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Where Will Net Lease Go in 2024?

‘Nobody has a perfect crystal ball’ on CRE investment performance in the coming year, but the net lease sector maintains several advantages, including the sale-leaseback

Original article posted on GlobeSt.com on December 20, 2023

In 2023, higher debt costs, a looming $2 trillion-plus wave of corporate debt coming due and other economic uncertainty have clouded the CRE outlook. And while the net lease sector, with its low risk and steady income, has weathered recent economic headwinds better than most, it’s not immune.


Execution uncertainty was a central theme in 2023, reports Zachary Pasanen, managing director, investments at W. P. Carey. “With the ramp-up in interest rates, buyers and sellers have struggled to meet at a price that made sense,” he says, noting that a lot of deals after the first quarter had repricing challenges or re-trade concerns.


In a competitive market, those who rely on debt financing have been constrained by higher rates. Investors, however, are still seeing cap rate expansion within certain sectors.

A large warehouse with multiple forklifts in motion
Shifting Rates & Fundamentals 

With deals more difficult to come by, investors have re-focused on fundamentals. Pasanen notes that, with industrial, this has meant a refocus on rent growth and the assets “criticality.”


There remains good demand for industrial assets, but investors should realize the changing fundamentals of the sector: it is no longer the “darling” product, attracting unlimited cheap capital in pursuit of properties requiring lower capex. Pasanen uses the word “retrenchment” for the asset class as people are getting smarter with rent growth projections following their internal modeling.


“With the sector still offering a lot of attractive elements, there is no desire to move out of the sector,” he says. “Unlike office, we view industrial, particularly manufacturing, as profit centers: it’s where the widgets are made. We focus on good, underlying fundamentals but also where there’s criticality in the real estate.”


The sudden shift in rates has caused a break in investor expectations, Pasanen says, with one-off, syndicators or family offices still pursuing at compressed numbers. Meanwhile, institutional investors are focusing on tenant credits and cap rates at 8% and higher.



Pasanen notes there’s opportunity in sale-leasebacks for companies looking to raise capital. He says W. P. Carey has a successful history here, taking the time to understand a business to ensure they will be a good investment for the long haul. “No one has a perfect crystal ball, but we try our best and we've got a long history of underwriting credits that are sub-investment grade in nature, and we have a good track record in doing so.”


Market expectations are leaning toward interest rate cuts in 2024, an outlook reaffirmed by the Fed’s latest announcement on December 13. Smart investors, however, should prepare for all situations and also have contingency plans for a long pause or even a rate hike if inflation kicks up again. With inflation and increasing interest rates making borrowing more expensive, will CFOs and fund managers continue to strategize on how to recalibrate their business and find that new normal? 


“I think it will actually be a big year in 2024,” he says. “The rise in interest rates happened quickly so if we have a long pause [on rate movement] the deal environment should become more normalized. When the behavioral element settles in we’ll see more normal investment activity.”

Photo of Zach Pasanen
Zachary Pasanen
Managing Director
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