The Strange Tale of the Seattle Apartment Building Investment Cycle and Maybe Yours Too.
Back in 2012 it appeared that Seattle’s movement through the real estate cycle was stalling out. Not the actual market by any stretch of the imagination but instead where it was placed on the apartment market cycle charts in the Cycle Monitor report from Dividend Capital Research. These quarterly reports on the real estate market cycles for the five main Commercial Real Estate (CRE) sectors in more than fifty markets around the US were widely followed but something was wrong.
Why this up to date market data is vitally important to your investment success:
Well Integra Realty Resources (IRR) is just out with their 2015 Viewpoint Report covering where they think things are and where they might be headed in the five major sectors of Commercial Real Estate (CRE); office, industrial, retail, multifamily and hospitality… as well as a bonus piece on self-storage. IRR is one of the largest independent commercial real estate appraisal firms in the U.S and this is their 25th annual IRR Viewpoint in the fifteen year history of the company according to their chairman in his introduction. Not sure on the math there but I do have their reports going back to 2002.
In the report they cover cap rates, going-in cap rates, discount rates, yields, reversion rates and much more but the first thing I look at is their market cycle chart for the multifamily sector:
So IRR has an idea of where your apartment market is, provided your market is in one of the sixty plus places where they have an office. The big question is do you agree with their placement? It is very important to review the data and form your own idea on this because there are good reasons to doubt Continue reading Do You Know Where Your Apartment Market Is Right Now?
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:
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:
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:
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)
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-
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.
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).
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.
In many top US markets the supply of office space has not just been stagnant, it’s actually been shrinking and apartment building investors have been the beneficiaries.
In a CoStar piece out today entitled Didn’t That Used to Be an Office Building? they list a couple big advantages of converting office space to apartments: Office working residents are close to work, and there’s great access to public transportation. How many people who spend hours a day sitting on the freeway would like the option to park the car all week?
If you combine the residential and mixed use portions of the chart below, 56% of the office conversions/demolitions are going to apartments:
The rate on the 10yr fixed (30yr amortization) apartment building loan we track stayed in the 5.0-5.1% range for the second week while the spread to the 10yr Treasury remained in the 240 area, still lower than the 2013 average of 264: