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Retail Retold Episode 217: Your Top Retail CRE Questions Answered

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Karly Iacono

Welcome everybody to what’s in store. The show where we unpack hot topics at the cross section of retail and real estate. I’m Carly Iacono, senior vice president at CBR E and I’m joined by my co-host Chris Ressa, the CEO of DLC. Welcome, Chris. Great to see you. How’s life?

Chris Ressa

Great to see you. I just got back from the. Florida Keys have you? OK.

Karly Iacono

Oh, I have been to the Florida Keys it last year. I had the pleasure of going to Key West and Isla Marada.

Chris Ressa

That’s right. I was with you.

Karly Iacono

I hit the keys twice last year, but it’s been awhile. Was your trip?

Chris Ressa

It was good. I forgot we we we went to the floor keys on a business trip to together a big group of US.

Karly Iacono

You’re actually there, yeah.

Chris Ressa

We were in key.

Karly Iacono

I won’t take that personally.

Chris Ressa

West with the.

Karly Iacono

It’s fine.

Chris Ressa

Stark and Stark best practices, but my wife and I went to Marathon FL. We did this swimming with dolphins thing at Dolphins Research Center.

Karly Iacono

Ohh hmm.

Chris Ressa

Unexpected how much I enjoyed swimming with dolphins. It was the coolest thing my my one friend. I told him he’s like how was how was marathon. And I said it was great. I told him about this swim with dolphins and that and he and he wrote back. In a text message to me, he goes the way you’re built. Poor dolphin and started talking. It’s like he had to carry you around through that whole thing. You got to be hit, but it was.

Karly Iacono

Golf and abuse dolphin abuse.

Chris Ressa

It was so fun.

Karly Iacono

For you. Fun for you. Maybe not the door. You open the door.

Speaker

I opened the door.

Karly Iacono

Just walking through it. Love it. We went skiing. Just got back from Breckenridge with the kids, and I feel like.

Chris Ressa

Breckenridge oh, you went skiing.

Karly Iacono

We went, we go. We go. We rocked. It was amazing getting back. Not so fun. But we made it. We’re here. All right, let’s jump in. We have a really interesting episode. I feel like I say that every month because they are different and interesting, but. This month is a little bit different. So for everyone listening what we’re going to cover today are the top three questions. Both Chris and I get asked and our respective line of work. So we’re going to start with Chris’s top three questions. He gets asked most, which are by nature of his business, of course mostly leasing and tenant. Related and then my top three questions are interest rate and capital markets related, which we’ll cover in the second-half of the show. So let’s jump in. What is Chris, one of the top three things that you get asked every day?

Chris Ressa

So the first one is how have leases changed since COVID and I get asked this, you could be at a dinner party, right? And I think no matter what industry you’re in, people are like, so how’s your business changed since COVID like and they don’t know about our industry, they’re not in it like that’s a common one, but it. A little bit more granular is how the leases have changed. I answered generally, by and large. There it it’s not drastic. There hasn’t been drastic changes. I think there was headline news and media around that. The nature of leases are going to totally change. They’re going to be these flexible documents on a go forward. And I would say just the quite opposite happened. And I mentioned this before, but I think the most flexible thing that people were talking about was the term of the leases. And people were thinking that leases were going to be more shorter term, more flexible and. It’s not the case. There’s a lot of longer term leases in fact. Longer term, driven by retailers and tenants, often I have not had more. You know what we call blending extend requests in my tenure in this industry than over the last few months, I think construction costs are so high. People don’t want to relocate stores. There’s no new build. They don’t want to relocate. There’s no new build and so they’re staying in place. So they’re trying to lock up long term at the best rate they possibly can so they can get their. Footprint in that market. So by and large, there are a couple of things we can talk about a couple. Of provisions that. I see that have been changed, but by and large there’s been very little and I think the one that people are thinking in the back of their head when they ask the question on the flexibility and term. Has the opposite has happened?

