Wednesday, February 04, 2009

MIT CRE Price Index Declines Sharply

by Bill McBride on 2/04/2009 05:57:00 PM

Press Release: MIT commercial property price index posts record drop (hat tip Michael)

Transaction sale prices of commercial property sold by major institutional investors fell by more than 10 percent -- a record -- in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to an index developed and published at the MIT Center for Real Estate that also posted a record 15 percent drop for the year.

The 10.6 percent drop in the transactions-based index (TBI) for the fourth quarter is the largest quarterly decline in the gauge's history, which dates to 1984. The previous record was a 9 percent drop in the fourth quarter of 1987. The 15 percent fall in 2008 is also a record, topping the 10 percent and 9 percent declines in 1992 and 1991, respectively.

The index's performance means that prices in institutional commercial property deals that closed during the fourth quarter for properties such as office buildings, warehouses and apartment complexes are now 22 percent below their peak values attained in the second quarter of 2007. The index has fallen in five of the past six quarters, but the recent drop is by far the steepest.

"With the index already having fallen 22 percent in the current downturn, it now seems likely that this down market will be at least as severe as that of the early 1990s for commercial property," said Professor David Geltner, director of research at the Center for Real Estate. In the last major downturn in the U.S. commercial property market 20 years ago, the TBI declined a total of 27 percent from 1987 through 1992, with most of that drop occurring in 1991-92.
Professor Geltner's comment about "as severe as that of the early 1990s for commercial property" is referring to the price decline, not the coming decline in non-residential investment. These are two different issues. The price declines will impact property owners who are now underwater and can't refinance, and also impact banks and other investors in CMBS who will experience see higher default rates. The coming decline in non-residential investment will impact GDP and construction employment, but that decline will probably not be as severe as after the S&L related boom.

For price charts for various sectors, see Transactions-Based Index. It is interesting that prices for retail properties have only started to decline.