# CRE “By the Numbers”: Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

In our first installment of “By the Numbers”, we looked at a common metric for return on investment: a property’s capitalization rate or “cap rate.” As we saw there, many factors can influence a property’s cap rate and determining what makes for a “good” rate is often a lot more complicated than just looking for the higher number.

In addition to cap rates, however, there are several other metrics investors and commercial real estate (CRE) professionals can use to determine returns. Another common return metric that can tell you a lot about a property’s investment potential is the Internal Rate of Return or IRR.

IRR defined

Investopedia defines IRR as: A financial metric, used to measure the profitability of an investment, that takes into account the time value of money.

In other words, the IRR metric accounts for the fact that money received earlier is more valuable (given inflation and the potential to generate interest). This also means that, to calculate IRR, you need to have some idea of the cash flows a property will produce each year over the period of investment.

For example, an IRR calculation would include what you initially paid for the property, the amount you expect it to generate in rent each year (which would vary), and the amount you expect to be able to sell the property for later.

The actual equation to calculate IRR is fairly complicated (the Corporate Finance Institute gives an excellent breakdown here) and you’d typically use software or an online calculator to determine it. For the purposes of understanding the importance of this metric to CRE investing, however, it’s more useful to break things down in terms of what IRR tells us about an investment.

IRR essentials

Because IRR considers cash flows on a yearly basis over multiple years, it allows investors to see when they could expect a full return on investment, and how much profit they would make each year thereafter.

Comparing the IRR of two properties can therefore give investors a more nuanced understanding of how each will perform over time, and which is likely to be the better investment. All else being equal, a property investment that generates the same earnings sooner will have a higher IRR.

A “good” IRR?

Importantly, like cap rate, IRR is another metric where simply having a “higher value” doesn’t tell you whether a specific property is a better investment. For example, two properties might have the exact same IRR, but one generates a lot more profit over time than the other. The catch is that those profits are paid out later.

Real estate investment platform ArborCrowd gives a useful example:

(Source: ArborCrowd)

As the above scenarios show, with the same initial investment, but different cashflow horizons, the IRR is the same. The difference between the scenarios lies entirely in when returns are provided, and how much those returns are.

The value of the investment therefore really depends on what the investor’s expectations are. Would they rather wait longer for a bigger payoff, or could short-term gains be put to use in a way that generates more money elsewhere?

As with all things CRE, the exact value that constitutes a good IRR also depends on the sector, and the risk, involved in the investment.

IRR and other metrics

Like many return metrics, IRR can help investors understand specific information about a potential deal. IRR is useful in that it takes into account cash flows generated over multiple years and gives a view of returns on an annualized basis. Worth keeping in mind, however, is that IRR relies on forecasting cash flows (and a potential exit sale price), and many risk factors can affect those valuations in the long run.

By comparison, cap rates provide a “snapshot” of the income a property generates in a year in relation to its current value. It’s a less nuanced metric, but one that can also tell investors something about immediate risk versus reward.

In addition to these two, there are several other metrics the savvy investor should consider. We’ll be examining those in detail in future installments, so be sure to check back for more insight into CRE “By the Numbers.”

# OPM

Alec J. Pacella, CCIM

With lunchbreak now behind us, the school day moves on as we head to fifth period. We lingered a little too long at the lunchroom table and our next class is a double period so there is no time to waste!

It’s very popular for a real estate investment to include capital from sources in addition to the investor’s equity. The most common form is a mortgage, sometimes called a permanent loan, and many think that a loan is a loan is a loan. But that is not always the case. While a traditional mortgage is a very common tool used by investors, it’s not the only way to use other people’s money (OPM). To learn more about some alternatives, read on.

#### Construction loan

A construction loan is specifically used to finance a construction project. These are typically negotiated between a developer and a lender, with the loan being used to fund construction costs. But it is very different in its structure and characteristics. Construction loans have relatively short terms, usually one to three years, while permanent loans are much longer. A construction loan is disbursed from the lender to the borrower/developer gradually as the project progresses. These usually take the form of “draws,” with the borrower making a request to fund a specific amount. During the time, the only repayment obligation is the interest associated with the outstanding loan balance for a given time period and the interest is based on a short-term variable or floating rate. Once the project is completed, the entire outstanding balance is due in full. This is usually accomplished by using a permanent mortgage.