Karly Iacono

Do you think that’s because? Well, we thought at one point leases were going to be all CPI driven. So the rent increases were going to be tied to CPI. I haven’t seen that become the case in most leases have you? Are you still seeing mostly fixed rent increases and leases or? Are you seeing?

Chris Ressa

Yeah, so I think. I and I think the biggest burden with the CPI piece and in in a lease. Is neither party wants to administer it. And like have to calculate what is the rent now. Right. It’s no different than the fair market value in a options in a that come up in leases. It’s it’s now you have to have this administrative burden. There’s a cost to both parties to just figure out what the rent is in the lease. And so I think that’s always on both parties. It it typically goes away, I think people. On the landlord side, want to get as large of increases as possible. Try to match or beat inflation and and and tenants want to try inherently to make sure their increases are as low as possible, but I I didn’t see a lot of CPI and I think the major reason for the CPI piece is. It is too hard to administer.

Karly Iacono

And I think that. Could be why we’re seeing longer term leases because tenants are more comfortable with the predictability of the fixed rates, especially given our inflationary environment. So if CPI increases were not instituted widely and we have what everybody agrees or reasonable annual increases or every five years, then that’s actually more beneficial. To the tenant. Because they don’t have to face a complete rent reset in five years, maybe they’re doing a 10 year base term in two, you know, five year options. So they’re controlling it at a fixed level for a longer period of time. So I I can see where they. Would want that security. Whereas 3 years ago we thought it was going to be all about flexibility and now given inflation, it’s we want long term predictability without these massive rent resets.

Chris Ressa

Yeah, certainly. And I think you hit on a point that’s interesting, which is one of the things I was saying in the middle of COVID when people were talking about, I was like, wait a second. If you’re in a growing business and your business is doing well, what you want to do is lock in as long a term as possible at as low as cost as possible. You don’t want to have it flexible and give the upside to somebody else of your business and that’s why the mature grow. And growing companies have always wanted to control real estate and lock it up as long as possible. And they would give up that flexibility because they don’t want to give up the upside in their sales to somebody else. I do think the inflation is a part. I do think definitely construction cost. I do think there’s no, there’s very limited new product coming out of the ground and given the occupancy rates in our industry, there’s nowhere to move to. So the fear of closing a store and losing that market is strong and they. Want to put a. A real strong foothold on that market.

Karly Iacono

Right, right. So leases have changed, but not in the ways we thought they were going to at the start of the. That nick. Good discussion point. All right, #2, what is the second most common thing that you? Get asked.

Chris Ressa

You know, is the pool of tenants decreasing and the answer is pool of tenants is increasing. People try to every time there’s headline news around a store closure they think you know there might be or or retailer and struggle a retailer in trouble. I think it goes into people’s heads like, you know, the tenant pool might be decreasing. But the new business formation that we saw in the pandemic. And obviously it’s not as high anymore. The lack of. Physical product coupled with the the business formation. Coupled with just innovation and all these new concepts and to boot. Coupled with the online stores opening physical stores. The tenants are different. Some of the uses are different. We have more service and medical than we had previously, more entertainment, more experience driven. But there are a a myriad of new uses in the tenant pool is increasing and not decreasing.

Karly Iacono

And I think you touched on something really important that I just. Want to highlight? It’s the expansion of the definition of retail. So medical entertain all these things that had, you know different very different footprints 10 years ago. Now we’re coming into retail centers and retail spaces. So it’s not just that our. Core retail tenants are expanding, which they. Are they can find space, but also that the overall definition is expanding. So we have a much broader tenant pool overall.

Chris Ressa

Yeah, the explosion of restaurant fitness, I mean, there’s a there’s, there’s restaurant, fitness, medical feels like it’s in almost every center in America, right. Like the expansion of this. And those are just three categories.

Karly Iacono

Exactly. All right, let’s move on to #3. This is a headline. Buster for it, that’s great.

