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November 2, 2018

ECONOMIC SENTIMENT INDEX
Commercial Real Estate Industry Leaders See Positive Market Fundamentals for Remainder of 2018

TAX POLICY
Guidance on Business Interest Deduction Limit May Address Real Estate Investment Issues


ECONOMIC SENTIMENT INDEX

Commercial Real Estate Industry Leaders See Positive Market Fundamentals for Remainder of 2018  

Commercial real estate executives continue to see strong and balanced market conditions for the remainder of 2018 and moving forward into the new year, according to The Real Estate Roundtable’s Q4 2018 Economic Sentiment Index released today.

 Q4 2018 Sentiment Index chart x200

Commercial real estate executives continue to see strong and balanced market conditions for the remainder of 2018 and moving forward into the new year, according to The Real Estate Roundtable’s Q4 2018 Economic Sentiment Index

“Our latest Sentiment Index finds commercial real estate industry leaders experiencing continued positive market conditions and cautiously predicting solid performance into 2019. Concerns exist about interest rate and construction cost increases, as well as labor shortages. However, these concerns have not yet caused significant market disruption.” said Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer. “With some exceptions, supply and demand in major markets remains essentially in balance, and access to debt and equity remains strong. Disciplined, not aggressive, development and investment are the current watchwords of smart real estate executives,” DeBoer added.

The Roundtable’s Q4 2018 Sentiment Index registered at 50 — a two point decrease from Q3 2018. [The Overall Index is scored on a scale of 1 to 100 by averaging Current and Future Indices; any score over 50 is viewed as positive.] This quarter’s Current Conditions Index of 53 decreased by three points from the previous quarter. This time last year, the Q4 2017 Current Conditions Index registered at 53 as well, highlighting the sustained equilibrium in the market this past year. This quarter’s Future Conditions Index of 47, decreased by two points from the previous quarter.

The report’s Topline Findings include:

  • The Q4 index came in at 50, a two point drop from Q3. Most suggest that current market conditions are positive and expect such conditions to continue into the new year. However, some responders continue to question, “How much longer can this last?”  

  • Responders pointed to the increase in costs for constructions projects and the corresponding decline in development returns as a concerning market factor. As a result, fewer responders were highly optimistic about market conditions in 2019 as yield becomes increasingly hard to find.  

  • For the first time in many quarters, a large proportion of responders are indicating a belief that asset values will start declining. However, pricing is expect to stay relatively strong for assets in major markets.

  • Responders feel debt and equity capital are plentiful in today’s market. Equity investors and lenders alike continue to show strong appetite for real estate.

Ninety percent of survey participants report Q4 2018 asset values today are “about the same” or “somewhat higher” compared to this time last year. Looking ahead, a minority of participants said they expect values to be “somewhat lower” one year from now with 55% of respondents seeing no significant value declines.

DeBoer noted, “After the midterm elections we look forward to continuing to work on positive, pro-growth national public policy. The nation needs policy action to address the growing labor shortage and infrastructure needs. The terrorism risk insurance act will also need to be extended in the new Congress. We intend to try to help policymakers tackle these and others issues by offering smart research and positive bipartisan advocacy that emphasizes commercial real estate’s contributions to job creation, communities; and retirement savings.”

Data for the Q4 survey was gathered in October by Chicago-based FPL Associates on The Roundtable’s behalf. 

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TAX POLICY

Guidance on Business Interest Deduction Limit May Address Real Estate Investment Issues  

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service are close to issuing draft regulations on the new business interest expense limitation, enacted in last year’s tax overhaul.  Regulations related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act can be designated for an expedited, 10-day review by the White House Office of Management and Budget before publication and public release, though the timetable can be extended if needed.

 2018-02-21 image tax letter x225 

A Feb. 21, 2018 Roundtable letter urged Treasury to clarify that interest (other than investment interest) on debt that is allocable to an owner of an entity engaged in a real property trade or business is exempt from the new business interest limitation rule – if that trade or business has elected out of the rule.

  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act capped the amount of interest that a business with revenue over $25 million can deduct annually – to no more than 30 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.  The provision also includes an important exception for an "electing real property trade or business." 

  • This exception reflects policymakers' understanding that limits on the deduction for interest expense could have enormous negative consequences for property values, real estate markets, and economic growth.  (Reference: Real Estate Forum, Jan/Feb 2018, Decoding The New Tax Bill) 

  • The Real Estate Roundtable on Feb. 21, 2018 wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and offered a number of recommendations to resolve ambiguities in how the new limitation will apply.  The Roundtable requested clarifications to ensure the exception operates as intended for common real estate ownership arrangements – focusing on the scope and application of the exception for an electing real property trade or business. 

  • The letter urged Treasury to clarify that interest (other than investment interest) on debt that is allocable to an owner of an entity engaged in a real property trade or business is indeed exempt from the new business interest limitation rule – if that trade or business has elected out of the rule.  As relevant examples, the letter describes four common scenarios where the financing of a real property trade or business occurs through a tiered structure. Clarifying the rules for real estate in the context of tiered arrangements will help avoid potential disruptions.  (Roundtable comment letter, Feb. 21, 2018)

  • In April, Treasury and the IRS released Notice 2018-28 to provide interim guidance on the new limit until the proposed regulations are issued. For real estate investors, however, the Notice leaves unanswered some of the key issues related to the financing of real estate.  (IRS, April 2 and Roundtable Weekly, April 6)   

  • On Oct. 25, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) acknowledged receipt of the proposed section 163(j) rules from Treasury.  After OIRA completes its review, the proposed guidance will be issued.  A second set of regulations, focused specifically on pass-through entities, is expected in December.

The Roundtable's Tax Policy Advisory Committee will continue to seek appropriate clarifications as Treasury moves forward with regulatory projects related to implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

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For questions about Roundtable Weekly, please contact The Roundtable's Scott Sherwood at rweekly@rer.org or (202) 639-8400.

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