QE is the most destructive policy for housing in world history. – Dr. Peter Linneman Good for apartments?

Was on NAI Global’s call with Peter Linneman, their chief economist who had some very interesting things to say for apartment building and commercial real estate investors yesterday. Note he’s an actual real estate guy as well as a Wharton professor and I would have lobbied for a better job title at NAI with his background.

First is about the bombshell quote from above. Linneman said there are many studies about home buying that show the down payment is the issue not the mortgage payment and disputes the whole people buy a monthly payment thing.

If I don’t have the downpayment it doesn’t matter what the interest rate is.

Young people are having a very hard time saving for a downpayment at zero percent interest and their parents and grandparents can’t afford to help at zero percent interest on their savings either.  Linneman summed it up by putting it in a golfing context: It’s not the green fees it’s the club membership that make it expensive. Japan is the poster child for this bad policy, they’ve been doing QE for twenty five years and it’s done nothing to fix their problems.

The most interesting thing from a multifamily perspective was that he believes we’re at the beginning of the capital cycle for CRE including apartments:

apartment building investment loans a beginning of long up cycle

He also believes that cap rates will Read more

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How to Prevent Politics from Causing ‘Black Swans’ in your Apartment and CRE Investments

As apartment building investors it’s easy to get so deep into the trenches of our market sector that we get blindsided by political events that don’t make any sense from an economic or investment perspective. With every market being so local and at the same time now subject to institutional interest it’s a stretch just to be able to track what’s happening in the lending environment at the same time. But this is the biggest risk we face; how to avoid Nassim Taleb’s ‘Black Swans’ that could destroy our investment plans. As an options trader  Taleb could very easily have been overtaken by black swans if his vision was limited to the distance from his eyeballs to the trading screens he stared at. How wide is yours?

How to avoid black swans in apartment building investiment

Short of an asteroid strike from another time dimension there really aren’t as many black swans as there are limited perspectives. Many people considered the mortgage meltdown a black swan but there were also quite a number with wider vision who understood how it would all end and some of them made fortunes putting their insights to work. Since we’re multifamily and CRE investors, not leveraged derivative traders we probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to go short the apartment building in that bad neighborhood but how do we develop that wider perspective and still have time to do any investing?

The easy answer is Read more

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The Great Columbus Day Apartment Loan Rate Massacre and other interesting interest rate stories

What a month it was for apartment building investment loan rates. The week we were all wondering How is Columbus Day Still a Thing? The 10yr rate we track fell to a low of 4.139% with the spread between it and the 10yr Treasury (T10) breaking below 2% to 1.929 (See below for details on both). I have to hand it to the ULI, they’re good. They had just said:

If you are waiting for someone to ring a bell and say that we have reached the bottom, consider the bell rung. Think twice about ignoring these record-low levels.

It only lasted a week but the rate stayed below 4.5% through the end of the month:

Apartment building investment loan rates November 7, 20`4

As you can see, that one week the spread was also well below its six month average while the T10 got as low as 2.15%, territory it hadn’t seen since the middle of June 2013. We finally got some updated numbers on the ULI rate which would have been nice to have in real time as it was stepping down consistently for six weeks starting in the middle of September, foreshadowing the Read more

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Apartment Market Tightness, Equtiy Financing Slide Backwards in Latest NMHC Survey

The National Multihousing Council’s (NMHC) latest apartment investment survey out today has market tightness falling to 52 from 68 last quarter. With 50 representing the better vs. worse divide, results show respondents are feeling the bite of new supply plus a bit of seasonal slowdown as well I sense:

NMHC Apartment Investment Survey October 2014

Source: NMHC

While the Sales Volume and Debt Financing measures both improved, Equity Financing also slipped. As you can see from the charts above the results tend to be noisy and I suspect that with the survey format it carries a few behavioral biases as well. You can see that the world was ending according to Read more

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ULI raises CRE price growth forecast including multifamily

The latest ULI/EY (Urban Land Institute/Ernst & Young) Commercial and Apartment forecast shows that respondents expect price growth to slow during the next three years but they expect better growth than when queried in April this year:

Commercial Real Estate price forecast raised ULI

Back in Q2 the economists and real estate pros thought prices would appreciate 7% this year and 5.7% in both 2015 and 2016. Now they expect 10% growth this year and 5.7% next year falling to 5% the year after. These kinds of surveys and charts usually set off all kinds of behavioral economics warning bells in my head but I’ll let you be the judge… The web piece is here, the full report here.

That said, this  chart probably is the clearest depiction of how the statistician drowned in water that averaged only three feet deep. What happened to those deals underwritten with the average growth number when 2008 and 2009 came along? To avoid this fate I highly recommend reading Sam Savage’s The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty (http://amzn.to/PKIaOc on Amazon)

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QE is the connection between international tensions and your investments- Dr. Malmgren

Video: Dr. Philippa Malmgren explaining the connection between your investments and all the geopolitical wrangling taking place right now.

The exec sum:

  • Leading industrialized nations carry (and continue to pile on) unsustainable levels of debt
  • Most options for reducing the debt are non-starters:
    • Reduce current spending- Not good for re-election in a democracy
    • Reduce future spending by cutting retirement and healthcare benefits- Also politically untenable
    • Repudiate debt- Advanced economies run on debt and can’t afford to be cut off from debt markets
    • Restructure debt- Again advanced economies can’t afford to cut off from debt markets
  • But there is one tried and true method

Read more

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Apartment Loan Rates Fall to New Low, Think Twice About Ignoring These Says ULI.