Bridge loan

A loan is sometimes used to cover the time period between the construction loan ending and the permanent loan commencing. A common scenario is the development of a speculative project, where the building is completed without sufficient tenant commitments in place that would be necessary to qualify for a permanent loan. The construction lender will want to have their loan retired when the project is physically completed but the permanent lender may not be willing to disburse funds until the building is substantially occupied. A short-term loan, sometimes called a “mini-perm,” is a common way to fill this gap.

Second Mortgage

Mortgages are ranked in terms of priority and any type of mortgage that is subordinated to the first mortgage is called a second mortgage. Second mortgages carry greater risk than first mortgages because of the potential to be eliminated should there be a foreclosure of the first mortgage. This is particularly true if the value of the property has decreased since the loan(s) were originated. Therefore, second mort- gages usually carry a higher interest rate and have a shorter outstanding term. The second mortgage holder typically gives notice of this encumbrance to the first mortgage holder and the first mortgage holder usually must consent to allow the creation of a second.

It’s very popular for a real estate investment to include capital from sources in addition to the investor’s equity. The most common form is a mortgage, sometimes called a permanent loan, and many think that a loan is a loan is a loan. But that is not always the case.

Mezzanine loan

An alternative to using a second mortgage to obtain additional financing is to use a mezzanine or “mezz” loan. It is different than a second mortgage because it is secured by the investor’s equity in the property instead of being collateralized against the real estate. As a result, if there is a default on repayment of the mezz loan, the lender would engage in legal proceedings that would give them an equity interest in the property. The mezz lender usually will enter into an agreement with the first mortgage holder to have a right to take over the mortgage should there be a default by the borrower. Mezz debt typically has an associated interest rate that is several percentage points higher as compared to the first mortgage and the repayment of the mezz loan ranks ahead of any cash distributions made to the equity investor but obviously behind any loans that have priority.

Convertible loan

This type of loan is similar to a mezz loan in that it is provided to the borrower and collateralized against the borrower’s equity interest. But in this instance, the loan holder has the right to convert the debt into a share of the equity rather than have the obligation repaid or retired. The timing, terms and result of a conversation will vary and be clearly spelled out in the loan document.

Participation loan

This is a mortgage secured against the real estate that typically has an associated interest rate lower than that of a traditional loan. In exchange for achieving a favorable rate, the borrower agrees to allow the lender to share in the upside of the investment. This sharing can come from various sources. The lender could receive a percentage of gross income, net operating income or cash flow after debt service and/or can share in the gain achieved because of the property being sold or refinanced. The agreement related to a participation loan is highly negotiable and there is no standard structure.

Joint venture

While not a loan in a traditional sense, a joint venture has several characteristics of an encumbrance in exchange for a stake in the real estate. In a joint venture, or JV, two or more parties share in the ownership of a real estate venture. This can be an effective way to pool equity from more than one source, as well as include parties with different expertise, capacity or access to capital. As with a participating loan, there are all sorts of arrangements and structures for a JV.As you can see, a loan is not always a loan, at least not in the way we traditionally think. Next month, we will roll into the second part of this class as we will dig a little deeper into some ways to analyze a few of these alternative approaches, as using OPM sometimes is a result of thinking outside of the box.

Alec Pacella, CCIM, president at NAIPleasant Valley, can be reached by phone at 216-455-925 or by email at apacella@naipvc.com.

Properties Magazine, February 2023

# New Construction off to a Shaky Start in 2023

According to a recent GlobeSt article, the US construction industry should prepare for a 3% drop-off in construction starts (i.e. new construction projects) in 2023. This follows on from a complicated couple of years for the industry in 2021-2022, as soaring materials prices and supply chain disruptions kept developers guessing about their next steps.

GlobeSt was reporting on data from the Dodge Construction Outlook Conference which took place in November 2022. The Dodge Construction Network provides data analytics and insights to construction executives and industry leaders across the US, and the annual conference is cited as: “the leading economic forecast event for commercial construction.”

Multifamily set to slow

As is often the case, the expected decline will affect specific real estate sectors in different ways. GlobeSt notes, for example, that the value of multifamily construction may see a large decline (around 7% when adjusted for inflation).

In their own report on the data, industry news site Engineering News Record (ENR) adds: “In the multi-family sector, starts are expected to finish the year [2022] up 16%, but will drop 9% next year.”

Mixed bag for Retail, Office and Industrial

ENR also notes that the increases in retail and manufacturing starts seen in 2022 are likely to taper off, though it’s worth pointing out that the manufacturing industry saw gains of 196% over the year.

Quoted in the article, Dodge Chief Economist, Richard Branch, noted that despite an anticipated 43% drop for manufacturing construction, “that is still historically a very strong record level of activity.”

