While commercial real estate deals have picked up, the local multifamily investment market remains stuck in low gear, in part because investors sniffing for distress deals aren’t finding them here.

That, of course, is a good sign for anyone holding such property.

Investors have shown the most interest in new Class A properties as well as bottom-rung Class C buildings, Sperry Van Ness broker Doug Carter said.

Large funds that raised hundreds of millions of dollars in 2009 are most interested in the high-end side of the equation. These investors hoped to cash in on a soft market, buying newer top-rate properties at under-market prices in hard-hit metropolitan areas like Phoenix or Southern California.

While they’ve done well in those locales, they haven’t always struck gold here.

“Those (investors) have been frustrated,” Carter said. “There’s dramatic demand, but prices haven’t softened like they expected, so not much of that money got spent.”

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Many of these syndicates are hoping to pour their money into acquisitions sometime this year — before interest rates start to climb.

If they don’t find good deals, they’ll have to return the money, so demand is expected to stay strong going into mid-year.

Meanwhile, older, less-desirable or less well-managed apartments also are seeing a good deal of interest — though, again, the number of deals hasn’t been much to write about.

Investors refer to these acquisitions as “price per pound” buys — bank-owned, distressed and foreclosure deals that attract buyers because they’re so cheap.

These trends are affirmed in a Certified Commercial Investment Member survey just conducted by the Real Estate Research Corp. The survey showed that on a year-over-year basis, private investment was up in the office and retail sectors, flat for the industrial and hotel sectors, down in the apartment market.

The good news in all this: a first-quarter 2010 Apartment Insights report on the Pikes Peak region showed a new lower overall vacancy rate of 7.01 percent; positive absorption (leasing) of 86 units and rents up 3.8 percent for the year.

Aside from a small foreclosure or bank-owned property sale or two, the only 50-unit-plus apartment complex to sell during first quarter was the 240-unit Bellaire Ranch complex which sold to Capital Real Estate for $19 million. That was 9.5 percent below a previous selling price of $21,000,000 paid in October 2006, Carter said.

Carter discounted the likelihood of any new multifamily development any time soon.

“Is the climate there? No,” he said. “Lenders — especially today — aren’t likely to loan to anyone who doesn’t have a proven track record.”

More commercial investment news

With first-quarter 2010 in the rear-view mirror, commercial real estate investment statistics indicate the market is looking up.

On a macro level, Real Capital Analytic summed up the national situation with the following transaction and volume results, based on the latest Real Capital Analytics’ data.

Year over year, first-quarter sales volume was up by 50 percent;

Transaction count — the number of properties that changed hands — remained flat.

A total of $15.4 billion of commercial real estate sold during first- quarter 2010; estimates are that year-end volume will reach $100 billion compared to last year’s $43 billion.

So far commercial real estate sales volume in all categories was higher than for first-quarter 2009.

If there is a silver lining, it’s that RCA also determined that the commercial market hit bottom first-quarter 2009.

Nunn Construction completes LEED Gold project

Nunn Construction has completed a key project for Western State College in Gunnison. The firm’s 70,000-square-foot College Center building was also LEED Gold-certified.

Among the facility’s many qualifying LEED Gold features were 10 recycling centers natural ventilation systems, and a Pulper System, reducing food waste by 90 percent.

The project, including recycling efforts for the demolition and construction waste, diverted nearly 60 percent of the waste from the landfills and to the regional recycling plants.

The materials used in the construction were made up of 30-percent recycled content.

Becky Hurley can be reached at becky.hurley@csbj.com or 719-329-5235.