Which U.S. Commercial Real Estate Sectors Might Be Nearing Oversupply?

Posted on September 13, 2016

Construction during the current real estate cycle has generally stayed below historical trends, but deliveries have increased as the cycle matures, prompting a look at whether markets are becoming overbuilt.

Apartment: Apartment construction has increased steadily for a number of years, prompting worries about overbuilding in spite of ongoing strong demand. RentCafe, an apartment search website, recently reported that approximately 320,000 apartments will be delivered nationally in 2016, up from about 200,000 units in 2015, based on data from Yardi Matrix. National apartment statistics reflect a healthy market, with low vacancy and positive rent growth. However, some markets are experiencing excess supply, most notably at the high end of the market. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) like Avalon Bay and Equity Residential with significant investments in markets like Manhattan and San Francisco have cut their revenue forecasts several times this year, citing weakness in these markets.

TREPP-i Survey Loan Spreads (50–59% LTV)* 

This Week  Previous Week  Last Month
(August 2016)
End 2015 End 2014
Industrial 177 175 169 163 138.5
Multifamily 173 172 166 168 139.8
Office 182 182 178 168 148
Retail 177 175 169 168 139.8
Average Spread 177.25 176 170.5 166.75 141.5
Treasury Yield**
1.67 1.60 1.63 2.27 2.17


Hotel: STR’s July hotel pipeline report showed 171,276 rooms in 1,305 projects under construction, a 32.6 percent increase from last year. Metro areas with more than 5,000 rooms underway included New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston, while Miami has been affected by higher levels of new supply, as well as a pullback in demand from Brazilian travelers. Strong pipelines are prompting STR and Tourism Economics to predict stable occupancy, average daily rate (ADR) growth of 3.2 percent, and revenue per available room (RevPAR) growth of 3.2 percent for the United States during 2016. The forecast report estimates that supply will outpace demand in 2017 for the first time since 2009. During 2017, a slight decrease in occupancy will be more than offset by growth in ADR, resulting in 2.8 percent RevPAR growth.

In New York, STR reported 15,770 hotel rooms underway in July 2016, up from 14,094 one year earlier. Occupancy has stayed flat and ADR has decreased this year, resulting in declining RevPAR during 2016. New supply has been concentrated in the upscale and upper-upscale sectors. Host Hotels and Resorts (HST) noted that RevPAR for its New York properties of –4.9 percent for the second quarter lagged its overall portfolio (+2.0 percent).

Office: Office construction during this real estate cycle has been low compared with that seen in previous cycles, but some concerns about overbuilding exist. Deliveries totaled 24.3 million square feet (2.3 million sq m) during the first half of 2016, with 98.9 million square (9.2 million sq m) feet under construction, according to Cushman & Wakefield. New construction is alleviating tight market conditions in some markets, and the uptick in vacancy may be temporary as new space is absorbed. However, Jones Lang LaSalle has noted that overbuilding is a concern in Dallas, Houston, and New York, and Sam Zell concurred with the New York assessment in an August Bloomberg interview. San Francisco experienced a worrisome slowdown in office demand during the first half of 2016, but the stock market rebound and growth in venture capital investment have caused tech and life-science tenants to boost demand and developers to grow construction pipelines.

Industrial: Industrial shows few signs of overbuilding. Deliveries during the first half of 2016 totaled 100 million square feet (9.3 million sq m), with another 190 million square feet (17.7 million sq m) under construction at midyear, according to Cushman & Wakefield. Despite the uptick in deliveries, vacancy declined and asking rents rose during the first half of the year. In its second-quarter earnings release, Hamid Moghadam, chairman and CEO of Prologis, noted, “Demand remains ahead of supply in both the U.S. and Europe, leading to all-time low vacancy rates,” and that “consumers continue to migrate toward e-commerce, and companies still need to adapt their supply chain strategies, driving demand for high-quality, well-located logistics facilities.”

Retail: Retail occupancy has shown marginal improvement during the first half of 2016. With 9.5 million square feet (882,600 sq m) of building completions during the first half of the year and 24.6 million square feet (2.3 million sq m) underway at midyear, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the retail sector suffers more from store closures and limited demand than from overbuilding.

Real estate market fundamentals are healthy on a national level. Limited new construction has helped keep supply and demand fundamentals in sync. Nevertheless, while not widespread, overbuilding is an increasing concern for selected property types in specific markets.

* TREPP-i Survey Loan Spreads levels are based on a survey of balance sheet lenders. For more information, visit Trepp.com. 

** – 10 yr. Treasury Yield as of 9/9/2016.