Blockbuster real estate deals are back and breaking records as cash from around the globe pours into U.S. office buildings, apartment complexes and other investment properties.
Commercial real estate transactions jumped 45 percent by dollar volume in the first quarter, an increase driven by sales of multiple buildings or entire companies, according to research firm Real Capital Analytics Inc. Since then, General Electric Co. agreed to sell real estate assets to Blackstone Group LP and Wells Fargo & Co. in a deal valued at about $23 billion, the largest property purchase since the financial crisis.
As the pot of money set aside for U.S. commercial real estate grows, competition for the best properties is pushing investors to buy in bulk. Based on the pipeline, which includes the GE deal, the second quarter may be one of the biggest on record for property transactions, according to Real Capital.
“It’s so hard to get things on a single-asset basis,” said Janice Stanton, an executive managing director at commercial brokerage Cushman & Wakefield Inc. “You’re starting to see larger and larger transactions.”
Real estate deals surged to $129 billion during the three months through March, marking the most active start to a year since 2007, according to Real Capital. The largest was Blackstone’s $8.1 billion sale of IndCor Properties Inc., an owner of industrial buildings, to GIC Pte, Singapore’s sovereign-wealth fund.
Demand for property from warehouses to skyscrapers is booming, helped by more than six years of Federal Reserve efforts to stimulate economic growth by keeping interest rates low, and stockpiles of cash from overseas investors seeking a haven. About $24 billion in foreign capital flowed to U.S. properties in the first quarter, more than half the total for all of 2014, according to Cushman.
That number is poised to grow further because the majority of sovereign wealth funds -- investors such as GIC -- have yet to hit their target allocations for real estate, according to Preqin Ltd., an alternative-assets research firm. Total property allocations for such funds now top $6.3 trillion, more than double the amount in 2008, London-based Preqin said in a report this month.
Surging prices for the best buildings in big cities such as New York and San Francisco are driving the real estate recovery. Centrally located office towers are fetching prices 33 percent above records set in 2008, according to an index from Real Capital and Moody’s Investors Service.