Low Interest Rates, Capital Gains Spike, Could Spur Sales: Massey Knakal

Massey Knakal executives predict that the sales market for office buildings and apartment properties will pick up considerably in 2012, due in large part to a combination of record low interest rates and widespread expectations that the capital gains tax rate will rise next year.

“We’re going to see a natural regression in 2012 back to the norms,” said Robert Knakal, Massey Knakal’s chairman, noting that the volume of properties sold in the city has been below the historical average since the recession and is likely to bounce back. “The potential increase in capital gains that could take place in 2013 [is a big driver]. We saw a significant spike in sales volume in 2010 for the very same reason.”

knakal Low Interest Rates, Capital Gains Spike, Could Spur Sales: Massey Knakal

Robert Knakal, back in the day.

Mr. Knakal predicted that development parcels in the city would be among the best appreciating assets during the year, anticipating they could rise by 20-30 percent in value due a dearth of both residential and commercial development in the city in recent years.

“There has been such a low supply of new product put on the market,” Mr. Knakal said. “Developers anticipate the market two to three years in advance and most are feeling optimistic about the end user demand in that time frame.”

Paul Massey, who with Mr. Knakal co-founded the brokerage company also highlighted the popularity of development sites.

“We were creating thousands of luxury residential units per year but that production ceased three and a half years ago,” said Mr. Massey, who together with Mr. Knakal and other company executives, delivered their comments during a meeting yesterday morning with the media to present their outlook and year end market statistics for 2011.

Massey Knakal compiled a host of encouraging data that shows the sales market in the city is bouncing back since falling precipitously during the economic downturn. Citywide, $25.6 billion of property was sold in 2011, an 80 percent increase from 2010, and 2,122 properties changed hands, a 25 percent increase in volume year over year.

Still the numbers pale in comparison to the boom years. In 2006, $44.5 billion of deals were done and 2007, the most prolific year on record for New York City’s sales market, $62.19 billion of deals were completed, according to Massey Knakal figures. Mr. Knakal didn’t think that dollar volume would swell in 2012 to that level but predicted the market could see between $41 to $45 billion of sales activity.

Pricing on average per square foot appreciated by 6.1 percent across property types in 2011 the company said. While that figure was lower than the wild uptick in value that occurred as the market skyrocketed during the boom years of 2005 to 2007, Mr. Knakal said that the appreciation level was compelling compared to other investment classes. “I think our expectations are skewed by the fact that during the boom years there were huge gains and when the market fell there were big losses, the scale of expectations has been kind of exaggerated,” Mr. Knakal said. “But six percent is very solid. Warren Buffett always says that ten percent returns are outstanding. I think that in a market where treasuries are low, six percent returns on real estate make it a desirable asset class.” Mr. Knakal predicted that prices could outpace 2011’s increase, rising by as much as eight percent on average per square foot in 2012.

James Nelson, an executive at Massey Knakal who participated in the company’s presentation supported Mr. Knakal’s point that real estate was attractive to buyers because it offered compelling returns and stability during a period of continued economic uncertainty.

“Real estate benefits from the trend of investors wanting hard assets,” Mr. Nelson said. “People want something they can touch. Besides gold, real estate is one of the few hard assets and it cash flows.”


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