Chris Ressa

Yeah, I get this all time. I’ve gotten this for a while, you know? And and they go and people will be like, so how’s e-commerce been hurting your business? What a pointed question and the? The reality is, and our CEO Adam Ifshin said, this is turned out the way it’s played out is the physical store has been the solution to e-commerce, not the victim. And and so and and that’s the the the bottom line with you know the closest real estate to the consumer is retail real estate and all these. E-commerce businesses want to get closer to. The consumer and they’re using physical presence retail real estate to do that and that’s going to continue to grow, especially as it you know the cost of last mile delivery just doesn’t seem to want to come down. It only goes up. So the the the reality is there’s been disruption. No doubt. This disruption started a while ago and it’s been evolving and we’re now at a tipping point where. Physical retail. Has been a solution for e-commerce, whether that’s by digitally native brands opening stores, whether that’s by mature physical retailers who have ecommerce businesses fulfilling from store, whether that is. You know the small micro fulfillment centers that come into retail properties every now and then? Whatever it may be, physical retail has been a solution. Right. And and. You could come up with that solution in myriad of ways, right? If you’re walking down the street, you go online to order your Starbucks so you can walk right in and pick up your Starbucks at the at the physical counter. Without that physical counter, you don’t have a cup of coffee. From there, so physical retail has been the solution, not the victim to e-commerce.

Karly Iacono

I think that’s the quote of 23, maybe 22. That’s that’s just such a great line. And I think really sums up all the changes we’re seeing in distribution. And you know how that the actual endpoint is crucial? That’s where it all comes together. Like you just said for your Starbucks, you’re still walking up and picking up that cup of coffee. Rarely is it delivered to you, so.

Chris Ressa

Yeah. And and I mean. That we’re always going to have delivery. Right. And I think delivery is a good solution, but what we’re starting to see, especially by the pressure put on Wall Street onto brands to be profitable. Convenience is going to have a cost and we’re starting to see that cost. And I say this all. Just get a, get a whether it’s whatever brand you want to use to deliver the coffee. Whatever delivery program, deliver a cup of coffee to your house. It’s like $2425 to do that like and and it might be a little different in your neighborhood depending how close you live to the store, but. That’s a lot of money for anybody to pay for a cup of coffee that doesn’t make economic sense. And the cost of gas? And the time to go pick that up is significantly less than having it delivered. So there’s a cost of convenience and we’re starting to see the consumer have to pay the burden of. That, and that’s only going to accelerate, not going to decelerate.

Karly Iacono

And I would say, even if they are willing to pay for this cost of convenience, as you call it, a lot of these deliveries are being done by third parties that are going to the physical locations to pick up. The good right?

Chris Ressa

There you go.

Karly Iacono

So even if you’re getting it delivered, you’re still you’re not going to a back warehouse if you know DoorDash is picking up your Starbucks, they’re going to go to Starbucks. Pick it up and deliver it to you. So I think either way, right, either way, physical retail wins love it.

Chris Ressa

Great point.

Karly Iacono

All right, glad to hear everything is good and your your tenant retail world. Let’s move on to the questions I’m getting asked on capital markets. So this is slightly more challenging, although not all negative.

Speaker

Let’s do it.

Karly Iacono

Let’s start with the number one. Question I get asked which is will cap rates go back to where they were in 2021? Peak levels, peak cap rate compression? I’m going to say no. Just pretty simply. All right, let’s move on to question two. No, I’m kidding. So cap rates were overall retail cap rates were 5%. Now this is a lot of variation in different deals, of course, right, a 20 year investment grade single tenant deal is going to trade different than a local strip center with no national tenants, so. As with any data source, you kind of have to dive in a little bit deeper, but overall retail cap rates were 5% in 2021. That went to 5.85 at the end of 22 and we’re now predicting it to go up to 644 by the end of the second quarter of 23. So we’ve already had over 100 basis points of expansion and we’re expecting more now. Do we think that they might come back a little bit? Yes. But unless we see a 10 year treasury that’s .9 or 1% like we had in 2021. I don’t think we get back to some of these crazy sub four cap low 4 cap cap rates that we had. I just don’t think that the market gets there again in this cycle. So do we think we’re going to get back to where we were? I think it would be extremely difficult unless there was a major turn around with the the monetary policy. Any comments on cap rates?

