Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Reis: Mall Vacancy Rate declines in Q4

by Bill McBride on 1/09/2013 09:19:00 AM

Reis reported that the vacancy rate for regional malls declined to 8.6% in Q4 from 8.7% in Q3. This is down from a cycle peak of 9.4% in Q3 2011.

For Neighborhood and Community malls (strip malls), the vacancy rate declined to 10.7% in Q4, down from 10.8% in Q3. For strip malls, the vacancy rate peaked at 11.1% in Q3 2011.

Comments from Reis Senior Economist Ryan Severino:

[Strip mall] Vacancy declined by only 10 bps during the fourth quarter. This was an improvement versus the third quarter when the vacancy rate was unchanged. On a year‐over‐year basis, the vacancy rate declined by only 30 bps. During the quarter absorption exceeded construction by a sufficient enough margin to lower the vacancy rate, but only marginally. With only 915,000 square feet delivered, more robust demand would cause vacancy to compress expeditiously. But even with so few completions occurring, the economy is not generating enough demand for space.
...
Asking and effective rents grew by 0.2% and 0.1%, respectively, during the quarter. This was only a negligible increase versus the third quarter when both metrics increased by just 0.1%. It was the fifth consecutive quarter that asking and effective rents have increased.
...
[New construction] With tepid retail sales and scant demand for space, new construction remained near record‐low levels during the quarter. 915,000 square feet were delivered during the fourth quarter, versus 723,000 square feet during the third quarter. However, this is a slowdown compared to the 2.951 million square feet of retail space that were delivered during the fourth quarter of 2011. In fact, 915,000 square feet is the fifth‐lowest figure on record since Reis began tracking quarterly data in 1999.
...
[Regional] Malls continue to outperform their neighborhood and community shopping center comrades. The vacancy rate declined by another 10 basis points during the quarter. This is the fifth consecutive quarter with a vacancy decline. Asking rent growth declined slightly versus last quarter, growing by another 0.2%. This was the seventh consecutive quarter of asking rent increases. The improvement in mall subsector remains consistent if not exhilarating.
Apartment Vacancy Rate Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the strip mall vacancy rate starting in 1980 (prior to 2000 the data is annual). The regional mall data starts in 2000. Back in the '80s, there was overbuilding in the mall sector even as the vacancy rate was rising. This was due to the very loose commercial lending that led to the S&L crisis.

In the mid-'00s, mall investment picked up as mall builders followed the "roof tops" of the residential boom (more loose lending). This led to the vacancy rate moving higher even before the recession started. Then there was a sharp increase in the vacancy rate during the recession and financial crisis.

The yellow line shows mall investment as a percent of GDP through Q3. This has increased from the bottom because this includes renovations and improvements. New mall investment has essentially stopped.

The good news is, as Severino noted, new square footage is near a record low, and with very little new supply, the vacancy rate will probably continue to decline slowly.

Mall vacancy data courtesy of Reis.

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