Amid Big Shifts, California Markets Top ’09 Marcus & Millichap Retail Index

Limited supply in historically tight locations is the most attractive short-term combination for retail investment markets, according to the annual ranking compiled by Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services Inc. In a striking finding, the East and West coasts landed all but one of the index’s top 10 spots. Despite a slew of major changes on the index, all but two of the top 10 markets are making a repeat appearance from 2008.To arrive at its rankings, which indicate relative supply and demand for 43 major markets during the next year, Marcus & Millichap considers a battery of retail indicators: vacancy, sales, rents and construction. Also entering into the mix are local economic conditions, such as housing, employment and household formation. California took five out of the top 10 positions in this year’s survey. This year’s top market, San Diego, jumped five places from its 2008 finish. Last year’s number-one market, San Francisco, slipped to second place because of projected job losses estimated at 22,500, many of them in financial services. Other Golden State markets appearing in Marcus & Millichap’s top 10 are San Jose (No. 4), Orange County (No. 13) and Los Angeles (No. 9 for the second year in a row). Other West Coast markets finishing in the top 10 are Portland, in the fifth position, and No. 7 Seattle. Only two markets represent the East Coast in this year’s top 10: Washington, D.C., which moved up two places to the No. 3 position, and New York City, in sixth place. Rounding out the top 10 was Austin, which moved up one notch from 11th place in 2008. As might be expected in a volatile economic climate, however, a number of markets either climbed or fell considerably. Eleven of the 43 markets tracked by Marcus & Millichap registered a change of at least eight positions on this year’s index. On the strength of total vacancy limited to 9.1 percent and an inventory expansion of only 1 percent, Philadelphia improved 10 places to No. 16. Likewise, a big drop in new inventory pushed Salt Lake City rose 11 places to thirteenth place, and elevated New Haven, Conn., eight spots to the No. 28 position. San Antonio moved up 9 spots to 24th place, thanks in part to employment that will dip just 0.4 percent this year, well below the national average. On the flip side, an unfavorable mix of fundamentals cost several major markets formerly strong positions on the index. Phoenix took the biggest tumble of any market: 14 places, to the 33rd spot. Marcus & Millichap cites Phoenix’s projected 370 basis-point increase in vacancy, to 13 percent, and 7.9 percent slide in effective rents. A 280 basis-point jump in vacancy to 12.6 percent and a 4.5 percent decline in effective rents helped drop Atlanta from 16th to 25th place. Besides the market index, the Marcus & Millichap report also offers a national snapshot of projected retail market conditions for 2009: • Average asking rents will drop 4.5 percent nationwide and effective rents will decline 5 percent • A 30 percent drop in new completions will be unable to prevent a 180 basis-point increase in vacancy that will bring the national average to 10.2 percent • Necessity-based retail in infill locations will be most attractive to investors