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Panic Selling One Factor Driving OZ Deal Activity

Posted by: | Posted on: June 22, 2020

Like many people, Nick Parrish, managing director for Cresset Partners, believed that Opportunity Zones had started to gain momentum before COVID-19 hit.

“It was slow out of the gate,” Parrish says. “It was a program that was often talked about, but the actual capital activity was pretty minimal. I think it was because it was a new asset class, and there were complicated and evolving regulations.”

But early in 2020, things started picking up with a significant amount of capital flowing into the space. Cresset closed its first Qualified Opportunity Zone Fund in March and is targeting $400 to $500 million for Fund 2.

“Investors were getting deals done, and the strategy finally had its footing,” Parrish says. “Then COVID-19 comes along and takes the wind out of everyone’s sales.”

When that happened, Parrish says Opportunity Zone investments, like many other things, went into a “state of paralysis.”

“Everybody was reactive and not proactive,” Parrish says. “So, anecdotally, deal activity slowed across the board.”

But in recent weeks, the situation has begun to turn around. “You have started to see people coming back to the space,” Parrish says. “I think it is driven by a couple of facts. One of those is that the government pushed out some of the deadlines, which gave investors more time to invest.”

Parrish says the extension of those deadlines, including the IRS’s decision to push out the date to roll over capital gains into a Qualified Opportunity Zone fund (QOF), has brought investors back. But that’s not the only attraction.

“I think people have come to realize that the long-term thesis around Opportunity Zones hasn’t changed,” Parrish says. “It’s a 10-year-plus investment horizon, which gives you the ability to be very patient and think very long-term.” 

While rental income has taken a hit across commercial real estate over the past few months, Parrish doesn’t think that will be a huge deal a decade from now. 

Capital gains are also driving Opportunity Zone investments. 

“The crisis caused people to trigger gains that they may not have otherwise triggered,” Parrish says. “Panic selling is still selling. And so you may have had situations where liquidity-driven investors realized gains that are going to create a significant tax liability. Now they’ve got this huge tax liability, and that’s going to drive them to look at solutions like Opportunities Zones.”

In the process, these investors now understand that the stock market doesn’t always keep going up, which could also spur Opportunity Zone investment.

“The crisis has caused people to realize that markets don’t always go up,” Parrish says. “It’s good to be diversified.” 

Taken together, Parrish thinks the rocky stock market, the long-term horizon and the extended deadlines bode well for Opportunity Zones.

“I think investors will come back around to Opportunity Zones, and we’re starting to see some of that,” Parrish says. “I think you’ll see that heat up going into the second half of the year as these deadlines [to invest] increasingly approach.”

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