National Investment Transaction Stats – Q4 2019
Published March 13, 2020
Investors remain optimistic about pursuing new real estate equity opportunities
2019 registered a total of 7,668 property transactions over $1 million, inclusive of share sales, representing a total value of $53.3 billion. The Canadian market saw some gradual growth throughout 2019 as the economy began to adapt to the effects of trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainties, the federal election, oil supply concerns, and a neutral policy outlook from the Bank of Canada with interest rates remaining unchanged. However, 2020 is expected to look slightly different with the new challenges of the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the global economic markets. Inclusive of share sales, national investment volume for 2019 fell by 9% to $53.3 billion compared to the same period last year, largely attributed to a weak first quarter. National investment activity for 2019 also fell by 9% to 7,668 transactions.
The largest share of investment volume during this period was the office sector at 19%, followed by an active industrial and apartment sector which accounted for 19% and 18%, respectively. Q4 2019 registered a total of 2,120 investment property sales transactions over $1M across Canada, representing a total value of $16.5 billion. Compared to the same quarter last year, transactions decreased by 2%, while volume increased by 13%. Multi-tenant, single-tenant industrial and industrial land continued to have the strongest momentum on the product investment barometer, according to Altus Group’s Investment Trends Survey in Q4 2019. Vancouver held its position as the top market preferred by investors, followed by Toronto, which was the only market showing an increase in momentum this quarter. In contrast, all other markets displayed a downward momentum. Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal all showed the same momentum ratio. Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto were the only three markets that showed positive year-to-date increases in investment volume by 35%, 24% and 7%, respectively.
(National 2019 Property Transactions – All Sectors by Quarter)
Strong tenant demand and limited availability for Class A office remain a challenge in tight markets like Vancouver and Toronto. Yet, strong market fundaments continue to make office an attractive asset class among investors. Investment activity in the office sector pushed up by 9% for overall volume and 1% in transactions in 2019 compared to the previous year. Montreal was the third most active market for investment volume in 2019 after Toronto and Vancouver and was up by 161% compared to 2018. The top three largest office transactions were: Atrium on Bay, a 1.1 million square foot property in Toronto which was acquired by KingSett Capital and TD Greystone Asset Management for $640 million; 1250 René-Lévesque Boulevard West, a 47-storey office tower in Montreal sold to Sun Life and BentallGreenOak (at the time Bentall Kennedy) for $605 million; and a portion of Stantec Tower in Edmonton sold to Deka Immobilien for close to $517.5 million.
(2018 vs. 2019 Property Transactions – Total Dollar Volume by Market)
With the changing retail landscape, many landlords and investors continue to see opportunities for well-located assets by repositioning and redeveloping many retail centres across the country to maximize their returns. Total retail investment volume slowed by 18% to $6.6 billion compared to last year, while deal counts retreated slightly by 3% to 1,437. The largest sale occurred in Q4 with LaSalle’s 50% acquisition of Edmonton City Centre Mall from Oxford Properties Group, which is the first sale of an indoor enclosed shopping centre in Edmonton since 2013. The second-largest retail transaction registered in 2019 was the 50% interest sale of Stockyards Village in the City of Toronto for $88.5 million from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, acquired by RioCan REIT, which now owns a 100% interest in the property.
Investment volume for industrial assets for 2019 totalled $9.9 billion, an 11% increase compared to 2018. Industrial transactions totalled 1,437, a slight 3% decrease from 2018. Strong market fundamentals, however, continued to reinforce an active industrial market in 2019. Challenges due to limited developable land in markets like Toronto and Vancouver, along with product shortages, have led to an increase in sale prices and rental rates and landlords are investing in redeveloping older properties into more modern industrial facilities as a higher return on investment. The rise in demand comes from investors looking for industrial space for various uses, from manufacturing of goods, e-commerce to data centres, film studios and storage facilities. Two of the top three largest industrial transactions for 2019 were both newly constructed data centers, an emerging asset class as demand for 5G and cloud computing expands. The second largest sale was 45 Parliament Street in the City of Toronto, which was acquired by U.S. based Equinix REIT for a total consideration of $223 million. The third largest sale was 80 Via Renzo Drive located in the City of Richmond Hill, which was purchased by AIMCo for a total consideration of $215 million. The largest industrial transaction was the Crestpoint acquisition consisted of a 50% interest in 10 industrial buildings and four development sites acquired for a price of almost $231 million.
The search for higher yields in the multi-family sector continues to expand as rental market conditions remain healthy. According to Altus Group’s Investment Trends Survey for Q4 2019, the national average cap rate for the multi-family sector compressed slightly on a year-over-year comparison. Total multifamily investment for 2019 represented 18% of total investment across all asset classes, and investment volume for the apartment sector was up by 8% to $9.8 billion, while total transactions were up 4% to 1,165. The Ottawa market was the strongest performing market in this sector, with total investment volume up by 114% and total transaction up by 20%, followed by Toronto and Montreal. The largest sale was the high-rise apartment Le Rockhill in Montreal purchased for $268 million by Investors Group and Minto Apartment REIT.
Investors may be feeling slightly uneasy over the next few months as market uncertainty and concerns grow over the global economic and financial impact over COVID-19. However, investors will continue to remain cautious and prepare their portfolios for potential risks while still seeking value opportunities during these challenging market conditions. Changes in monetary policies and coordinated central bank action are expected to stem some of the pressures to the global financial system, while strong property market fundamentals are expected to continue to retain investor interest in Canadian commercial real estate into next year.
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