These short-term housing companies are betting that renters will ditch the traditional 12-month lease if a more convenient and flexible alternative is available. That is why companies such as Blueground, June Homes, and Landing are expanding into new cities and adding thousands of units to their platforms. Even JLL and Brookfield want a cut of the pie through strategic partnerships with companies specializing in short-term rentals.

Companies like Blueground, a New York City-based apartment rental company, were able to raise significant capital. Blueground raised $140 million in September 2021. Although Blueground had setbacks due to the pandemic, they are still planning to aggressively expand to 30,000 units by 2025 from the current 5,000 units. The pandemic has accelerated the trend that Blueground relied on: flexibility. The financing that Blueground was able to obtain given the current circumstances was extremely attractive and provides support for the growing market trends in short-term rentals.

Looking at future trends, new demand for short-term rentals will return to the cities according to AirDNA predictions. As vaccines are distributed and attractions reopen, urban travel is expected to begin to recover in early 2022, with urban demand exceeding 2019 levels by 2023. Urban rentals could rebound even quicker than anticipated if business travelers opt for private accommodations, rather than traditional hotels. As the US reopens its borders to international travelers, demand in once highly sought-after urban markets, such as New York, San Francisco, and Miami, will rebound and likely exceed pre-pandemic levels. The increasing demand for short-term rentals will bring in thousands of new hosts, allowing more and more people to stay in short-term rentals instead of traditional hotels. This would create an opportunity for investors to meet the demand by supplying more short-term rentals, whether it is in the suburbs or in mid to large cities.

Unlike hotels, extended trips will become more common than they were pre-pandemic due to flexibility. According to AirDNA, in Q1 2021, the average length of stay was four days, 25% higher than before the pandemic. As leisure and business travel returns to cities that were heavily impacted by the pandemic, the length of stay is expected to shorten, but remain materially higher than 2019 levels. The norm is that more travelers will combine business trips with leisure, which will extend trips, creating a demand for mid-term accommodations.

Multifamily and single-family assets have become very popular because of the current market trends. With limited new supply and strong demand, most short-term rental operators are able to continue gradually raising rates, in turn increasing the revenue earned per unit. Due to the scarcity of housing supply and increasing demand, rates will continue to rise for the foreseeable future, making single and multi-family rentals more and more attractive to investors. The drive to meet the housing supply needs will prompt more real estate development in suburban markets. Meanwhile, banks, insurance companies, pension funds, and mutual funds are aggressively looking to deploy capital in these assets in 2022 as they have significant dry powder ready to be invested.

In a constantly changing market, one slow step could be a missed opportunity. At Lever Capital Partners, our steadfast team of industry experts track the latest trends and understand how to source and utilize the best available capital. Whether you are looking for an equity partner, a lender, or a combination to fund your next project, Lever can advise you on obtaining the most attractive financing the market has to offer. Here at Lever Capital Partners, we pride ourselves on our wide range of experience in refinancing, recapitalizing, converting assets, ground-up construction, acquisitions, and our overall creativity in getting our clients the capital they need for any commercial real estate related transaction. Our industry professionals look forward to speaking with you about your next project.


Multifamily, The Post-Pandemic Investment Poster Child: An Inside Look at Post-Pandemic Multifamily Investment Trends

By Will Crystal

The effects of COVID-19 have been felt throughout the entire commercial real estate sphere and continue to impact investment decisions across all property types. The pandemic has revealed a plethora of new opportunities in the marketplace, creating trends that are expected to continue into the foreseeable future. One of the most notable trends we are seeing is an uptick in multifamily investment and financing. The combination of record-high rental rates, surging demand, and skyrocketing market values is creating financing and capital event opportunities for property owners while forcing developers and investors to get creative.

Demand for multifamily housing has spiked dramatically in the first three quarters of the year and according to data from property management and analytics platform RealPage, “absorption of multifamily units jumped by more than 255,000 in the third quarter.” This extreme increase in demand can partially be attributed to the post-pandemic job market recovery we’ve been seeing, specifically regarding middle and higher-income jobs. Peter Linneman, of Linneman Associates, “believes that 3.5 million people will return to the workforce in the next six to nine months, and there will be an additional 2 million or more jobs added as the economy continues to grow” (Linneman, BisNow). Subsequently, more people than ever before can afford apartments due to stabilizing incomes related to job market recovery. This can be attributed to “the most recent ADP data from September [2021], indicating a [growth in] jobs [from] the previous two months”, due to the “elimination of the additional unemployment benefits issued in response to the pandemic” (Linneman, BisNow). Significantly more people are seeking employment as covid subsides and there is no shortage of available jobs, from the restaurant business to middle-income level jobs.

