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Small Commercial Building Sales Back to 2008 Levels

Trepp LLC is reporting that sales of small buildings nationwide have increased in 2012 to the highest level since 2008, with more and more buyers taking advantage of prices that have yet to rebound from the property boom going bust.

Broker Connie de la Garza has been trying to sell an empty medical-office building in Harlingen, Texas, for six months. He’s finally getting offers after slashing the asking price by 26 percent to $1.4 million.

“That’s when the real activity happened,” said de la Garza, the owner of Bahnman Realty Inc., who is marketing the property along with Brandon Beeson of Edge Realty Capital Markets. After two bids that were “absolutely ridiculous,” the third “is something that we can work with,” he said.

Increased access to financing has also played a significant role in the uptick. Improved demand is expected to help broaden a commercial real estate rebound that has so far been confined to trophy office buildings, apartment communities, and shopping malls.

Loans for properties valued at less than $1 million account for nearly 33 percent of commercial mortgages held by banks, notes Trepp researchers. Meanwhile, the sales volume for properties of less than $5 million soared 41 percent this past May from a year ago to $4 billion.

Of the 122 metro areas that Boxwood Means monitors, 88 registered year-over-year increases. Total volume for this year’s January-through-March period was $20.3 billion—the highest for that five-month period since ’08.

Finally, a Green Street Advisors Inc. index of commercial real estate values measuring REIT properties has climbed 53 percent from its 2009 low and is just 6 percent from its August 2007 peak. Ryan Severino, senior economist at Reis Inc., concludes, “There’s definitely not a lot of institutional money chasing those kinds of deals.”

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