…a community manager may occasionally resist a rate increase for a long-time resident or one who has become valued over the years. Business is business, however.
“When they start to say, ‘Oh, Mrs. Johnson has been here six years,’ we try to get them away from the emotional aspect of pricing,” he said. “We say if we really wanted to lift our rents and maximize our revenue, we have to make some tough decisions, and some people who can’t afford it may have to move out.” [Emphasis Mine]
As owners, operators and property managers who doesn’t love getting top dollar rents?
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.
Back in February we posted an Axiometrics chart plotting the revenue growth vs. job growth in leading apartment investment markets in the US. They were out last week with an updated chart but not just in the way we might think since the numbers are Axiometrics’ 2013 forecasts for revenue and job growth updated through May this year. To me the real ‘update’ is that they reversed the axises on the chart and I think it makes more sense laid out this way:
Scott Bassin, EVP and head of multifamily for PNC Real Estate says single family rentals will only marginally impact apartment building investment because there is a certain group of people who want or need single family homes, and everyone else. See his comments in the Globe St. video from the NMHC Apartment Strategies Conference in Palm Springs.
The Fiscal Times had a piece the other day reviving the good old rent vs. buy meme. The new angle was that Zillow has updated its method for comparing the costs of renting and the costs of buying and uses it to produce what it calls a ‘Breakeven Horizon.’ Besides sounding vaguely like the title of an old sci-fi movie, beyond the breakeven horizon is where buying a home makes more sense than renting and in theory the less time to the horizon, the more the market is tilted towards buying.
Now I have to admit I was intrigued with the thought that Zillow had re-examined their methodology because as I have written about earlier, their previous calculation ignored the real costs of maintenance, repairs and saving up for replacing big expensive things like the roof, the furnace and the driveway and that is a pretty big chunk of money over time. Industry figures for repairs and maintenance on single family housing run from one to three percent of the home value. Have a look at the chart* below to see how much a relatively modest 1.5% adds up to over time.
Dividend Capital’s Q3 Market Cycle Monitor Report is out and naturally I looked at the apartment building investment cycle chart first. Specifically these days I’m looking to see where the author, Glenn R. Mueller Ph.D. has placed the Seattle market in the cycle.
From their latest National Monthly Trends report: Class C properties took the lead for annual effective rent growth in August. Class A properties had been the leader in that category as the apartment market improved over the past few years, but the Class A annual growth rate slowed from 4.73% in May to 3.70% in August. Why has the growth rate slowed so much in just the past few months? Is it tied to job growth, which weakened in May? Is the first wave of new supply starting to impact performance as we show new apartment deliveries nationally jumping from about 13,000 in the first quarter to over 17,000 in the second quarter and 25,000 in the third quarter? Or is it simply because a $75 increase this year is not as big of a relative change as it was a year ago since the denominator in the rent growth equation keeps getting larger? The answer is likely due partially to all three situations, but the weighting of each factor can vary by market. However, new supply could play an even larger role next year than it will this year.
Saw a very interesting piece by Daniel Cunningham, President of Leonard Property Management on how revenue management for apartment building investments might already have seen its best days of growing revenues. Dan compares it to what’s happening to other industries such as airline travel and hotels where consumers can quickly see all the pricing for all the competitors in the market or product they’re searching. With Craigslist and some patience renters can do that now Dan says. See the short to the point article here.