Chris Ressa

I think it depends on time horizon that we’re talking about like. In, if you were talking about the next 50 years, I.

Karly Iacono

Right.

Chris Ressa

Probably odds are they’ll come back down at some point, right? We’re talking about in a much tighter time window. Call it the next three years, I think. It’s probably fair to say that cap cap rates are, you know it’s going to be hard to get back to that level, right. So I think the time period matters. I think certain you know, I think certain product types. In that sub sector, overall, I think you’re right. I think certain product types in the sub sector probably hold for a little bit because they’re just so strong of a tenant or a brand, right, you know is McDonald’s cap rates up maybe, but like they’re still going to be lower than other competitors probably. Because of their, you know, their credit worthiness, so. But overall, I think you know, unless we see something in the short term that happens with monetary policy, it’s hard to envision that cap rates compress to that. Will they come back? So I think to me what they should be asking you is, will they come down? Will they get back to 2021? I don’t know. But will they come down? I think there’s an argument made at some point that they’ll be that you could might be less than they are today. You know, could you see them be less than they are today in a year is? That could you see that?

Karly Iacono

I think it depends on how high the 10 year treasury goes, because we’re really we’ll touch on this in a minute, but we’re reaching an inflection point with financing that it’s just kind of grinding everything to a halt. So there has to be a little more expansion to make more deals financeable before they can come back down. So do I think they’ll come? Do I think they’re going to go up a little more? Yes. And then potentially come back down at the end of 23? Absolutely, hopefully. But how much farther down do we get to the 21 levels? I don’t think so. Do we get to where we are right now and maybe even a little better? Probably right. So come down is such a relative thing. So from what data point, so we’re going to expand a little more and then come back in and to your other point, I think it’s important to look at that McDonald’s. Accurate to McDonald’s caprate can you find a you know 4 1/2 cap deal that still is worth it right for the tenant. The lease term? Yeah, I can think of a few. But would that deal have been at a four or 375 a year ago? Possibly. Right. So it’s relative to your type of investment, how has the cap rate expanded not relative to anything in the market?

Chris Ressa

Yeah, fair enough.

Karly Iacono

And I think it’s certainly expanded. So the second question, which kind of dovetails off the 1st is how has interest rates impacted the market? And I think something really important to look at here is the spread between the 10 year Treasury and cap rates. So we’re at 215 basis points roughly right now end of. 2022. Above the 10 year Treasury that is the tightest spread we’ve seen since 2008. So how and what that tells you is how much further can can that condense right? If you’re only 215 basis points from the average retail cap rate above the 10 year Treasury, where do you go? From here. So that spread was well over 400 basis points just a few years ago. So very material difference. So what this is? Causing is really an illiquidity event in the market. We don’t have a lot of lenders who are active, the ones that are are bringing in their loan to value. We just have a sort of a time in the market where it’s very difficult to finance deals. A lot of the lower price point deals are still being bought by all cash buyers. Buyer demand is sort of unwavering, but how do you get the deal financed? Is the challenge right now, so interest rates are impacting the market because they’re they’re slowing down transaction velocity? Because of negative leverage, meaning you you’re actually coming out of pocket in some cases to finance a deal instead of it adding to your overall return instead of the financing being accreted. So I think we’re going to continue to see that unless we see cap rate expansion that exceeds the increase in the interest rates, we’re going to continue to have a very tight market from a financing perspective. And I think we’re going to see that for the next few quarters then hopefully things will stabilize a bit. Are you being impacted by by interest rates at all, Chris and your business?