Additionally, the average price for multifamily assets has increased over the last 2 years, along with demand. Pricing and demand are projected to continue this upward trend in both the short and long term. In August of last year alone, there were “new construction permits totaling over 57,000 units issued across the U.S.” for multifamily development. This is the highest demand for permits in a single month since June of 2015. The trend is not expected to slow anytime soon, as 450,000 multifamily units are projected to be developed in 2023-2024.

While the demand for multifamily continues to surge as the market recovers from the pandemic, increasing uncertainty around office and retail assets has prompted many to convert those existing buildings. Both office and retail assets have seen record low occupancy rates during the pandemic. As a result, we are seeing many of the distressed properties getting converted to multifamily. This conversion strategy allows investors to capitalize on rising rents and demand in the multifamily sector, without having to buy in at the price levels we are seeing in the residential market. This trend has created a significant opportunity for developers and investors, as “renovations could cost about 30% to 40% less than new construction for the same number of units.” Not only are investors saving on construction costs, but they are also able to buy these distressed buildings at significantly lower prices than comparable existing multifamily properties in the same markets. Multifamily developers have experienced many challenges throughout the pandemic, especially regarding construction costs. These challenges and specifically the increased costs have made it difficult for individuals to start investing in the multifamily space, making the conversion strategy that much more attractive. 

While multifamily investors key in on the conversion of commercial assets to multifamily given current market conditions and compressing cap rates, current property owners are able to take advantage by capitalizing on the current borrower/sponsor-friendly state of the capital markets. As cap rates compress, property owners/sponsors can get significantly more attractive debt, whether it be construction, bridge, Mezz, or permanent financing. “Multifamily cap-rate compression averaged 31 basis points in infill markets and 41 basis points in suburban markets” (ADG Multifamily). With market prices at all-time highs and the gradual increase we’ve seen in rental revenue due to record demand, it is the optimal time to get financing for a new project, refinance your existing debt, or recapitalize your equity. Investors have significant dry powder ready to be deployed in the multifamily space, whether it be a conversion or ground-up development. Meanwhile, banks, debt funds, and insurance companies aggressively look to deploy capital in both areas at rates lower than any other asset class.

Lever Capital Partners has significant experience in the multifamily space and can assist you in securing any financing needs for your next project. Whether you own an existing multifamily property and are looking to refinance or recapitalize, or you are a developer looking for construction financing for asset conversion or ground-up development, we have the resources and experience to get you what you need. We pride ourselves in our ability to bring clients a range of financing options that reflect only the best that the market has to offer.


The Evolving World of Commercial Real Estate and Movements to Keep an Eye on in a Post-Covid World

By: Andy Evans

As vaccines roll out across America, and day-to-day life begins to resume as usual, it is crucial to understand how Covid-19 has affected the commercial real estate industry. As we know, the pandemic shifted people’s perceptions on the necessity to work in an office every day or go to a physical store to purchase the goods they need. We saw a significant rise in work-from-home structures as well as a staggering 44% growth in e-commerce volume compared to the previous year (Forbes).

With that being said, the commercial real estate industry remained remarkably stable. The number of foreclosures barely increased, while prices fell far less than after the 2008 financial crisis and are already rebounding much quicker than anticipated. Stability can partially be attributed to supportive federal monetary policy and low interest rates that allowed struggling assets to hold out. As we near the end of the pandemic, US private real estate companies are sitting on record levels of dry powder nearing 400 billion (PGIM) and are looking to capitalize on the increased momentum in the economy. While asset classes such as industrial and multifamily will continue to show their strength in the market, we have identified several emerging sectors where investors can expect to see significant growth and potential.  Out of crisis comes opportunity and the trends that we have outlined below are creative ways to tap into newly emerging markets, asset classes, and strategies. 

  1. Logistics/Cold Storage

A surge in online shopping and grocery sales has led to a steep increase in demand for cold storage space. Developers across the country are eager to get into the space due to the consistency of cash flows and the overall stability of the business. In 2020, online grocery shopping grew 81% in comparison to 2019 (Coresight Research) and factors such as subscription meal services and specialized pharmaceutical products are driving this emerging asset class. Growth is projected at 11.71% from 2019 to 2026 (Foodinstitute).

  1. Multifamily Conversions 

Converting other types of buildings into multifamily apartment complexes for rent has grown increasingly popular as construction costs have skyrocketed in the last year. Malls, factories, office buildings, and hotels are considered ideal candidates for traditional, micro, affordable, and senior living concepts due to the fact that they are generally located in already desirable areas. These conversions often have unique characteristics considering their history and are attractive because they are generally less expensive on a cost-per-door basis than newly constructed units. 

