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Charlotte's Industrial Market One to Watch

Will Propst • 3/6/2020
2019 was a memorable year for Charlotte’s commercial real estate industry

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Over the next couple years, the industrial market – both nationally and in Charlotte – will remain one of the leading product types to watch, according to Cushman & Wakefield’s 2020 North American Industrial Outlook. 2019 was a memorable year for Charlotte’s commercial real estate industry as the city continued to be at the forefront of economic expansion in the Southeast.

The forecast for North American industrial absorption in 2020-2021 is a healthy 459.9 million square feet (msf) and Charlotte is projected for 5.6 msf of absorption. In 2019, the city’s industrial net absorption totaled more than 3.3 msf, according to Cushman & Wakefield Charlotte’s Q4 2019 Industrial Report.

New supply—which finally surpassed demand in 2019—will continue to do so over the next two years. Supply levels nationally are projected to reach 573.4 msf from 2020 to 2021. Charlotte is slated to deliver 8.8 msf over that same time period. Nonetheless, national vacancy will remain anchored around the 5% mark, ending 2021 at 5.2%—an uptick of 60-bps from year-end 2019.

U.S. asking rents are expected to increase by 6.8% and reach a new nominal high of USD $6.95 per square foot (psf) by year-end 2021—up from USD $6.51 psf in 2019. Charlotte reported a year-end average asking rent of $5.60 psf triple net (NNN), up $0.18 psf (3.3% increase) from a year ago. During the current cycle, rent reported steady growth, gaining on average $0.17 psf every year between 2015 and 2019. In 2020, rent is expected to increase at similar rates as the market tightens and more new buildings deliver.

Charlotte’s MSA added 30,500 jobs in 2019 and more are to come. The fastest population growth is projected to occur in certain secondary U.S. and Canadian cities including Orlando, Raleigh, Austin, Las Vegas, Calgary, Phoenix, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Edmonton. These cities’ populations will grow nearly three times faster than that of the average North American city. As these cities’ populations increase, so will demand for industrial real estate.

Industrial has been the investors’ darling in recent years, and there is no indication of this love affair coming to an end any time soon. According to the 2020 PwC/ULI Emerging Trends in Real Estate survey report, industrial remains the most attractive property type both for investment and development. In 2019, 17.9 msf of industrial space traded in Charlotte, setting a record-high of almost $1.4 billion ($78 psf) in total sales transaction volume.

Over the next couple of years, we expect the North American industrial market to remain one of the leading product types to watch. Economic indicators, with strong links to industrial fundamentals, point to continued growth in both 2020 and 2021. Robust consumer spending supported by stable inflation, wage growth and low unemployment bode well for industrial demand, not to mention structural changes related to eCommerce.

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