Chris Ressa

I think everyone is, I think. For sure what comes to mind is you know it’s a good time to have really strong relationships with your lenders who wanted to continue to make sure they do business with you for sure. It’s it’s like you said, the buyer appetites. You said unwavering. It’s like insatiable, but. The modeling the deal, the pencil is is really challenging and. There’s a there’s a myriad of ways that that can happen, and I think one of the ways you’re probably right that you hit on, that you’re going to see and what’s going to have to loosen. Given that we don’t expect. Monetary policy to go back to the old way anytime soon is that the pricing on the deals and the cap rates are going to have to move you would.

Karly Iacono

And we are seeing a lot of creative solutions, at least people are trying right seller financing sort of a mid mess piece of debt like anything buyers can do to get deals that they really want. But it’s very difficult to get those kind of deals over the finish line, so. Buyer demand rates remain strong. I’m confident in investors, creativity and ability to get things done when they want, but it’s certainly more challenging from a traditional lending standpoint right now.

Chris Ressa

How you know, we’re obviously seeing. Headline news. What’s the Carly take on transaction volume between now and 12 months from now?

Karly Iacono

I think we’re, I mean, we’re certainly down in terms of velocity across capital markets, broadly, retail is no exception. All asset classes are down in terms of overall velocity. But because the buyer demand is so strong and retail fundamentals are so strong, which is my third thing I. Get asked all the. Time I think we’re going to see that loosened second-half of the year. Right now, everyone’s just sort of the sellers don’t want to sell unless they have to. The buyers are kind of waiting. We’re still in that like give and take. There’s a lot of bifurcation. Between seller and buyer expectations, right? You know, but people still want to move things forward. So when we have a motivated seller, meaning they’re willing to work with the market, work with the buyer, get creative on financing, those deals are absolutely trading and we’re seeing more and more sellers like that when we have just straight cap rate buyers or sellers, those deals are are very sluggish right now. So if you build something and your exit cap is 4 1/2 in your mind, and that’s what you need. Yet those deals are tough to get done right now. If you have a buyer that is maybe in a considering a sale lease back or structuring something a little bit different, absolutely tons of demand and those deals are moving forward efficiently. So I think it depends on what type of deal we’re talking about. And again the the time frame. For sale.

Chris Ressa

I’m going to ask another I’m going to, I’m going to add to your three questions.

Karly Iacono

Here should be there.

Chris Ressa

I’m going to be like your top five. So that was that was your 4th transaction by by transaction time. How long it takes to get the deal done? What are you seeing there right now?

Karly Iacono

So it depends if it’s financed or not. The all cash deals are are standard net lease timeframes 30 days due diligence 15 or 21 days to close like best case scenario, right. If there’s any sort of environmental concern or if the deal is being financed, that due diligence is getting pushed out, not on the front end, but by way of optional extensions, so maybe 40-5 days. Due diligence in 30 days to close, or maybe you keep it really tight at the beginning and then you do an optional extension that both sides have to agree to. If you can show that progress is. Being made. So I think it’s honestly less of an elongated time frame that was more of a COVID situation because you couldn’t get surveys done. You couldn’t. Townships weren’t open for approvals for development, things like that. So I’m not seeing that be the main concern right now. It’s more the lenders. So if it is being financed, they need a little more time. Or maybe the buyer has to go to more lenders to get terms that actually work for the deal. It’s less straightforward, but in terms of third parties, that’s actually improved in the last two years.

Chris Ressa

Are you? So are you not seeing a ton of like? You know, extension options being popped.

Karly Iacono

I’m seeing him be requested by buyers and and I think that’s really that the key right now is. Collaborative buyers and sellers are getting things done. So if a seller says I I’m willing to sell at XYZ Price, the buyers is great. And then there’s a hiccup. Whereas a year and a half ago that seller might have said actually that I’m not giving you another two weeks in your due diligence, I’m not giving you any any more time. I’m not changing anything about the deal now that seller hopefully will say OK, how do we work through this? You still want the deal. I still want to sell it to you. Let’s be a little more collaborative. And see if we can figure it out so. The mindset has shifted, and those are the deals that are getting done. It’s not a hard line. I’m sticking to XYZ timeframe. It’s whatever comes up, whether it be financing related, tenant related, whatever it is, if we’re willing to focus, work on it together, then there hopefully typically is a path forward.