  1. Retails Creative Repositioning Opportunities 

With malls and retail centers struggling to garner shoppers and foot traffic falling 22% in the country’s top 10 malls (FNRP), many redevelopment opportunities are presenting themselves across the country. 78% of consumers expect online shopping to become more popular post-COVID 19 (Deloitte) and as a result, landlords must find new and innovative ways to stay relevant.  Popular redevelopment projects include apartment complexes, school campuses, medical facilities, and even churches. Another study conducted by Deloitte explores how malls could stay relevant by repositioning the assets based on the goal of creating a place where people can socialize, eat, live, and work all in one location. These physical spaces are not going anywhere anytime soon, so finding innovative ways to capitalize on the significantly discounted assets presents ample opportunity for massive upside.

  1. Last-mile Distribution

Industrial assets located within the urban core or strategically placed in high-density areas to reach the maximum population (known as “last-mile distribution”) are seeing record growth with the increase in e-commerce. The increase in e-commerce that we are witnessing places massive pressure on logistics operations, and these assets are proving to be the solution. America’s appetite for one and two-day deliveries depends on access to local inventory. With the high demand for these spaces, we can expect to see buildings repurposed for this use or new built-to-suit development projects. Regardless, these assets will provide stable returns for investors and provide diversity to a portfolio.

  1. Office – Coworking Space 

Coworking spaces and micro-office units will continue to grow in popularity as more and more entrepreneurs start online businesses and seek a workplace where they can work distraction-free. E-commerce start-ups continue to grow and having a physical office space is critical for their continued success. These businesses do not seek large class A office spaces but instead like the new and trendy coworking locations that also offer amenities within the building. This repurpose strategy can be implemented by any office owner/operator and will prove attractive to a wider variety of tenants. Reaching high occupancy levels is becoming harder and harder for landlords and this innovative strategy may be the gateway to success. 

  1. Affordable Housing 

As housing becomes more expensive and landlords are once again able to enact eviction memorandums, we can expect to see shifts towards affordable housing. The majority of the US population continues to find renting an apartment or home a more affordable option compared to homeownership and this sector is expected to yield high growth. Affordable housing brings a more certain guarantee of payment and allows landlords to feel safe in their projections and yields during uncertain times. Despite below-market rents, this sector has better occupancy and less volatility than market-rate units. Throughout the pandemic, affordable housing rent growth was 1.2% in 2020 and outperformed traditional multifamily (GlobeSt.).

  1. Non-traditional Sectors (Data centers, senior housing, and self-storage) 

Non-traditional sectors continue to provide evidence of resilience through economic downturns.  Data centers are in high demand across the country as we see a massive increase in access to internet-related services and the rise of 5G. These centers need physical space which provides a great investment opportunity. Further, in the next 10 years, the senior population cohort will grow at twice the pace of the past decade and will need to meet a demand of more than 23,000 units per year (HavenSI). This demand spike will provide investors and developers stable and safe investment opportunities. Lastly, the self-storage sector is projected to see annual compounded growth from 2020-2025 of 134.79% (Forbes). Population growth and rental vacancy are the driving factors for this notable increase that will bring bountiful investment opportunities with it.

The trends outlined above illustrate the new high growth and innovative movements of the commercial real estate industry in a post-COVID world. Lever Capital Partners understands the changing landscape of this industry and knows how to adapt to it. Reflecting on conversations with many capital providers at the 2021 Annual MBA Conference, as well as several current clients, we can firsthand see the unspent capital out there in the market right now. Investors are hungry to get back to investing in projects that they believe in and most importantly in ones that are backed by a compelling story. Lever understands the opportunities out there and can provide you with the capital to lead the initiative. Whether your needs include debt, joint venture equity, or secondary financing, we can discuss the capital currently available for your project and work together to guide you to an efficient closing. 


What is Driving the Demand for Industrial Real Estate Assets?

By: Liam Lewis

As we end the first quarter of 2021, the commercial real estate investing landscape is experiencing many changes. Entering the second quarter, everyone wants to know which asset classes will see quick recovery and which will continue to struggle in the post-Covid world. In the past 12 months, the pandemic has reshaped many industries. These shifts have demanded that investors adjust and have also expanded our ability to understand how external factors dramatically impact tenant and investor demand. In 2020 and into 2021, retail and office assets have faced challenges that no one ever predicted. These unprecedented circumstances have forced us to quickly adapt and underwrite assets in different ways to meet both tenant and investor needs driving creativity and innovation in the process. The pandemic has impacted economies around the world, tenant needs have shifted, and in turn, capital supply has changed as well.

