Commercial broker confidence plunges to new lows amid national economic uncertainty and a stalled return to office
Residential broker confidence improved over previous quarter but stayed in negative territory
NEW YORK, NY – The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the City’s leading real estate trade association, today released its Real Estate Broker Confidence Index report for Q1 2023.
With rising interest rates, challenging conditions in the office market and instability in the banking sector, commercial broker confidence in current conditions and future conditions have reached new lows. In contrast, residential broker confidence in each category was essentially unchanged as sales and leasing held steady.
REBNY’s Quarterly Real Estate Broker Confidence Index is the City’s only broker confidence report and surveys residential and commercial brokerage members to measure their confidence in the real estate market across the five boroughs.
“Higher borrowing costs, looming loan maturations and uncertainty regarding office demand have dampened commercial sentiment and overshadowed positive hospitality and retail activity over the last quarter,” said REBNY Director of Market Data Keith DeCoster. “Fortunately, the residential sector, which was so critical to the city’s resurgence in 2021 registered improved sales and sustained leasing. Residential brokers underscored these strengths but reiterated long-standing concerns about obstacles to housing development as well as growing concern about financial sector instability.”
The Commercial Current Confidence Index fell to -74.7 in Q1 2023, down from -45.6 in the prior quarter. The Commercial Expectations Index, which measures six-month outlook, also fell to -56.9 in Q1 2023, down from -20.7 in the prior quarter. Both figures represent a new low since REBNY began tracking broker sentiment in 2017.
Commercial brokers emphasized that promising expectations for return-to-office activity and leasing were dashed in the first quarter. Office leasing thus far in 2023 is below historical averages and building visitation rates have stalled at just over 60% in Manhattan according to REBNY’s research. These local issues come as the Fed has continued to raise interest rates as a significant volume of commercial loans near maturity.
The Residential Current Confidence Index improved to -5.6 in Q1 2023, up from -19.4 in the prior quarter. The Residential Expectations Index fell slightly to 11.7 in Q1 2023, down from 12.9 in the prior quarter.
The difference in sentiment indicates that residential brokers are less pessimistic than their commercial counterparts, even as they remain wary of market challenges. Residential brokers cited strong rental demand and sales picking up in February and March, particularly at higher price points between $4 million and $10 million. However, ultra-luxury transaction activity has remained sluggish and many deals are not getting finalized due to concerns over a potential recession, according to respondents.
In addition to macroeconomic points, brokers expressed concerns about several issues with potential policy implications:
Substantive and sustained return to the office
Improving quality-of-life issues (crime, sanitation, and transit)
Clarity on the incentives for housing development, including affordable housing and potential office-to-residential conversions
Concerns that additional regulation such as rent control may turn away property investors and impede property maintenance
For more information about REBNY research reports, visit www.rebny.com/research-and-reports.
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ABOUT THE REAL ESTATE BOARD OF NEW YORK
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association. Founded in 1896, REBNY represents commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, and salespeople; banks, financial service companies, utilities, attorneys, architects, and contractors; corporations, co-partnerships, and individuals professionally interested in New York City real estate. REBNY conducts research on various civic matters including tax policy, city planning and zoning, rental conditions, land use policy, building codes, and other city, state, and federal legislation. REBNY regularly publishes market data, policy reports, and broker surveys. In addition, REBNY provides for its members: informational, technical, and technological resources; networking and charitable service opportunities; qualifying and continuing education courses; professional education programs, seminars, and designations; career-changing awards; legal advice; and a wide range of additional member benefits. For more information, please visit www.rebny.com.