Rehabbing Historic Apartments and Mixed Use Commercial Buildings

Mixed Use Building Apartments over Retail, built 1904
The Daylight Building, built in 1904. Apartments over retail/office. Photo Credit: Western Washington University

Developer Bob Hall got his start buying an old building in a deteriorating downtown to house his import business. He didn’t know about due diligence, deferred maintenance or building codes and after having to refinance then sell his house to fund the required repairs swore he’d never buy another building… until he looked at his tax return. He was making more money renting out the extra space than the import business was pulling in… and he was hooked.

At the time Continue reading Rehabbing Historic Apartments and Mixed Use Commercial Buildings

Apartment & CRE Lending Today- great charts from MPF Research

Apartment Building Investment and Commercial Real Estate Lending Today
Click on image for full size.

Great set of charts on apartment building investment loans vs. CRE and development lending. If recency bias has you thinking bubble check in with the demographics which show millennials are the largest population group in the country and 30% of them are still in their parents’ basement. As they unbundle they’ll be looking for apartments but they’ll be competing with a lot of empty nest boomers too. Demographics is destiny.

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

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

ULI raises Commercial Real Estate price growth forecast including apartment buildings

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 ( on Amazon)

CA Retirment Plan Commits Additional $2 Billion to Apartment Builidng 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

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.

Apartment Building Investment Still Leads as CRE Prices Up 11% YoY in CoStar’s Repeat Sales Indexes

CoStar is out with their latest Commercial Repeat Sale Indices (CCRSI) showing that:

  • Commercial Real Estate prices post double-digit annual gains in May
  • Momentum picks up in the General Commercial segment
  • Improvements in market fundamentals underpin growth in commercial property pricing
  • Capital flows remain healthy
  • Distress levels continue to dissipate
  • See link for numbers and details-

Commercial Real Estate Up 11% YoY in May 2014

CoStar has been tracking the indexes of repeat commercial real estate sales since 1996. Note that the Value Weighted index is driven mostly by core properties while the Equal Weighted index is mostly driven by smaller, non-core property sales.

For apartment building investors the good news is that Continue reading Apartment Building Investment Still Leads as CRE Prices Up 11% YoY in CoStar’s Repeat Sales Indexes

Opportunities For Real Estate Investment Today by Tom Barrack of Colony Capital

Tom Barrack over at Colony Capital put up a nice presentation of where he sees the opportunities for real estate investment in the current market. While Colony is geared to serving their large institutional investors, those of us operating on a smaller scale can benefit from Tom’s insights as well.

My Exec Sum of the opportunities he sees that I think will impact smaller investors in North America (and my comments in parentheses):

  • Commercial and residential real estate are great investments today because equities and debt are mispriced and the economy is regaining its feet. (There will be competition however).
  • Distressed debt in the US is diminishing but they are continuing to resolve non-performing assets (which can create deals for long term holders as these turned around assets come back to the market).
  • Single family residential for rent housing is stabilizing and becoming a institutional asset class (which can provide exits for those who have built portfolios of these properties).
  • Mezzanine debt and what he calls ‘stretched senior debt’ is becoming more available for value add & opportunistic deals because institutional investors such as pension funds need the extra yield (it will be easier to finance turnaround commercial properties at higher LTVs).
Investment opportunities for commercial real estate investors in North America
Source: Tom Barrack at Colony Capital

Apartment Building Investment in 2014, opportunities among interesting times

Wrapping up in the office on this last day of 2013 and wanted to share some things that have been twitching my antennae lately:

How will the taper affect apartment builiding investment?
The Taper, actually a Malayan Tapir

While there’s been a lot of ink/bits spilled over a slight and possibly temporary ‘taper’ in the Fed’s bond buying spree known as QE to Infinity! the one thing they have been unequivocal about is their intention to hold interest rates low (read: near zero) for an extended period that has now been stretched out as far as 2017. Meanwhile ‘everyone knows’ interest rates are going up.

Which will prevail? The Fed has been pretty successful at forcing them down and holding them there for years, going on 14 if you start counting from the dot com crash. On the other hand if everyone knows rates are going up they will act accordingly and that will tend to push rates up, at least long rates which the Fed has less control over. For a very interesting take on how to deal with what ‘everyone knows that everyone knows’ see Ben Hunt on Epsilon Theory.

What does it mean for us as apartment investors? If ‘everyone’ is right Continue reading Apartment Building Investment in 2014, opportunities among interesting times

5 Key Trends from the ULI Report for Apartment Building Investors and Commercial Real Estate Pros

The Urban Land Institute/PriceWaterhouseCoopers annual report on Emerging Trends for Real Estate 2014 was released last week and apartment building investors and commercial real estate pros have some good things to look forward to next year. Note that this post refers to the Americas version of the report with separate sections on Canadian and Latin American markets but they also publish Asia-Pacific and European editions as well. This is the 35th edition of the report is it’s based on individual  interviews or surveys from more than 1,000 investors, fund managers, developers, property companies, lenders, brokers, advisers, and consultants.

Here are the 5 key trends we should all be aware of with my comments:

  • Survey participants continue to rank private direct real estate investment as having the best investment prospects. Pretty expected from this group but the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries (NCREIF) recently released its property performance index for the third quarter of 2013 and on a trailing 12-month basis, the index’s return was 11.0 percent, split about 50/50 between income and appreciation. A pretty nice return compared to fixed income rates and a much safer looking bet than buying equities at their all time highs.
  • Dependence on cap rate compression to drive value is being replaced by an emphasis on asset management. Especially in the 24 hour gateway markets apartment building cap rates are about as low as they can get (well until you look at Vancouver BC) so property performance has to come from actually making the property perform. You also have the problem of what to do with your proceeds if you do sell, as you would be reinvesting right back into the same cap rate market that you sold in… unless you changed to a higher cap rate sector, suburban strip centers anyone?
  • Opportunities to develop property are finally appearing in sectors other than multifamily. CBRE Econometrics had a piece out last week showing that large (> 350k sf) warehouse properties are being snapped up as fast as they’re being built. Maybe developers who moved over to doing apartments the last few years will move back to their home sectors and ease off on the new supply of multifamily units.
  • Value-added investment ranked highest in terms of investment strategy; distressed properties and distressed debt ranked last. We were licking our chops a few years ago waiting for RTC 2.0 fire sales to begin and while we were able take down some bank owned inventory, the anticipated tsunami of defaults on commercial loans never materialized. At this point most everything has been extended and pretended into performing status or sold off and so it’s back to making money the old fashion way: Finding and/or creating value.
  • Both equity investors and lenders are widening their search for business to include secondary markets and niche property types. This will be a double edged sword for investors who are focused on those secondary and tertiary markets as debt financing will be more available but there will also be more competition from sophisticated outsiders with deep pockets. The key will be to make them your buyers so dig in, find the right properties and tie them up quickly.

Emerging Trends Barometer for Apartment Building Investors and Commercial Real Estate 2014

As always with real estate, sectors and markets are so distinct from one another it’s almost pointless to generalize as the chart above attempts to do so next week I’ll dive into the apartment sector to see what gems they’ve unearthed. Meanwhile for the Continue reading 5 Key Trends from the ULI Report for Apartment Building Investors and Commercial Real Estate Pros