Given the covid challenges that office and retail are facing, many investors are reassessing portfolio distribution. Thanks to the e-commerce boom spawned by the pandemic, industrial assets are offering a more conservative investment opportunity, whether it be core+ acquisitions with credit tenants or ground-up build-to-suit construction. Investors are not the only ones adjusting and capitalizing on these shifts in the industrial space. Institutional capital is becoming more and more readily available especially in terms of industrial development and acquisitions. Not only is the institutional space growing, but private capital is coming in with increased flexibility. Some of the creative options that we have seen in the first quarter and expect to see even more moving forward include the use of senior stretch loans, mezzanine debt, preferred equity, and sale-leasebacks to fill the gaps left by institutional money. In terms of capital availability, investors and lenders are holding a significant amount of dry powder, especially compared to where we were a year ago today. Industrial assets are shifting from the least favorite food group to being highly sought after by investors, lenders, and tenants.

To determine the sustainability of this spike in demand we must explore the driving factors. E-Commerce is defined as any purchase or sale of a good or service through an online platform. In retail e-commerce (of physical goods), yearly total revenue increased by $71.55B in 2020 and is projected to increase by another $131.74B by year-end 2025 (Statista). This exponential growth is a great indicator of what’s to come in terms of industrial space demand. Before 2020 yearly growth averaged only $37.09B per year. To put this into perspective, e-commerce retail revenue grew 120% in 2020 even as the Covid pandemic put the brakes on the overall economy. The revenue growth rate is expected to continue this pattern and we will likely see yearly growth breach 100% yearly through 2025. In the fast-paced world of e-commerce, logistics and distribution are central concerns that are driving a focus in purchasing on increasing efficiency and reducing logistics-related expenses. With this dramatic change we have seen as a result of Covid and technological advancement, it’s only fair to ask, how is this impacting industrial space needs?

With this dramatic increase in demand and the expectations of its continued growth, industrial asset needs will continue to skyrocket. As more and more products are purchased online, these retailers are facing scale challenges that in most cases have to do with manufacturing and warehouse capacity. With 1 and 2-day delivery becoming increasingly popular, and soon to be a must, companies have to rethink the way each product is getting from the manufacturer to its final destination. A key term to understand here is “last-mile” delivery/distribution. The “last-mile” is the final step in the transportation and delivery process. This is defined as the period in which the product leaves the last checkpoint and arrives at the final destination. This “last-mile” is the most expensive (about 50% of supply chain costs) and time-consuming part of the shipping process. In the wake of such dramatic demand growth, companies are doing anything possible to cut logistics-related costs. A trend that we are seeing, as a result, is an increase in the number of industrial warehouses that companies are leasing, building, or acquiring. Real estate expenses currently only reflect 3-5% of supply chain costs, providing a perfect opportunity to reduce expenses. In order to reduce the expenses involved with “last-mile” delivery, you must increase the number of hubs you own, which in turn reduces transport distances. With increased demand also comes increased inventory levels, impacting space needs significantly and pushing firms to buy, lease or build bigger warehouses. In 2020 there was a record 680 million square feet (MSF) of new industrial space leased in the Americas alone (Area Development). A logistical transition is upon us that presents ample opportunity when it comes to lending on or investing in industrial assets.

Product demand has seen significant growth in the last few years, and the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated it. The increasing demand for products sold online and quick delivery is directly impacting suppliers, manufacturing levels, and of course demand for industrial assets. A key contributing factor to demand for industrial space is the quick recovery seen in US manufacturing. Chris Williamson, the chief business economist at IHS Markit reported that “the US manufacturing sector is close to fully recovering the output lost to the pandemic last year.” Manufacturing levels have reached a 3-year high, and the exponential demand we are witnessing is pushing suppliers to their limits.

The combination of the intense demand growth seen in the last year, and 1-to-2-day delivery norms is recreating the increased need for industrial space. With these shifts in the market, capital must also adapt and realign itself with the changing times. Reflecting on conversations with many capital groups at the 2021 MBA conference, as well as several current clients, we are very aware of the dry powder available, and what it’s looking for moving forward. Here at Lever Capital Partners, we understand that when trends like this present themselves, the capital is not far behind. Whether your needs include debt,  joint venture equity, or secondary financing, we are confident that we can assist you along the way, while emphasizing efficiency and transparency.


Cold Storage Market Provides Endless Possibilities

By: Aesha Mehta

The Industrial market has turned from the ugly stepchild of the 4 major food groups into a sought after commodity, especially in the last year. A subcategory of industrial that you might not be that familiar with is Cold Storage. These facilities store perishable products such as fruits, vegetables, meat, or fish under controlled conditions for long periods of time. Cold storage is becoming crucially important because of a need to store the Covid-19 vaccine as well as food distribution via e-commerce that has grown immensely over the last 12 months.

