CRE Top Ten Issues heading

By Victor Calanog, Ph.D., CRE®

Each year, the CRE® External Affairs Committee engages The Counselors of Real Estate®’s membership to determine which issues will influence the real estate industry most significantly, both in the near-term and in the long-term.

Counselors (CRE®s) are prominent real estate practitioners who pass a rigorous screening process recognizing their expertise, experience, and ethics in providing advice that influences real estate decisions. They come from a wide array of professional backgrounds — from valuation, consulting, law, brokerage, and asset management to development, investment, lending, and corporate real estate. The Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate™ represents the collective experience of Counselors – experts in their fields known for innovation and creative problem-solving.

Near-Term Issues

1. Interest rates & The Economy

The Federal Reserve’s plan is to nudge interest rates back to historically normal levels. Concurrently, the passing of The Tax Cut and Jobs Act has enacted fiscal stimulus through deficit spending. As expansionary fiscal policy collides with tightening monetary policy, some speculate increased Federal borrowing could crowd out private entities from the debt market, while those who successfully secure financing face higher interest rates.

2. Politics & Political Uncertainty

Geopolitical uncertainty, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and potential trade wars are policies with the potential to affect real estate indirectly. However, some policy changes have more direct implications for real estate, particularly in the regulation of community banks. The new law relaxes some requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act, adjusts rules regulating HVCRE, and reduces HMDA data requirements.

3. Housing Affordability

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There has been a shortage of housing supply for nearly two decades. Simultaneously, income stagnation for all but the highest income households has hampered access to affordable homes and rental units. Now, as Millennials and others move to cities and begin to gentrify aging neighborhoods (formerly de facto affordable housing stock), a crisis of affordability is beginning to emerge. As this issue develops over the next few years, key questions regarding solutions are “Who pays?” and “How?”

4. Generational Change & Demographics

The real estate market is currently influenced by four demographic groups: millennials, baby boomers, Gen X, and Gen Z. Some companies have already started to adjust work processes, location, and space utilization in response to demographic changes; the housing market will also have to respond to evolving demands. Even though the different groups have overlapping desires, there are important differences in timing and ability to pay.

5. E-commerce & Logistics

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that $123.7 billion of retail sales were conducted through online channels in 2018 Q1, accounting for nearly 30% of all retail commerce net of automobile and gasoline sales. As retailers cope with this changing landscape, several big name stores have announced waves of store closures, while others open new locations. Commercial real estate will be directly impacted by these shifts in retail strategy.

Longer-Term Issues

6. Infrastructure

Chronic infrastructure underinvestment has elevated risk of short- and long-term economic drag. Despite some political efforts, there have been very few serious attempts to address America’s infrastructure maintenance problems. All real estate depends on well-maintained, reliable infrastructure, such as reliable utilities, efficient roads, and transit routes.

7. Disruptive Technology

The real estate industry, like the rest of world, is poised to adopt new technologies. E-commerce has drastically changed the retail sector, while ride-sharing companies are altering the need for residential garage space. Data continues to be commoditized, offering increased transaction transparency and enhanced demographic targeting. As owners and investors move to adopt these new technologies, they must decide which tools are most appropriate for their business and not rush toward “technology for technology’s sake.”

8. Natural Disasters & Climate Change

Natural disasters and climate change are expected to increasingly affect real estate over time, which in turn are pushing states and local communities to establish urban policies and regulate energy and sustainability in order to combat these environmental conditions. However, more legal measures at the state and local levels imply more hurdles for real estate developers, especially with respect to corporate relocations and expansions.

9. Immigration

The RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Economy) restricts legal immigration, dropping the number of green cards from the present 1.1 million to 500,000 annually. As the U.S. faces a long-term labor shortage due to aging population, stifling legal immigration will have implications for the economy at large as well as for real estate.

10. Energy & water

A combination of higher energy prices and higher real estate financing costs is expected to create optimistic growth forecasts. Additionally, the population within urban centers across the U.S. is likely to increase and thus put pressure on existing real estate centers to be able to provide water and other essential resources.

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