CRE Outlook Still Mixed Despite Apparent Inflation Slowdown

Core CPI inflation and headline CPI both decelerated last month, in a trend experts say could portend more disinflation factors in the near term.

Analysts from Marcus & Millichap note in a new analysis that the prices for some commodities also fell in October, including apparel and used motor vehicles, and the fees certain medical services.

And “these may be early signs that less disrupted supply chains are alleviating some of the structural drivers of inflation,” they say.

Headline CPI increased 7.7 percent over the 12 months ending in October, the smallest year-over-year increase since January of this year. While the deceleration is notable, Marcus & Millichap experts say the downshift is unlikely to be enough to fend off another hike in the overnight lending rate in December.

“The Federal Open Market Committee noted in its most recent forward guidance that it is looking for a clear trend of inflation normalizing toward the 2 percent target,” they say. “Even so, the FOMC has also acknowledged that there is a delay between when monetary policies are put in place and when the economy responds, and last month’s slower price climb, paired with an uptick in unemployment, support a more moderate rate hike. The current expectation is for a 50-basis-point December rise in the fed funds measure, capping the fastest year of increases since the early 1980s.”

But October’s inflation news offers a “mixed outlook” for retail CRE: while rent growth has improved and vacancy has tightened over the last year, prices continue to keep pace at restaurants and grocers. Gas prices also ticked up in October after three months of decreases, and higher energy bills are predicted to constrain consumer spending entering the holiday shopping season.

High housing costs are good news for the multifamily sector, where rents continue to rise at a rate that’s half the typical house payment. Over half of last month’s CPI increase was driven by higher housing costs, Marcus & Millichap says.

“In recognition of these housing needs, multifamily construction activity is set to hit a record magnitude next year,” they say. “While the new supply is warranted in the long-run, in the short term it will drag on fundamentals, especially as high inflation and rising interest rates weigh on economic outlooks and prompt more households to stay put in 2023.”

Lenders are also pumping the brakes as the cost of debt continues to increase. CBRE’s Lending Momentum Index fell by 11.1% quarter-over-quarter and 4.7% year-over-year in Q3, while spreads widened on 55%-to-65%-loan-to-value (LTV) fixed-rate permanent loans running from seven to 10 years in length. Marcus & Millichap has noted that pricing is recalibrating across most property types as the expectation gap between buyers and sellers widen and lending criteria have tightened. But “once interest rates stabilize, however, investors and lenders will be better able to determine valuations and move forward on trades,” the firm says. “In the interim, the dynamic environment fostered by the Fed could lead to unique options for buyers, who may face less competition now than when rates plateau.”

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