How the Financing Markets are Heating Up to Cold Storage

Consumers are purchasing much more food via e-commerce because it was a very convenient and easily accessible solution during the lockdown. In particular, Amazon Fresh’s sales have grown by allowing customers to purchase and receive deliveries for their groceries and consumer products. The future of cold storage is still untold because it will be more prevalent when more pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Sanofi, and Bayer come out with approved vaccines with FDA approval along with the current demand of the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. With consumer trends shifting to buying more items online, the investors we speak with believe that increasing Cold Storage assets in their portfolio will be inevitable.

The future of cold storage has endless possibilities that will not diminish anytime soon due to the increased food distributions through e-commerce channels. According to David Egan, senior director and global head of research for CBRE, “food in the U.S. is a category worth approximately $2.5 trillion, with grocery sales representing almost $1 trillion of that number. If e-commerce grocery sales grow to 15% penetration, that’s about $150 billion in sales that would shift from an in-store model to an online model. To put that in perspective, all e-commerce in the U.S. is about $500 billion” (NAIOP). Based on these statistics, this showcases how attractive cold storage is becoming in 2021 and where institutional investors will look in the coming years as a major investment for cold storage as an asset class in the industrial real estate sector. 

The Changing Landscape of Available Capital

Prior to COVID-19, cold storage was primarily used by grocery store distributors to help facilitate their sales of produce and meats along with a growing demand from e-commerce companies. Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated (JLL), a global commercial real estate services company, mentions, “In May 2018, Blackstone, one of the most prolific investors in commercial real estate, purchased a 2.3-million-square-foot portfolio of nine industrial properties that were primarily cold storage facilities for $255 million at a 6.25 percent cap rate.” Due to these new changes and demands, lenders and investors are now looking at this niche market as an attractive investment. Lever Capital Partners and their sister firms at the Real Estate Capital Alliance held a virtual MBA in early February. At that event many capital providers talked about lending and investing in Cold Storage for the first time. Once a majority of capital providers sees the Cold Storage space as a critical component of the Industrial segment rather than a niche business, the competitive landscape will increase thereby increasing the competition for available capital.

We’re Here to Guide You!

Lever Capital Partners knows the Cold Storage business and in fact financed their first one back in 2005 in a Boston suburb. We have increased our tracking of available capital due to the occurrences we’ve seen in the last few years and can help guide you through today’s capital availability. Our team of industrial experts will advise on your ability to get financing up and down the capital stack utilizing debt and equity for acquisitions, adaptive reuse, or development. Because we’re a relationship oriented firm, our preference would be to work with established sponsors looking for programmatic capital rather than one-off projects. Please reach out so we can quickly evaluate your project and guide you towards the best available capital!


The Distressed Debt Wave: 5 CRE Experts Discuss Trading Nonperforming Loans in 2021 and Beyond

By Keren Goshen

Feb 4, 2021

We entered January 2020 with unprecedented momentum. A strong economic outlook called for a year of tremendous growth after nearly a decade of global economic expansion. While all the indicators of growth and success presented themselves, the global pandemic put the era of growth to a screeching halt; leading to a year of tremendous loss and uncertainty, changing the world as we know it.

A year later, with the vaccine rollout in full swing and the end to election uncertainty, we anticipate 2021 will be a strong year for the capital gains market. We are seeing a positive market outlook that boasts low interest rates, banks and investors flush with cash, and an S&P 500 index that’s up 3.8% YTD.

While we anticipate a strong year of recovery, we gathered the latest research and interviewed the most influential CRE experts to expand on our predictions. Here is what they have to say.

Distressed commercial real estate loans and discounted asset sales will continue to rise 

The Fool reports 20 large real estate firms have filed for bankruptcy by the end of 2020, including two with more than $50 million in assets. In the next five years, CoStar Group predicts there will be a more than $126 billion flash sale of distressed commercial real estate, equating to $321 billion in sales by 2025.

Additionally, data from the Federal Reserve shows commercial property debt increased to a record of $3.06 trillion for the first time during the third quarter of last year, up from $2.2 trillion in the third quarter of 2012, which was a 10-year low.

Brock Cannon, Head of National Loan Sales at Newmark believes the distress created as a result of COVID will last beyond our predicted 5-year growth period. He says, “my team is still working on sales that originated in 2007 and 2008, thirteen years later. We will be working through this distress for at least ten years to come.”

Bid-Ask Spread to Lessen 

Distressed deals in 2020 were also challenged with a large bid-ask spread, a leading indicator of illiquidity of the market. We anticipate that the spread shrinks in 2021, due to lenders having more realistic expectations of below-par sales and increased available capital.

