Guest Writers: Bob & Roberta Kolton, Commercial Realtors ®
If you haven’t traveled North Washington Blvd between Downtown Sarasota and University Parkway, you should take a little drive; we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the changes that are happening in Commercial Real Estate in the area. A lot of the listings that have recently come on the market, along with some of those run down buildings that have been on the market for years, have been sold or leased. You’ll be amazed at the amount of work that is being done and the abundance of new businesses opening up shop.
Some of the businesses include Dealers Choice, which is moving into the old Allied Tire building, and Jim Taylor Automotive, just a couple buildings north. On the other side of the road, you will find the freshly painted Buccaneer Pawn shop and who could miss the bright yellow Lumber Liquidators building. Of course there is the new Family Dollar store just north of 20th Street in the Newtown area. And just a little father north is Interior Floors, which completely changed the look for their building with a new façade and fresh paint job.
Manatee County Commercial Real Estate hasn’t been far behind the wave of new business. Richard’s Foodporium recently expanded to a 21,000 square foot distribution warehouse just north of University Parkway off 25th Court East. Joining them in Manatee County are Down 2 Earth Landscaping, Gator Air Conditioning, and Dentsply, which recently consolidated several buildings into one 115,000 sq. ft. facility.
It’s encouraging to finally see movement in commercial sales and leasing with new business coming to the area. We’re excited to see the trend continue.
Imposing a sales tax dates back as far as Egyptian times, but really it was the early 1900’s when the first broad-based sales tax was used in the United States. Many changes to the retail business have changed over the last century, and thus so have sales tax for a brick and mortar business versus an online retailer. Hence a current debate around internet companies needing to reimburse states for sales tax on items sold on the internet. Michael Saunders & Company Commercial Real Estate clients are no different, so we thought we should explore the topic.
There are two bills currently before Congress; S. 1832, the Marketplace Fairness Act and H.R. 3179, The Marketplace Equity Act. This legislation is planned to fix what some think is a competitive imbalance on sales by internet companies versus sales by brick-and-mortar retailers. Internet companies do not have to charge and return to the local States, where as a physical retailer currently charges/returns as much as 10% of the sales price in taxes at time of purchase. This creates a challenge to local retailers, who we might point out are vital to creating jobs in communities and providing economic viability for local towns. Our local, Sarasota Commercial Real Estate clients are critical to the growth of our region.
According to Kane Morris-Webster, CCIM – Colliers International and the ICSC Florida Government Relations Chair, “…in 2012 states are losing approximately $23 billion of sales tax revenue. For 2012, Florida’s unpaid sales taxes due to e-commerce transactions are estimated at $803.8 million. Online sales are growing four times faster than sales made at brick-and-mortar establishments. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, online sales grew 16.1% during 2011. Overall retail sales grew 4.7% during 2011.”
Customers who want to preview and “feel” the product can visit a brick-and-mortar retailer and then leave, saving as much as 10% by buying the same product online. The passing of these legislations would, in theory, create a more equitable marketplace and potentially give our local retailers a better chance at competing.
Have conference, will travel! There is nothing better than setting out to an industry conference for a few days of learning, sharing and networking. My most recent trip was to Kissimmee for the ICSC Florida Conference, held at the Gaylord Palms Resort. The featured speakers included Oscar Rivera, the 2012 Florida Conference Chair, and Gary Swoope, our Florida Secretary of Commerce, both providing great insight into the commercial retail economy and new trends in retail commercial space throughout the country and specifically in Florida. The conference featured over two hundred and sixty vendor booths filled with shopping center developers and retailers looking for new Florida leasing and development opportunities. It was impressive to see the significant number of retail operations interested in building or finding new locations for their restaurants, automotive, fashion, convenience stores, and more in the Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte county areas. It provided great hope for the future retail economy for our state and local markets. Commercial property owners who may be thinking about selling should be encouraged by this news as now is an ideal time to list a new property.
Generally speaking, the commercial real estate market operates in a cycle closely tied to that of its residential cousin. Yet, timing-wise, commercial typically trails residential by as much as 18 to 24 months. Thus, it was long after the residential market melted down that the aftershocks began to ripple through the rest of the economy. Eventually businesses downsized—or failed—causing the inventory of vacant commercial properties to rise precipitously, just as demand fell off a cliff.
Is it any wonder then why Southwest Florida’s commercial real estate sector is just now where the residential market was a year ago? As buyers and investors began to respond to the best residential buying opportunities in the first quarter of 2009, they’re likewise beginning to recover their appetite for the best values in commercial properties. Reacting to solid evidence that this mother of all recessions is nearing an end, they’re anticipating inevitable improvements in the job market and scooping-up commercial properties at deep discounts long before the ‘herd’ catches on.
In other words, amid the recessionary mindset of fear, depression and panic—which investors like Warren Buffet and the late Sir John Templeton insist is the precise moment to invest—2010 will be recalled as one of the best years ever for buying commercial real estate. The golden rule of investing, “buy low, sell high,” is once again the call-to-arms for the most forward-thinking investors to ante-up now in order to maximize their ROI later. Those with all cash to spend—in an environment where commercial loans are hard to come by—will be the first to walk the red carpet to the best deals in town.
Like the residential sector, the market for commercial property has not been immune to the challenges presented by the broader real estate correction of the past few years. Further, even though residential sales are exhibiting the earliest stirrings of a comeback, activity in the commercial sector continues to be contracted; due mainly to tightened credit, more properties to sell—including an increasing number of foreclosures—and conflicting economic predictions fueling buyer uncertainty. Moreover, the disconnect between what sellers want and what buyers are willing to pay for a property is clearly causing sales to be worse than anemic compared to activity in normal years.
Fortunately, just as the residential real estate market is cyclical in nature, a complete recovery is fully expected for the commercial sector. It will take a while longer, to be sure, as the commercial correction commenced long after the residential correction was well underway. The most encouraging news as we mark the midpoint of 2009 is that the current market environment will cease to get much worse. Many leading indicators predict the commercial sector will likely bottom-out before year’s end. Meanwhile, there remains a continuous flow of capital-rich investors seeking to purchase heavily-discounted bank-owned properties through foreclosures and short sales.