Survey of Emerging Market Conditions

Executive Summary & Conclusions

Optimism for Florida real estate remains strong among practitioners as UF’s Commercial Real Estate Sentiment Index, an outlook of our respondents’ own businesses, improved to its highest level since the third quarter of 2006.

Florida’s improving economy continues to drive real estate markets. Through the first quarter, Florida added over 57,000 jobs crossing the eight million mark for the first time since June 2007. Unemployment remained at its lowest level since June 2008 at 5.5%. The largest increase in employment has occurred in hospitality, construction, and education and health services.

The increase in employment for hospitality continues to be driven by record tourism. According to Visit Florida, the state continues to see record setting levels of tourism with total visitation up 5.1% in 2014, reaching over 98 million visitors. We expect that trend to continue with Florida visitation surpassing 100 million visitors in 2015.

The continued improvement in the job market along with tremendous growth in the tourism industry has been positive for consumer confidence. The UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) consumer sentiment index has increased dramatically over the first quarter, reaching 96.8, its highest level in over 10 years.

These factors are having a positive impact on the commercial market in Florida, driving increasing development in multifamily and retail properties throughout the state. However, the outlook for single family residential development remains mixed. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Regional Housing Index for the south remains muted at 54 while single family housing starts in Florida remain steady but at almost half the average monthly average over the past 20 years.

While survey respondents are positive about the future, they remained concerned about the prospect of interest rate increases in the near term. The first quarter sluggishness of the U.S. economy may postpone rate increases, providing additional buoyancy to the real estate markets as capital continues to flow into real estate because of these historically low rates. A measured increase by the Federal Reserve would allow real, estate markets to absorb the increases through compression of the historically high spreads between cap rates and the 10 year yield. Additionally, the increased interest rates may be offset by improving rents and net operating incomes.

Despite the uncertainties, Florida’s economy and therefore the real estate markets continue to improve and that trend should continue.


  • The UF Commercial Real Estate Sentiment Index increased this quarter to its highest level since the 3rd quarter of 2006.
  • The outlook for occupancy and rents remained positive across all property types with expectations that they will remain stable or increase.
  • Cap rates remained stable across most property types. Expectations for cap rates were mixed as uncertainty on interest rates had impacts on certain property types.
  • Yields have remained relatively stable across most property types.
  • The outlook for investment remained positive across all property types.
  • Respondents’ outlook for capital availability remained stable this quarter with most expecting it to increase in the future.

Q1 2016 Survey Report

Results by Florida Market

About the Survey

The Survey of Emerging Market Conditions targets the experienced leadership and professionals of Florida’s real estate development and investment community to gain insights and market intelligence on matters of fundamental importance to real estate practitioners and policy-makers across Florida.

The Survey of Emerging Market Conditions is the only Florida-centered survey of leaders and professional advisors in the real estate industry. It analyzes prospective data to produce extensive forecasting information pertinent to 37 of the state’s 67 counties. The survey is administered by the Bergstrom Real Estate Center at the University of Florida.

With the highly fragmented nature of real estate, no survey can encompass all aspects of the real estate industry. To face this challenge, the Survey of Emerging Market Conditions employs a quarterly sounding from multiple groups of market leaders and professional groups advising them.

It is important to understand the unique strengths and limitations of the Survey of Emerging Market Conditions.

Like virtually all surveys of investment real estate markets, this survey gathers opinion. Thus, it distills complex judgments, and amounts to a carefully controlled and structured conversation with truly qualified real estate experts. The survey asks questions carefully designed to avoid ambiguities, a major problem in collecting complex information.

The survey screens respondents at two levels of refinement to assure truly expert opinions. First, only persons with established real estate credentials are invited to participate. Second, each respondent is asked to respond only for those localities and property types where he or she is an active expert.

The result is that all the data collected can be regarded as authoritative, no matter how small the sample of responses for a property type-locality “cell.” (We maintain a minimum of at least four respondents for any market cell to guard against response mistakes.) In short, even data from the least actively covered markets that we report have value as an additional expert opinion. In the more actively reported market cells, our data represent an extraordinary consensus of the experts.

Survey results are anecdotal findings about required returns and investment objectives of owners and investors contemplating acquisitions or deciding about the timing of dispositions. Therefore the survey is a measure of current and prospective market perceptions, including the confidence levels exhibited by leading real estate professionals and market participants. In other words, the Survey of Emerging Market Conditions is a report of anticipated returns, business outlook and other forecasting views, rather than an analysis of actual or historical performance. The most valuable benefit for many may be interpretation of survey results over time to better comprehend market trends and shifts.