Chris Skinner, author, speaker and expert on banking says the lasting impact will stretch beyond 2021 saying, “it’s not just in the CRE space but in all aspects of society. Most people had exposures to loss in 2020 and they will pass those losses onto the banks. Expect a major downturn and increasing NPLs through to 2025.”

Hotel and Retail Will Struggle to Recover; Office Recovery Uncertain

FitchRatings reports that hotel and retail delinquencies rose to $2.0 billion in December 2020 from $1.5 billion in November. New delinquencies were largely made up of $1.2 billion in hotel loans and $582 million in retail loans. The delinquency report from Moody’s Analytics paints the same picture.

Adam Horowitz, Principal at Lever Capital Partners, shares a different perspective. “Every time there is a downturn in the market, funds are raised with the anticipation of a flood of NPLS hitting the market,” he says.

Research from Real Capital Analytics indicates that CMBS had the highest leverage and market share during the last crisis. This time around, we are seeing higher leverage with direct lenders and banks. However, CMBS is more concentrated in the hotel and retail areas, which will be reflected in deeper discounts on CMBS distressed sales.

Marco Santarelli, Founder and CEO of Norada Real Estate Investments points out that while the commercial space is suffering, residential real estate remains strong. He says “the brick and mortar retail space has suffered the most, but demand for homes, logistics and storage have increased.”

Unanimous Uncertainty and Novel Ideas Around Office Recovery

CBRE predicts that the office sector will recover the slowest from pre-pandemic investment volumes. The cloud of uncertainty around the future of work and office spaces are widely shared across the board, with a general consensus that evolving trends that include remote and flexible working are here to stay.

New York Times editor, Matthew Haag, suggests NYC’s real estate can be positively transformed if office spaces are converted to residential spaces. Data shows that job growth in New York City has tremendously outpaced housing growth, leading to a massive housing shortage. While this would require zoning and density rules to change by the City Council and State Legislature, this is one of many novel ideas presented due to the uncertainty around a return plan to corporate offices.

The report states that only 10% of Manhattans’ 1 million office workers are physically reporting to the office, and filings to erect new buildings dropped by 22% in 2020, the lowest number since 2010.

AI and Technology Will Transform the Way CRE NPLs Are Sold Forever

“The real estate industry as a whole has been very slow to adopt new technology,” Santarelli states. His sentiments are widely shared amongst experts interviewed, confirming a need for broader capabilities of technology platforms to fully meet the increasing demand to manage CRE deals.

The success of lenders, brokers, and CRE firms in a post-COVID world depends on the extent to which their people can perform in remote work environments. Deloitte reports that most CRE companies are unprepared to meet the demand in this wave of distressed debt.

Jim Berry, Vice Chairman and US real estate leader at Deloitte states, “While the pandemic was an eye-opener, we see it as an accelerant of existing trends. It is telling that 56% of CRE respondents to our 2021 CRE Outlook survey said that the pandemic exposed shortcomings in their organizations’ digital capabilities. Only 40% of respondents said their company has a defined digital transformation roadmap.”

It’s clear that digital adoption is not enough – a digital transformation is necessary for firms, brokers, and sellers to keep up with demand and operate efficiently.

Horowitz shares how technology is helping his firm today by saying, “Technology helps with the two main components of our business; who needs capital and where to find it. There are various ways to determine whose loans are coming due, what projects are on the docket for future development, and what assets are currently in default.

On the capital side, technology is helping us determine capital availability, making sure we connect with the right person at that firm, then create a process using technology to close the deal in the most efficient way.”

Technology platforms driven with AI, like Metechi, help fill in the gap to meet this increasing demand. Increasing analytical capabilities coupled with security and transparency will transform the way the market will operate. To find out how you can buy and sell CRE NPLs at scale, schedule a free demo with Metechi today.

About Our Contributors

Brock Cannon serves as the head of national loan sales with the Newmark Loan Sale Advisory Group. Based in the firm’s New York headquarters, Brock focuses on secondary debt transactions on a national basis. Brock’s experience with loan sales is extensive and includes the origination of debt and equity financings, restructuring and modifications of distressed loans, loan servicing, loan sales and investment sales. For more information on how to get on the investor list, speak with Brock here.

Chris Skinner is an author, expert and speaker on banking, finance and fintech. He is the author of the The Finanser blog and chairs the Financial Services Club. He defines purpose-driven banking as more than sustainability or ESGs. He likes to pose the key question: if your company doesn’t stand for something then it will fall for everything. What does your company stand for? 

Trisha Connolly is a Senior Managing Director at B6 Real Estate Advisors focusing on equity and debt transactions for the capital advisory team with clients across the country and a focus on the lower Manhattan territory. Ms. Connolly specializes in commercial real estate financing with over 15 years of experience including loan restructure, term financing, syndicated credit facility, construction financing, acquisition financing and advisory and joint venture equity structures.