October 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Multifamily Investments 

Update 2:51pm Wednesday Oct. 15- updated to reflect that the 10yr apartment loan rate was lowered on Oct 1st but the spread was higher.

Well apartment building investors, things just keep getting interestinger and interestinger as a friend used to say. Just last month I was asking if 4.5% was the lower limit on the 10 year loan we track and sure enough a few weeks later it plunged through that to come in at 4.139 Monday after a brief stop at 4.365 last week. Note that both the 10yr Treasury (or T10, which drives these types of rates) and the spread between the T10 and the apartment rate fell with the spread dipping below 2%, coming this week at 1.929%:

Apartment Building Investment Loan Rates October 2014

The spread has been jumping up and down quite a bit as you can see, I think because initially the bank was going to try and hold the 4.5% minimum rate and they let the spread go out to 2.25 as the T10 continued to fall from the middle of September. Note also that this volatility came with Read more

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Apartment Building Investors: Everything You Need To Know About AZ Water Rights, Parts 1, 2 & 3

UPDATE Oct. 14: See below for Part 3-

UPDATE Sept. 24: See below for Part 2-

Apartment building investment broker ABI Multifamily’s Research Director, Thomas M. Brophy is out with part 1 of a pretty in-depth ‘overview’ of water rights in Arizona this week (Part 1 of 3). This is important not just because most of AZ is a desert (duh) but because Phoenix is expected to grow by the size of Denver over the next twenty-five years (See Phoenix population to add 2.6 million by 2040, housing supply not keeping up). They’re going to need a lot more apartments but  the biggest limiting factor will be the ability to provide water for that many new tenants.

Water rights critical for Arizona apartment building investors

Source: ABI Multifamily.

Brophy begins with the background so that as the story unfolds we will understand how things got to be the way they are, and most importantly, how to make sure your residents aren’t walking to the town well every morning with a big jug on their heads. Not light reading but it just might give you an edge- See part 1 here: The Motions, Notions and Commotions of Water!  Part 1: Arizona Water, an Overview.

Water Rights for AZ apartment building investors

Source: ABI Multifamily

Part 2 is Read more

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CA Retirment Plan Commits Additional $2 Billion to Apartment Builidng Investments.

September 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Commercial Real Estate, Multifamily Investments 

Updated 1:46pm Correction: Updated to reflect that CalPERS is only shutting down its hedge fund investments, not its private equity placements. See Calpers Is Done With Hedge Funds; Paid $135 Million in Fees Last Year for 7.1% Return at Bloomberg.com

Was just on a call this morning with Peter Linneman, Chief Economist at NAI Global where they were discussing CalPERS’ decision to eliminate their investments in hedge funds. That hasn’t had any effect on their apartment building investments however [Or has it in a positive way?]. While I was on the call I received a note from PERE announcing that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest public pension plan in the US has committed more than S2,000,000,000 additional funds to multifamily investments during meetings this past July:

  • $1.33 billion to Institutional Multifamily Partners, seeking multifamily acquisition and development opportunities throughout the US.
  • $412.79 million to a partnership with Invesco Real Estate for core apartment properties in the West and Midwest.
  • $200 million went to a joint venture with Pacific Urban Residential for Class B multifamily assets in the western US.
  • Note that the 200M was in addition to the 214M committed when the JV was formed in January this year.
  • A less than $100M commitment to apartment lender and asset manager Centerline Holding which is now owned by Hunt.

All this was part of a 6.6B commitment to commercial real estate joint ventures, one of the largest single month investments made by the $300 Billion retirement plan. For the details see CalPERS commits $6.6bn to RE on PERE. Note: registration may be required.

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Increase NOI at Your Apartment Building with Fannie Mae’s Energy Star Findings

Fannie Mae launched their Energy Star program for apartment building investors by releasing their study on utility use. The report, called Transforming Multifamily Housing: Fannie Mae’s Green Initiative and ENERGY STAR for Multifamily (PDF). It’s loaded with great info on reducing energy and water use as well as stats on use broken up by unit, square foot and region. They also talk about their Green Preservation Plus loans which combined with certified Green Buildings they have financed $130 million in loans on as of Q1 2014. But let’s cut to the chase, key findings [Emphasis mine]:

  • On average, a 100,000 square foot property spends $125,000 on energy and $33,000 on water annually.
  • If this property saved 15% on energy and water costs, it would increase asset value by almost $400,000, at a 6% cap rate.
  • The least efficient properties use over three times as much energy and six times as much water per square foot as the most efficient properties.
  • When owners paid for all energy costs, median annual energy use was 26% higher than when tenants paid for them.
  • High-rise properties use almost 10% more energy per square foot than low-rise properties
  • Properties in the West use almost 50% more water per square foot compared to properties in the Northeast.

Clearly reducing common area utility costs and getting tenants to pay for their own use are the two of the best ways to improve Net Operating Income (NOI) and they have a nice graphic showing  just how to do that:

Reducing Utility Costs on Apartment Building Investments raises NOI

It’s an interesting finding that buildings in the West use Read more

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