Charlotte, NC, is the top market for annual office price appreciation and comes in third for both overall price appreciation and multifamily price appreciation.
Charlotte, already North Carolina’s most populous city, grew three times the national average over the past five years. The city is the fourth fastest growing of any large metro area in the U.S., behind only Austin, Orlando, and Houston. Population growth is driven by an affordable cost of living, low tax rates, sizable infrastructure investments, and strong job incentives.
Second only to New York City as the largest financial hub in the country, Charlotte is anchored by both Wells Fargo and Bank of America, but the city offers so much more than financial services. Charlotte also boasts a strong, diverse economy with employment opportunities in the thriving energy, healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology sectors.
Making Bank in the Queen City
Originally founded by European settlers in 1768, Charlotte is now home to nine Fortune 500 headquarters and 18 Fortune 1000 headquarters. The roster of employers in Charlotte has continued to grow at an accelerated pace over the past few years. Centene is building a one million square foot office campus that will serve as the company’s East Coast headquarters, creating 6,000 new jobs. Honeywell, USAA, Robinhood, and LendingTree all recently announced new locations in Charlotte, bringing thousands of jobs. Truist Financial, the sixth largest bank nationally that was created from the merger of BB&T and SunTrust, also selected Charlotte as their headquarters.
Other companies with established presences in the market, such as Bank of America, Duke Energy, and Lowe’s, have made their long-term commitment to Charlotte clear with recent moves to new office towers and new technology and innovation centers. These corporate relocations and expansions have contributed to the upward momentum of the Charlotte job market.
The city is currently ranked sixth nationally for job growth over the last five years, nearly twice the national average. Throughout the pandemic, the Charlotte job market also fared better and rebounded quicker than the nation as a whole, sitting at a 4.2% unemployment rate compared to the nation’s average of 5.2% as of August 2021.
Talent Pipeline Fuels Job Opportunities
A pipeline of educated talent comes directly to employers from Charlotte’s universities. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, UNC Charlotte, is a public, urban, research university that enrolls more than 30,000 students. The University City submarket that surrounds the UNC Charlotte campus includes 2,200-acre University Research Park, which fills 74,000 jobs, in part, from the university’s pool of talent.
Charlotte is also home to smaller universities, including Queens University, Johnson C. Smith University, Johnson & Wales, Wingate University, and Davidson College that collectively enroll another 10,000 students.
The city is currently the largest in the U.S. without a four-year medical school, but that is about to change thanks to a new partnership between Atrium Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health, and Wake Forest School of Medicine. When operational, the school will support around 3,500 medical students each year as well as an innovation district near the school. The new school of medicine and the anticipated spin-off activities—in healthcare and new economic development — are projected to generate an additional $5.2 billion in economic impact and create nearly 43,000 jobs over the course of the next 20 years, further positioning Charlotte as a destination for research and innovation.
Infrastructure Investments and Cultural Amenities
Charlotte taps into both public and private investments to support its growing infrastructure. The city’s world-class airport (CLT), already the sixth busiest nationally, serving approximately 180 nonstop destinations globally, is undergoing a $2.5-$3.1 billion expansion and renovation plan to meet expected passenger growth needs through 2035.
North Carolina’s first major rapid-rail service, the Lynx Blue Line, was constructed in Charlotte in 2007. The multi-billion dollar Blue Line now travels more than 19 miles to 26 stations with nearly 28,000 daily riders and the possibility of expanding another 5.5 miles to serve Pineville and Ballantyne as part of Charlotte’s 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan.
The Queen City enjoys a temperate climate year round and access to lakes and recreational activities not far from the city. There is no shortage of entertainment and cultural amenities. Charlotte is home to several professional sports franchises, including the Charlotte Bobcats (NBA), Carolina Panthers (NFL), Charlotte Checkers (AHL), and Charlotte Knights (AAA MLB), with the Charlotte Football Club (MLS) also expected to begin play in 2022. For art lovers, there is the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Mint Museum. The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center showcases the Charlotte Symphony, Charlotte Ballet, and Opera Carolina.
Population Growth Increases Need for Housing
Surprisingly, perhaps, Charlotte is still a relatively affordable city with a low cost of living. Coupled with diverse job prospects and desirable infrastructure, Charlotte has become a clear bet for an increasing number of people. As people continue to move to Charlotte, their need for housing also increases.
Though there is a robust pipeline for housing development in Charlotte, the market remains relatively undersupplied from a multifamily perspective when compared to other high-growth markets. Specifically, Charlotte boasts a 7.1% multifamily unit to total population ratio versus 7.7% for Atlanta, 8.8% for Denver, 8.9% for Seattle, 10.3% for Dallas, and 10.7% for Austin.
Elevated demand has allowed the Charlotte multifamily market to achieve its highest year of net absorption on record: 6.6% as a percentage of total inventory compared to 4.1% nationally, with rent growth accelerating to 18.0% year-over-year, an all-time high. Even with this exceptional rent growth, rents remain affordable and below other southeastern growth markets like Atlanta, Austin, and Nashville.
Residential home prices are also growing rapidly, increasing the propensity for those needing to rent housing. The price of homes in Charlotte increased at a 10.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the last five years ending August 2021, solidly outpacing the broader national CAGR of 7.8%.
Cadre Data Science and Market Selection
From an investment perspective, the combination of job and population growth in Charlotte has bolstered asset price appreciation, making Charlotte one of the nation’s leading markets for price growth.
Data scientists at Cadre use cutting edge techniques to observe pricing dynamics and price drivers. This proprietary analysis can be used to help our investment team better understand their sources and level of risk within the commercial real estate marketplace.
Here’s how it works: Cadre’s proprietary price indices track returns in over 50 markets across the U.S. From these, we derive our momentum factor, which indicates the pricing trend—up or down—for each market. Our value factor seeks to capture underpriced markets, and our gateway factor measures the selected market against average Tier-1 market performance. The interplay of these factors over time can help explain how we are being rewarded for taking specific market investment risk.
Based on a time series of unleveraged U.S. commercial property values using actual transactions to measure commercial real estate price movements and repeat-sales regressions, Cadre’s Data Science team ranked Charlotte as the number one market in the U.S. for office price appreciation this past year at 10.3%, and the number three market for multifamily price appreciation at 12.2%. Charlotte also comes in third in Cadre’s overall rankings at 8.2% price appreciation.
While the office sector took a decided turn for the worse with the advent of the pandemic, Charlotte has experienced a healthy recovery in rents, which are now higher than at the beginning of 2020. The rent recovery was strongest in the suburban submarket, rising 4.6% during the first half of 2021. Sales volume also started showing signs of a post-pandemic rebound in Q2 2021, with a 42.3% increase in office sale volume compared to Q2 2020. Since Charlotte is home to so many different businesses in so many different industries, our data science team still finds investments in Charlotte office real estate to be a solid bet.
Cadre is bullish on the Charlotte commercial real estate market based on our data science observations, investment professionals’ on-the-ground research, established price appreciation, and job/population growth. We are excited about opportunities to invest in the Queen City and look forward to sharing our latest findings with you.
Cadre’s selection process combines the skill sets of our experienced commercial real estate professionals and data scientists to identify markets that we believe will outperform over time. Our mission is to help make real estate more accessible, transparent, and affordable to a greater number of investors. Cadre’s strategy includes the following initiatives:
Allocate investment capital to back minority-owned real estate operating partners
Deposit corporate cash with minority-owned depository institutions
Partner with minority-owned banks to participate in financing our properties
Maintain a consistent number of affordable rental units for families within our multifamily properties
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