Adam Horowitz is the Founder and Principal at Lever Capital Partners. Lever focuses on two types of transactions; large one-off deals for institutional sponsors ($50MM+) and programmatic equity investments for established owners looking to build out a niche platform ($10MM+).

Built-for-Rent Housing is Exploding and Capital is Ready to Deploy

By: Aaron McGinley

The purpose built Build-for-Rent (BFR) market growth chart is starting to look like a hockey stick and LCP is actively speaking with debt and equity capital hungry for deals. A strong market opportunity is emerging and LCP is here to help qualified sponsors capitalize on this sector.

Commercial Developers vs Traditional Homebuilders

Commercial Developers can leverage the scale of their in-house investment management, property management, and development groups to build horizontal multifamily developments. Single family homes will be a new product type for most commercial developers and they will need to have the right contractors in place to get it right. However, what they lack in single family home development experience, they most likely make up for in institutional investment management and large scale project execution. 

Homebuilders have a demonstrated track record of construction and development of single family communities which puts them in great position to capitalize on this new market. They’ll likely need to partner with an established management company or hire a 3rd party manager as they traditionally are merchant builders and not owner operators with a track record of asset and property management.

What are Debt and Equity Providers Looking For?

Equity investors are interested in partnering with commercial developers and homebuilders that show a demonstrated track record of home construction, development execution, and long-term rental management. The investors can either come in as an LP when they feel the sponsor has an existing portfolio or a Co-GP where they need to bring in their development expertise. Investors want to create a portfolio of BFR communities that can be managed like multifamily but with double digit unlevered returns. Market rate yield on cost is variable due to market specific construction costs but expectations are generally higher than for multifamily construction. 

Debt lenders like cash-flowing rental properties and as more people escape the big cities for suburban living, they feel like this asset type will hit the right chord for many people used to choosing between owning a home vs apartment living. You can expect a variety of options for first mortgage debt, including high leveraged stretch loans, mezz, and pref options along with non-recourse facilities available to the strongest sponsors. Expect pricing will be inline with multifamily loans.

We’re in the market right now!

LCP has been tracking this space for a long time and can help you navigate the capital markets to get your project financed. We are talking with sponsors and institutional investors on a daily basis and know who the right groups are to be speaking with and can help guide you to supplement any holes in your presentation or team. LCP’s Build-For-Rent program can arrange programmatic solutions for long term growth in the marketplace. This is an exciting space with lots of future opportunities and we know what it takes to grow your BFR platform.  


How Lenders and Investors are Changing Their Underwriting Assumptions

By: Adam Horowitz

Lever Capital Partners is speaking with lenders and investors on a daily basis and have been hearing that changes in underwriting are at the forefront of their minds. The number one question capital providers are asking is, “In the current post-Covid world, what changes have you made in your underwriting assumptions?”. The conversation is a non-starter if the sponsor has not thoroughly thought through these changes and can’t clearly point to adjustments made in the proforma with a compelling story to back it up. Here are a few of the major underwriting changes we’re requesting from our sponsors (for now) and our recommendations about how to present them to the market: 

  1. Cap Rates – Needless to say there is pricing uncertainty in the market (investment sales volume has dropped roughly 70% in Q2 2020 from the same period in 2019, according to CoStar and RCA Data). Pre-Covid comps are being ignored so it’s important to factor in a conservative premium to appease investors. Recently, we’ve seen value adjustments of 10%+ for multifamily properties up to 30%+ for hospitality, depending on the specific asset. Don’t be shocked when looking at your updated IRRs.
  2. Rent Growth – Underwriting future income streams poses a considerable challenge for most properties without long term leases or credit tenants in-place. Across the board, investors are underwriting untrended rents and factoring in zero rent growth for the next 2-3 years. In rare instances, some markets are projected to have a negative rent growth rate over the next 1-2 years. Where you build / purchase will be heavily scrutinized now.
  3. Exit Cap to Yield on Cost – In regular times we’d typically look for untrended yield on cost spreads of 150 basis points compared to the exit cap rate. The industrial and core multifamily spreads are holding close to those numbers but we’re seeing a much wider spread for all other asset classes. Be prepared to show numbers in the 175-200+ range.
  4. Spec Development – Building spec has always been a challenge, even in the most bullish of times. Office and retail have required a fair amount of pre-leasing even in the early part of this year. But now, given the circumstances, nothing is going to happen unless you are heavily pre-leased with credit tenants in tow. Walking into the lender’s office with a mask and a dream won’t cut it, so start lining up those credit tenants.
  5. Debt Assumptions – The lending world has dried up considerably with some participants leaving the market (debt funds) and others on the sidelines only willing to lend to existing relationships (banks). Overall, leverage has decreased with developments maxing out at 65% and more commonly in the 50-60% range while interest rates spreads have widened, increasing all-in rates. You’re likely going to need more cash, and investors are much more focused on the debt status than ever before.

