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Rising rates, health care lead issues affecting real estate

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December 24, 2013 | Leave Comment

SAN FRANCISCO — Rising interest and capitalization rates top the list of issues that have future implications for real estate.

Scott Muldavin, industry veteran and president of The Muldavin Company Inc., a consulting firm in San Rafael that serves the real estate industry, shared his insights into top issues that could potentially impact homeowners, real estate markets and the industry in the coming years.

He said the top issue affecting real estate is that historically low interest rates have driven the economy and real estate markets in recent years, but as rates start to rise, it could raise capitalization rates, the ratio between the income produced by an asset and its cost, which could create anxiety about investing in real estate.

“Interest rates are going to rise significantly, so my advice is to be careful about your investments today and lock in those low rates if you can,” said Muldavin.

He said it is also an important issue that has implications for real estate. As the population ages, there will be greater demand for senior housing, requiring a change in the configuration and size of available housing, and for greater medical care, resulting in an expansion in medical facilities.

Muldavin said there’s been a capital market resurgence, which is good news for residential and commercial real estate. In commercial markets, transaction volume is up, credit is available, underwriting has loosened and a full range of debt options is back. For residential markets, underwriting remains tougher but rates are near historic lows and affordability remains high.

Future housing demand from echo boomers, the 80 million Americans born between 1982 and 1995, will also impact real estate markets. “We are the only developed country that has had an echo boom and that’s a positive thing if the country can react and respond to it,” said Muldavin.

Echo boomers often prefer a more flexible and active urban lifestyle, they rely heavily on mass transit, and are often willing to trade home size for location. However, Muldavin said that the suburbs are fighting back with better mass transit, new bike paths and repurposed properties to attract more future buyers.

Climate change and more extreme weather patterns will also continue to have a strong impact on coastal homes and many other properties across the country. Muldavin cited the impact of recent storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and how property owners in these markets are now dealing with changes in code and zoning standards and paying significantly higher insurance premiums.

Like weather and geologic events, major global events can also impact real estate markets, such as acts of terrorism, war, global debt crisis and financial and economic downturns. “The risk of future events is high, and while it’s always hard to anticipate these risks, they need to be considered because their impact is often great,” said Muldavin.

Increased natural gas and oil production in the U.S., which has an impact on the economy and environment, is another issue with implications for real estate. He said there’s been an increase in fracking and oil and natural gas production in recent years, and while this is creating greater employment opportunities and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, it’s also contributing to climate change, environmental degradation and contamination.

Muldavin also cited globalization, foreign investment and the economies of other countries as variables that will continue to have a greater impact on the U.S. economy and real estate market.

Another issue is how technology will continue to impact office spaces. Muldavin said many corporations are employing work-from-home policies and other mobility solutions that are allowing individuals to work when and where they want, significantly reducing office space requirements.

“Many people are replacing physical items with electronics and free or virtual products, such as e-books and smartphones enabled with cameras, GPS and flashlights. This means businesses will continue to require less retail space, so I believe the trend in the future will be for fewer and smaller stores,” he said.

Muldavin said the impact of the Internet on bricks-and-mortar retail stores is also a growing issue. He said retail demand is down across the country due to an increase in Internet sales, which are expected to rise from the current 6.5 percent to nearly 15 percent by 2020.

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