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Guest view: Real estate trends for 2018

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Mike Kushner is the president of Lower Paxton Township-based Omni Realty Group.
Mike Kushner is the president of Lower Paxton Township-based Omni Realty Group. - (Photo / )

Rapid technological advancements and significant demographic shifts significantly influence the real estate industry.

Various factors like growing urbanization, longevity of baby boomers and differentiated lifestyle patterns of millennials are changing the way people value real estate. Add into the mix macroeconomic and regulatory developments, and you have the perfect storm for some significant changes to come to the real estate market in 2018.

With the changes that have already taken place in 2017, many real estate companies find themselves searching for ways they can gain a competitive advantage and drive top- and bottom-line growth in the New Year.

To achieve this, we must identify and monitor emerging trends that are likely to impact the economy moving into 2018.

Take a look at the top trends that are shaping the U.S. real estate industry right now.

Economic outlook: Increasing interest tates could temper growth

  • Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates in the short-to-medium term. Volatile global markets have led to continued low interest rates, but that’s expected to come to an end in 2018. Higher interest rates are likely to increase mortgage costs and could deter real estate investments to some extent.
  • Gross domestic product growth will likely increase 2.5 percent in 2018. It’s the same as in 2017, but better than the 2.1 percent growth in 2016. The modest economic improvement could temper the pace of commercial real estate (CRE) transaction activity.
  • Improving labor markets and household wealth will boost consumer confidence. The U-5 unemployment, rate which includes discouraged workers and all other marginally attached, is expected to drop under 5 percent. The employment-to-population ratio is projected to peak in 2018, as retiring Baby Boomers may reduce the share of employed.

Regulatory outlook: Greater compliance means greater cost

  • Increased compliance and administration costs will result from the new accounting standards on lease accounting and revenue recognition that will primarily impact real estate investment trusts and engineering and construction companies.
  • Risk retention rules will lower issuance of commercial mortgage-backed securities. We are also likely to see a reduction in capital availability in secondary and tertiary markets.
  • The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 will ease REIT tax provisions and R&D tax credits for E&C companies, while increasing the flexibility to invest in startups for R&D experimentation. However, corporate tax reforms will reduce flexibility for corporations to spin off real estate assets into REIT structures.

Disruptive trends: These factors are reshaping the face of CRE

  • Collaboration and Sharing. These sound like two positive trends, right? They certainly are for startups that utilize new platforms and business models like Airbnb or WeWork to reduce their real estate overhead. However, this type of collaboration and sharing of space is disrupting the way organizations lease and use commercial real estate space for their businesses. Traditional CRE companies will need to rethink their approach toward space design, lease administration and lease duration in order to compete.
  • CRE data is becoming more ubiquitous and transparent thanks to technological advancements. The traditional brokerage model is being threatened by the increasing ease and efficiency of online leasing. Traditional brokers will need to diversify their services to include consulting and collaboration.
  • A growing demand for mixed-use developments as consumers prefer to "live, work and play" in proximity. This demand is the result of a shortage of workers with strong STEM skills, rising urbanization and millennials’ preference for an open and flexible work culture. Companies trying to compete for this type of talent should choose office locations in areas that cater to the living and working environments preferred by their ideal candidates.
  • Rising demand for fast and convenient online retailing is disrupting the retail and industrial markets. Innovations in speed and mode of delivery (such as same-day delivery and e-lockers) will decrease the demand for large retail and industrial spaces. This trend will also cause a blurring of the lines between these two properties. For example, some retail space could double as fulfillment centers. To stay afloat, retailers will need to try different store formats to appeal to the consumer, while industrial properties should focus on smaller, more flexible spaces located near cities.
  • A change in how we get around will also change how we use real estate. With each passing year, more and more people rely upon "pay-per-use" vehicles and ride-share platforms like Zipcar, Uber and Lyft. We also get closer to self-driving vehicles. This major disruption to the entire mobility ecosystem will result in fewer people owning and driving their own vehicles, especially in urban areas. This will free up large parking spaces in prime locations that can be put to different uses. Real estate companies should begin to explore ways to reduce and repurpose parking space as a means to generate more income.

Over the course of the next 12 months, the U.S. commercial and residential real estate industry can expect to be hit with various changes and challenges. Some of these changes may have a favorable impact, while others could impose some serious setbacks.

For real estate businesses to gain a competitive advantage and drive top- and bottom-line growth in 2018, they should take note of these emerging trends and work on developing a strategy now to react to the changing market, when the time comes.

Mike Kushner is the owner of Lower Paxton Township-based Omni Realty Group.

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