Walker Webcast: Linneman Says Post-Pandemic Recovery is “Not a Light Switch”
In his fifth appearance on the Walker Webcast since the weekly series was launched in March 2020, Peter Linneman provided an updated outlook on the post-pandemic recovery as well as the near-term fortunes of the major property sectors. With regard to a resumption of normal life and business activities, Linneman noted that it has begun to happen, but cautioned, “It’s not a light switch.”
Given a COVID-19 vaccination rollout that’s currently inoculating about three million Americans per day, Linneman estimated that the program would be substantially complete by early summer. Daily activities won’t return to pre-pandemic levels as soon as the last vaccine is administered, though, and there could be a lag of several weeks.
However, certainly by the time Labor Day 2021 is in the annals, “absent something unforeseen it will really start picking up,” said Linneman. Companies that spent much of the past year hunkered down in survival mode will aspire to strong growth, not merely treading water, he said.
The Linneman Associates founder’s quarterly discussion with Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker coincided with the release of the latest Linneman Letter. In it, Linneman quotes Theodore Roosevelt on taking action: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
Asked on the Walker Webcast what the current “right thing” is, Linneman said the answer is different for different cohorts. For those who have been fully vaccinated, there’s a “responsibility” to start living normal lives again. For those who haven’t been yet, he cautioned against dropping one’s guard: “Don’t die in the last days of the war.”
President Biden recently signed a $2-trillion stimulus package into law, and Linneman questioned the cost-effectiveness of such measures. It’s not a matter of whether the country can afford the extra debt-load—Linneman noted that combined U.S. household wealth dwarfs government debt—but rather, “Are we getting our money’s worth?”
Although he mustered some enthusiasm for the single-family sector on this week’s webcast, Linneman remains long-term bullish on multifamily. That being said, he predicted that apartment rents would continue a slight decline throughout this year before starting to rebound in 2022.
That’s especially true in markets where strong growth in demand has been outpaced by supply growth. It’s also an imbalance Linneman sees in certain office markets.
Three of the brightest spots for job growth nationally are Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Austin, yet Linneman ranks all three Texas cities among the current five worst U.S. office markets from an investment standpoint. (The other two are a pair of suburban New York City markets: Fairfield County in Connecticut and Westchester County in New York.) The reason: new office supply is coming on line faster than it can be fully leased.
A lack of new construction is among the reasons Linneman sees a bright outlook for brick-and-mortar retail, even as he noted that the sector has been “over-retailered” as well as over-stored.
He predicted that once pandemic restrictions are no longer an impediment to shopping in physical stores, online retail growth will revert to the trendline. Hotels similarly will benefit from a resurgence of domestic leisure travel driven by pent-up demand, although restrictions on tourism from overseas will remain a challenge.
On-demand replays of the April 14 webcast are available by clicking here and through Walker & Dunlop’s Driven by Insight podcast series.
Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces.
Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications.
Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).