Chris Ressa

Got it.

Karly Iacono

And then the the. Last question, actually my third one, which I kind of I kind of glossed over, but I just it’s so positive. I wanna touch on it. Is it a good time to buy retail so all of this is side right the the financing piece is challenging. We’ve hammered this and hammered it. It’s true, is what it is, that the key here, though, are retail fundamentals remain the strongest they have been. Many, many years and we’ve touched on this in previous episodes, but I think it really bears ending on this point because it’s so important. Rents are growing, occupancy is at historically low levels we. Have very, very. Limited new completions because the high cost of construction. So there’s limited product on the market, limited availability of quality product and the actual fundamentals for the sites. You know the retail sites, even single tenant 2 that are existing. Or have never been stronger. So we’re seeing a lot of people, especially given the volatility of the stock market, look at retail and say HMM, this checks a lot of the boxes for what I’m looking for. It’s going to be a little rocky for the financing piece for the next, you know, few years potentially, hopefully not quite that long. But this is a solid asset and it’s an asset class that continues to improve. And I think that’s really the Gold Star here, right. That’s what we are focused on getting the deals done is tough, but owning the assets is is a very positive thing.

Chris Ressa

Yeah, I for sure. I I think the fundamentals of retail have never been stronger and we’ve touched on this and you said it perfectly, I think. And when you bring on the the negative of retail, if you think about some struggling retailers? You know, there’s been a lot of noise around like bed bath and beyond right now, right, we, we we keep hearing about bed Bath and beyond. And I think people were surprised at their ability to can, you know, to extend out and get another opportunity to try to reinvent themselves with the new financing they got and it. It reminds me, and I haven’t heard this lot. It reminds me a bit of Sears.

Karly Iacono

Hmm, interesting.

Chris Ressa

Who was, you know, left for? You know, you know, everyone kind of put them, you know, in their rear view mirror for so long. Wrong yet. And everyone’s like, oh, they’re not going to make it. Going to go away and then like 30? Years later here, they still were.

Karly Iacono

That’s so long held on.

Chris Ressa

Right. And and they held on, it takes a lot to take down a retailer and there’s a lot of reasons why, but it’s really hard to really. For like such a successful that for a brand that was successful for a long time and has all the access that they’ve had and cash flow that continues to come in through the door it it’s hard to take down a retailer and. I think you know bed Bath is proving this with their resilience here. No matter what, you know, headline news, you know the a lot. Of the street. For a while hasn’t been happy with them, and there’s been. You know, a lot of negative news about them but that. What what I said to myself when I saw they got this new financing and they they didn’t end up like. You know, filing or something like that yet was like, I’m surprised. I am surprised. So surprised. I’m surprised.

Speaker

Right.

Chris Ressa

I’m surprised because I know how hard it is to take down a retailer. And you know, it’s reminding me of Sears. Like, when is this going to happen? When is this going to happen? When is this going to happen? Next you wake up. It’s like 5. Years later, it still hasn’t happened yet.

Karly Iacono

Right.

Chris Ressa

And like I don’t know that that’s going to be bed bath. But man, it’s hard to take down.

Karly Iacono

Hard to bet against it. That’s a great data point. Great story.

Chris Ressa

Yeah. So.

Karly Iacono

Well, I think that’s a wrap for today. We covered a lot of good stuff for everyone listening. That was what’s in store. We’re so glad you could join us and we look forward to seeing you again next month. So much, Chris.

Chris Ressa

Thanks, Carly. Thanks everyone. Thank you for listening to retail, retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show, please reach out to us at retailretold@dlcmgmat.com. This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives, so it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode.

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