Cap Rates: Capitalization rates are the ratio of expected net operating income to actual transaction price. It is regarded as important that cap rates be based on actual transaction price rather than an appraised value.

Yield: For the Survey of Emerging Market Conditions, yield is before income taxes (pre-tax), and without debt financing (unlevered). It is the rate of interest that discounts all future property cash flows back to a present value equal to the original equity investment (acquisition cost).

Absorption Rates: Refers to the number of additional units of housing, office space, etc. that can be sold or leased in a given market area over a given period of time. For the purposes of the Survey of Emerging Market Conditions, the exact time interval, market area and measure of units are not of concern. Respondents are asked only to comment on the direction of change in the absorption rate.

Occupancy Rate: Two notions of occupancy rate are the percentage of a building’s leasable space that is occupied and the percentage of a building’s leasable space that is under lease. (Note that some leased space may not be occupied.) For the purposes of the Survey of Emerging Market Conditions either notion is acceptable since we are asking about direction of change in occupancy rather than levels of occupancy.

Rental Rate: The meaning of rental rate is extremely complex. In residential, it can include furnishings and utilities, or it can be net of all furnishings and utilities. With commercial property it can range from full gross rent, including janitorial services to “triple net,” which excludes all operating expenses. Fortunately, for the Survey of Emerging Market Conditions this variation is a minimal issue. The survey asks respondents only about the qualitative direction of change in rental rates, however defined. Generally, the direction of change will not depend on the definition of rent.

Property: A property is an individual asset that may include one or a collection of buildings (e.g., a business park or apartment complex). Parks, complexes, and neighboring buildings are considered one property.

The Survey of Emerging Market Conditions covers five broad property types: residential (single family, condominium and apartments), office, flex/industrial, retail and hospitality. Each property type is further divided into two or more sub-types.

  • Industrial: Primarily for industrial use, such as distribution, manufacturing or warehouse facilities. Flex refers to properties with a mix of office and industrial uses. Usually a single story, Flex space may be research facilities, technology/telecom facilities, or similar uses.
  • Office: Primarily used for office space. Office properties may have a small retail component (especially in CBDs on the street level), or a parking garage, or other attached uses.
  • Apartments: Includes all rental residential properties with more than four units.
    Single Family: Includes single family detached, individually owned residences in structures with up to four units, and individually owned townhouses.
  • Condominiums: For the Survey of Emerging Market Conditions, includes all individually owned residences in structures with more than four units, and with facilities owned in common. Note that this excludes many townhouses.
  • Retail: The Survey of Emerging Market Conditions utilizes the ICSC’s definitions of retail assets as either shopping centers (strip or enclosed malls) or free-standing stores.
  • Condo Conversion: Property that was purchased with intent of converting individual units to condominium ownership.

The Survey of Emerging Market Conditions aggregates 37 of Florida’s 67 counties into the top 13 Florida markets. Counties comprising each major Florida market as follows:

  • Miami-Dade County
  • Broward County
  • Palm Beach County
  • Treasure Coast (Indian River, Martin & St. Lucie Counties)
  • Southwest Coast – Southwest Florida area (Charlotte, Lee & Collier Counties)
  • East Central Coast – Daytona Beach, Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay (Volusia & Brevard Counties)
  • Orlando – Central Florida area (Seminole, Osceola, Lake & Orange Counties)
    Lakeland-Winter Haven (Polk County)
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg – Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando & Pinellas Counties)
  • Sarasota-Bradenton (Manatee & Sarasota Counties)
  • Jacksonville – Jacksonville (Duval, Nassau, St. Johns, Baker & Clay Counties)
  • North Central (Alachua, Marion & Gilchrist Counties)
  • Northwest Florida – Pensacola, Ft. Walton Beach, Panama City, Tallahassee (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Leon & Gadsden Counties)

Lead Researcher and Analyst:
Dr. Wayne R. Archer, Director
UF Bergstrom Real Estate Center
Professor of Real Estate and Wachovia Fellow,
Warrington College of Business

Survey Research Analyst & Designer:
Scott Richards, M.A., Research Analyst,
UF Bureau of Economic & Business Research

Survey Website Design & Support:
ITSP Web, Data & Communication Services,
Warrington College of Business

Graduate Student Production Assistants:
Ben Scheick, PhD student
Patrick Boileau, MSRE Class of 2007
Dan Carlson, MSRE Class of 2007