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U.S. Commercial Property Prices Drop to Post-Recession Low

May 23 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. commercial property prices fell to a post-recession low in March as sales of financially distressed assets weighed on the market, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

The Moody’s/REAL Commercial Property Price Index dropped 4.2 percent from February and is now 47 percent below the peak of October 2007, Moody’s said in a statement today.

The national index has fallen for four straight months as sales of distressed properties hurt real estate values. Investor demand is strongest for well-leased buildings in such major markets as New York and Washington as vacancy rates decline and the economy grows.

The index “continues to bounce along the bottom as a large share of distressed transactions preclude a meaningful recovery of overall market prices,” Tad Philipp, Moody’s director of commercial real estate research, said in the statement. “Indeed, the post-peak low in price has been reached in the same period as a post-peak high in distressed transactions has been recorded.”

So-called trophy properties in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco are helping those markets avoid the drag caused by distressed asset sales nationwide, Moody’s reported. Prices of properties of $10 million or more have risen 23 percent since their July 2009 low, according to a separate report issued today.

No Recovery Signals

The overall index shows “no sign of recovery,” Moody’s said.

Almost a third of all March transactions measured by Moody’s were considered distressed, meaning the properties’ owners faced foreclosure, had difficulty covering their mortgage payments or experienced other financial problems. It was the largest proportion of distressed property sales in the history of the index, Moody’s said.

Price increases for high-profile properties in major markets “appear to have taken a breather, providing less of a positive effect on overall market results than it has in recent months,” according to today’s report. Transactions involving such assets also fell, meaning that those properties that did sell were more likely to be troubled, Moody’s said.

CoStar Report

Prices for investment-grade properties in the U.S. fell 4.9 percent in March from the previous month, CoStar Group Inc., a real estate data service based in Washington, said May 11. Values were up 2.2 percent from March 2010 and down 38 percent from the peak in June 2007, according to the company.

CoStar, unlike Moody’s, tracks transactions of less than $2.5 million.

Green Street Advisors Inc., a real estate research company in Newport Beach, California, reported rising prices in April. Commercial property values increased 2 percent from the previous month and 18 percent from a year earlier, the company said May 5. Prices are down 13 percent from the August 2007 peak.

Green Street’s index includes deals that are in negotiation or under contract, and is weighted by asset value. Moody’s tracks completed sales.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Louis in Chicago at blouis1@bloomberg.net David M. Levitt in New York at dlevitt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kara Wetzel at kwetzel@bloomberg.net

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