Looking into the Crystal Ball
Net Lease Predictions for 2024
By: Gino Sabatini | Head of Investments
2023 was undoubtedly a challenging year for the net lease sector. High inflation, rising interest rates and other economic uncertainty caused a notable decrease in overall transaction volume, sparking apprehension about the trajectory of the industry.
However, there have been some signs of renewed life in the market. Most experts believe we have hit the interest rate peak and expect cuts to be made in 2024. In addition, dealmakers generally anticipate that the M&A environment will improve given the market has stabilized, which could bring more investment opportunities to the market. While no one has a perfect crystal ball about what the future will hold, there are certainly reasons for optimism in 2024.
Here are three net lease market predictions for the year ahead.
Boost in net lease deal volume fueled by projected interest rate cuts
The U.S. Federal Reserve indicated in its latest summary of economic projections that three cuts may be coming in the year ahead. The cuts are expected to be slow and gradual and will be dependent on the state of the economy, but investors reliant on third-party debt are hoping for a much-needed reduction in borrowing costs to remain competitive.
The signaling of rate cuts is positive news for the market as it means interest rates have most likely reached their peak. This should help the market stabilize therefore narrowing the bid-ask spread between buyers and sellers, leading to a more active deal environment in 2024.
In addition, many investors who have stood on the sidelines in anticipation that there will be more favorable opportunities down the road are likely to start jumping back into the market in 2024 and new entrants are expected to join in.
Uptick in private equity sale-leasebacks as M&A surges
The dealmaking environment in 2024 is already off to a better start than 2023. Inflation has declined, interest rates have likely reached their peak and private credit has become more widely available for more kinds of deals, while traditional credit markets are starting to improve. Private equity firms are also sitting on an unprecedented amount of dry powder – $2.59 trillion – with mounting pressures to deploy that capital into new investments. As a result, M&A activity is expected to increase in 2024.
Along with an uptick in dealmaking, savvy private equity firms are expected to continue looking for alternative strategies for growth given lingering economic and geopolitical uncertainties. One effective strategy is through the sale-leaseback of their portfolio company real estate, which allows private equity firms to unlock immediate capital to redeploy into other initiatives, such as new acquisitions or portfolio company growth. Typically, when M&A activity surges, sale-leaseback opportunities follow, so more private equity-backed real estate deals will likely emerge in 2024.
Pandemic office trends remain while industrial holds steady
More than three years since the start of the pandemic, the real estate industry has finally accepted that the office sector will not return to the way it was before – and hybrid- and- remote work models are here to stay. As a result, offices have lost much of their appeal for investors, with transactions declining more than twice as much as any other property sector in 2023. W. P. Carey announced its strategic plan to exit office last year, through the spin-off of 59 office properties into Net Lease Office Properties and an office sale program to dispose of the remaining on-balance sheet assets. This trend is expected to continue into 2024 and some office investors will likely start to look for alternative uses for office assets – such as residential or industrial.
Industrial, on the other hand, will continue to perform well into 2024, as re-shoring and nearshoring provide a boost to the sector. While the asset class is showing some signs of softening post-pandemic as the need for robust inventory decreases, the long-term outlook remains positive. Moody’s Analytics CRE forecasts that annual rent growth for warehouse and distribution properties will track at approximately 5-6% per year over the next 10 years, suggesting that the sector has moved on from its huge boom into a steadier state of growth.