Meanwhile the dollar value of office construction is in for a “slight decline” of 1% in 2023, as remote work trends and the tight labor market continue to put pressure on the sector.

Niche sectors still offer respite

Despite these generally downhill trends, other predictions made during the conference include ongoing strong performance from some of the niche CRE sectors we’ve seen rise to prominence in recent years. As Archinect reports:

“While traditional school construction is set to fall, life science buildings and healthcare projects, including outpatient clinics and hospitals, continue to rise.”

These are assets we’ve seen big things from over the past year, and it seems they’re set to continue attracting investors in the year to come.

Recession effects

As the above predictions show, there are still many factors in play that will influence how things shake out for the construction sector in 2023. Arguably the biggest determinant is the likelihood and severity of a potential recession.

In Branch’s words: “We’re walking the razor’s edge here. In our estimation, there is a very, very, very narrow path to avoiding a technical recession in 2023.”

# Lunch Break

Alec J. Pacella

During my school days, lunchtime was always an interesting experience. In addition to providing a nice break and opportunity to socialize, there was the actual main event – food. And with this came great variety, sometimes in a good way and other times in a bad way. I have similar thoughts when looking back at the commercial real estate investment market in 2022.

To see how our real estate market relates to school lunches, read on.

PIZZA

Nothing made me happier heading down the lunch line than seeing a huge sheet of pizza, cut into squares, of course. And nothing made investors happier last year than seeing a new, net leased industrial warehouse offering. This sector continued to be red hot, both on the leasing and the sale side. Occupancy was at an all-time high and increasing rental rates coupled with falling cap rates led to record activity and pricing. Facilities leased to Amazon led the pack and routinely traded at cap rates in the upper 4% range with pricing eclipsing the \$300 per square foot (psf) mark. But even more routine deals were greeted with cap rates around 6% and pricing of \$75 to \$85 per square foot. These include the JB Hudco facility in Bedford (\$83 psf at a 6.25% cap rate), the ID Images facility in Brunswick (\$77 per square foot at a 5.8% cap rate) and the True Value facility in Westlake (\$75 per square foot at a 6.75% cap rate).

CHICKEN NUGGETS WITH CRINKLE FRIES

Nuggets and fries along with some packets of BBQ sauce was a close second in my book, similar to investor interest in apartment properties being right on the heels of industrial warehouses. And while glitzy complexes such as the 401 Lofts in Akron made headlines with equally glitzy per unit pricing that exceeded the six-figure mark, it was the solid activity amongst the Class B product that carried this sector last year. Examples include Clifton Plaza Apartments in Cleveland (108 units sold for \$57,000 per unit), Oak Hill Village in Willoughby (182 units sold for \$77,000 per unit), State Hill Manor in Parma (110 units sold for \$75,000 per unit) and 200 West in Fairview Park (173 units sold for \$65,000 per unit).

SPAGETTI AND MEATBALLS

This lunch choice was always polarizing, with some loving a heaping platter of pasta while others hating it. It reminds me of the appetite for retail properties last year. A favorite type was well-located, smaller footprint centers occupied by credit tenants. Examples include Great Lakes Plaza, a 7,200-square-foot center occupied by Condoda Taco and Sleep Number, which traded for \$5 million, and Parma Outlet Center, an 8,000-square- foot center anchored by Bank of America and Verizon, which sold for \$1.8 million. Meanwhile, a clear unfavorite was tradi- tional, larger centers in mature locations. Examples include Stow Falls Center, a 95,000-square-foot center occupied by Planet Fitness and Litehouse Pools, which traded for \$6.1 million, and Pheasants Run, a 30,000-square-foot center in North Olmsted, which sold for \$1.7 million.

SLICED HAM WITH GREEN BEANS

When this showed up on the menu, most students opted to pack their lunch, which is similar to the activity in the office sector last year. When an office building showed up for sale, most investors headed in the opposite direction. The sector continues to struggle with weak fundamentals, including static occupancy, flat rent but rising expenses, all against a backdrop of uncertainty of the future of office space. As a result, pricing has languished. Examples of this softness include Westgate Plaza, a 92,500-square-foot building in Fairview Park that sold for \$25 per square foot. Springside Place, a 97,000 square-foot property in Montrose that sold for \$37 per square foot; the PDC Building, a 70,000 square-foot property in Beachwood that sold for \$50 per square foot; and One Independence Place, a 100,000 square-foot building in Independence that sold for \$50 per square foot.

ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

No matter how good or bad the lunch choices were, there was always a line when the ice cream freezer opened. This is very similar to investment activity in the single-tenant, net leased sector. Regardless of what may be going on in the broader real estate market, investors always seem to be able to make room for a good net leased offering. There were plenty of examples last year. A newly constructed Jiffy Lube in Avon traded for just over \$700 per square foot, at a 7.2% cap rate. A Citizens Bank in Bainbridge sold for \$1,400 per square foot, at a 5% cap rate. A Starbucks in Aurora sold for \$1,100 per square foot, at a 5.75% cap rate. And a Wendy’s in Cleveland sold for \$1,450 per square foot, at a 4.5% cap rate.

While the full effect [of the Fed rate hike] on the commercial real estate market isn’t readily apparent, the activity level clearly slowed over the last part of the year. More importantly, this sluggishness is anticipated to continue into the first part of 2023.

One of the most interesting days in the cafeteria was when the new menu for the upcoming month was posted on the bulletin board. Everyone would gather around to figure out what days they would packing their lunches and what days they would be buying them. Last year, the bulletin board was replaced by our phones or computers. But we weren’t looking for a menu but rather a news release on the results of the most recent Federal Reserve Board meeting. The Fed met eight times last year and raised the fund rate at seven of these meetings. As a result, the rate went from 0.75% to 4.5% and has obviously had a dramatic impact on the cost of borrowing. While the full effect on the commercial real estate market isn’t readily apparent, the activity level clearly slowed over the last part of the year. More importantly, this sluggishness is anticipated to continue into the first part of 2023.

But I’m starting to get into 5th period so for now, let’s just kick back and enjoy the rest of our lunch!

What I C @PVC

PAINTING A PRETTY PICTURE Last year ended with a bang when it was announced that Sherwin- Williams was entering into a sale/leaseback for the new 1 million-square-foot corporate headquarters. Benderson Realty Development is paying \$210 million for a 90% interest in the property, which is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed in early 2025. –AP

For February 2023 Properties Magazine

# Conflicting Signals: What do Layoffs Mean for the Labor Shortage?

In recent news from the Washington post, tech giant Meta is cutting around 11 000 jobs, representing 13% of the company’s workforce. Twitter is also continuing with layoffs, after already slashing jobs drastically earlier in November.

Meanwhile Forbes reports large-scale layoffs at Amazon, adding that multiple other major companies – from Disney to Barclays, Salesforce, and Lyft have all already cut jobs or have announced cutbacks and hiring freezes.

With all of these changes incoming, the question that’s top of mind is: How will this affect the labor shortage we’ve seen since 2021?

In larger context

The names above are some of the biggest players (and employers) in the market, so it’s natural to assume that these cuts mean the labor shortage is inevitably reversing. Before making that deliberation, however, it’s worth taking a look at some of the figures from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) to get a sense of the bigger picture.

In October, Stephanie Ferguson, the USCC Director of Global Employment Policy & Special Initiatives outlined the magnitude of the shortage, stating: “We have a lot of jobs, but not enough workers to fill them. If every unemployed person in the country found a job, we would still have 4 million open jobs.”

State and sector

The shortage stems, Ferguson says, from the unprecedented number of jobs added in 2021 – approximately 3.8 million. At the same time, the labor force has shrunk, with many workers retiring early, and workers quitting their jobs in unprecedented numbers as part of the Great Resignation.

USCC data shows that these shortfalls are  largest in Northern and Eastern States, and that certain industries, like hospitality and healthcare, have disproportionately high levels of job openings.

All of which is to say, that while the big moves happening in the tech sector right now are certainly concerning, they still form part of a much larger, and more nuanced, picture.

CRE concerns?

For the commercial real estate (CRE) industry, the effects are likely to be similarly varied, depending on where and what type of business we look at. We have already seen some sharp downturns for specific Proptech companies. Redfin, for example, has cut a further 13% of its staff, following on from an earlier round of layoffs in June.

Other Proptech outfits are facing similar difficulties, as 2022 shapes up to be a tough year for CRE startups.

Labor market outlook

What these cuts ultimately mean for the labor market, and CRE operations in the Bay Area where many tech companies are concentrated, is still unclear.

For now, it seems that worker availability, even in tech, is still falling short of demand from employers. Amid the current economic uncertainty, however, that situation might well change as we head into 2023. As always, we’ll be keeping a sharp on the trends, and potential impacts in CRE markets.