Without these adjustments, most lenders / investors will take a quick pass. Your ability to identify and edit your original underwriting shows you’re adapting to the new normal, have an understanding of what metrics had to change and are able to craft a workable solution around the modified numbers. To come off as a sharp sponsor and on top of the market, we recommend having your changes ready to present by (1) preparing a doc that outlines your changes that you can share with investors and lenders and (2) crafting a compelling story for the asset and market that you can talk through.

These are the first things we ask for when looking at new deal packages. If you follow the above rules you might be one of the fortunate few to get a new loan or investor equity. We can help when you’re ready to “turn and face the strange” as Bowie said. We’re home working in our PJs waiting for you to call.

Which of the 4 Food Groups are Safe to Eat this July 4th?

By: Aaron McGinley

There have been many changes to the commercial real estate sectors largest food groups since Covid-19, some are temporary and some will be here to stay. Below we share some statistics and our thoughts on which property types you should devour and which ones to avoid as we hit this very unusual July 4th weekend. We’ll list the sectors from 1-4, ranked as the number of turns left on the BBQ until it’s ready to eat.

Multifamily (1 turn left)

Multifamily is poised to recover better than other sectors for a few reasons. The sector had strong momentum going into the Covid crises and as heard on a recent webinar, “you can’t sleep on the internet.”  Per CBRE, vacancy is expected to rise 3.1% from from Q4 2019 (4.1%) to Q4 2020 (7.2%) but fully recover by the end of 2021. Similarly, rents are projected to drop 8.1% in 2020 and fully recover by Q1 2022.  

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes.  People will live where the jobs are and the changing landscape of the “work-from-home” era might affect the long-standing trend of people moving closer to big cities.  We think the so-called 18-hour cities that have job growth, lower taxes, less traffic, and a cost of living that provides the ability to work from home will benefit more than the largest US cities.

Industrial (1 turn left)

Industrial is another palatable menu option.  Although COVID is suppressing the macroeconomy and may experience a brief downturn through 2020, the shift toward social distancing has encouraged e-commerce spending, providing some protection for the industrial sector over the next few quarters. Over the long term, it’s expected that e-commerce will largely maintain its gain in retail share and businesses across the economy will look to carry larger amounts of inventories, boosting industrial demand.

From Lever Capital’s perspective, strong sponsors who can pre-lease or pre-sell industrial will be one of the most attractive asset classes for both debt and equity markets given the strength of e-commerce spending. Everyone will try to enter this space without the knowledge or relationships to get these deals done. We’ll encourage new entrants to partner with experienced groups.

Office (2 turns left)

Office still needs a few more turns on the BBQ before it’s fully cooked.  However, according to CBRE, despite the staggering rise of unemployment and negative GDP figures, 9 of 10 respondents to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey considered themselves on a temporary layoff.  The office sector benefited from a fast adoption of work-from-home policies. Looking forward, the U.S. office sector most likely will not be able to go through the current crisis unscarred. New office densities and the magnitude and duration of work-from-home regimes is still not ready to eat.

It’ll take a while to determine the level of hurt this sector will take as tenant leases roll over the next year. The opportunity here exists on the distressed side, having a tenant lined up to occupy a vacant building, or repurposing to industrial.

Retail (Overcooked)

The impact of COVID-19 has put additional pressure on the retail industry. According to CBRE, the overall availability rate is expected to rise and reach its peak in Q1 2021 at 12.5%, or 380 basis points (bps) higher than the Q1 2020 level.  Rent is forecasted to reach its trough at Q2 2021, with an 8.5% decrease compared to Q1 2020. This is a challenging time for retailers as many close their stores and more retail space becomes vacant or converted to other property types.

Lots of our friends and clients admit that the country was already “over retailed” and given the shift to e-commerce for some products that previously were dominated by brick and mortar it’ll feel even more-so.  However, with retail sectors being impacted so differently, their recoveries will have different trajectory paths.


The U.S. Real Estate sector will look different this 4th than in years past and some food groups appear to be more appetizing than others.  Multifamily and industrial are poised to recover in short order, while office has some cooking to do and retail has already been burnt from sitting on the grill for too long and may need to be replaced with a fresh dog.

We’re Here to Help

Lever Capital Partners is a boutique capital intermediary with deep relationships in the debt and equity capital markets for commercial real estate. To learn more about our services or if you have questions about capital, reach out to us and we will evaluate your project.