The billionaire investor Wilbur L. Ross Jr. said Friday that the U.S. is at the beginning of a "huge crash in commercial real estate."
"All of the components of real estate value are going in the wrong direction simultaneously," said Ross, one of nine money managers participating in a government program to remove toxic assets from bank balance sheets. "Occupancy rates are going down. Rent rates are going down and the capitalization rate — the return that investors are demanding to buy a property — are going up."
Commercial property sales are forecast to fall to the lowest in almost two decades as the industry endures its worst slump since the savings and loan crisis of the early 1990s, according to the property research firm Real Capital Analytics Inc.
The Moody's/REAL Commercial Property Price Indices already have fallen almost 41% since October 2007, according to Moody's Investors Service.
Ross, the chairman and chief executive of the New York private-equity firm WL Ross & Co. LLC, said in an interview that he would use "extreme caution" before putting money into commercial real estate, especially office space, because properties are losing tenants.