- Unlike the previous cycle, U.S. commercial real estate is not over-leveraged.
- This suggests that real estate may offer a defensive strategy in coming years.
- CBRE’s house view is expressed despite the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) warning on debt levels in the global economy.
The build-up in U.S. commercial real estate debt levels has been much more measured than in previous cycles, in particular prior to the Great Financial Crisis (GFC). Figure 1 shows that real estate debt as a percentage of U.S. GDP reached a peak of 23.1% in 2009. After the GFC, commercial real estate de-levered, with the ratio of commercial real estate debt to GDP falling to 19.1% in 2013. While overall asset values in the U.S. are now substantially above their previous pre-recession peak, debt accumulation has lagged. As of 2017, the ratio of commercial real estate debt to GDP (20.9%) remains more than 2.2 percentage points below its previous peak. This contrasts with the expansion of private and sovereign debt levels globally, which is of concern to the IMF. While current commercial real estate debt levels are above the long-run average of 17.9% since 1990, we think they are sustainable in a continued low-inflation and low-interest-rate environment.
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Source: CBRE Capital Markets