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.
The NAHB is out this morning with a chart that gives some perspective on apartment building investment starts. The Census Bureau reported 285,000 unit starts in October for 5+ unit buildings. At that rate it looks like we’re just returning to what was a sustainable level of starts in the ’97-’06 period.
Tom Barrack of Colony Capital on what’s really happening in US real estate from an investor’s perspective. The clearest, most cogent look at the state of commercial, multifamily and single family markets today and where the opportunities are. The first five and a half minutes is about Europe and the bottom line there is don’t but after that it is all gold. If Tom wanted to be one of those real estate ‘gurus’ he could package this video with a big notebook and some advertising and sell it for $10,000- and it would be better than any of the other stuff out there. And you get it for free. I’ve watched three times and get an extra little nugget each time.
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.
In a piece called Positioning for a Housing Recovery PIMCO says that the risks to housing have been overstated and while prices may continue to fall there are opportunities in the mispricing of that risk. They believe that the risk of the 11 million underwater home loans all becoming delinquent and going into foreclosure is much lower than most think. They also point out that the record low interest rates have created housing demand from large institutions (Like PIMCO, and individual investors too) searching for positive returns.
One of the opportunities they list is in apartment building investment, either through equity (owning) or debt (loaning). However they pass over multifamily in favor of REOs-to-rentals and distressed housing debt. It’s ironic that they would favor buying large numbers of single family homes to rent because the logistical nightmare of the scattered homes is what drives most real estate investors to apartments and other commercial real estate. The convenience of having 10, 20, even 200 units or more at one location on a single property on top of the economies of scale available make owning multifamily a much better investment.
While they do acknowledge the challenge of REOs-to-Rentals:
However, investors must be mindful of the operational complexity and illiquidity of a single-family rental portfolio. Managing a nationally diversified portfolio of rental properties presents unique challenges of surveillance and scaling, and procedures for maintenance and leasing must be designed to help protect earnings.
… Somehow that doesn’t lead them to picking multifamily investment. Are you a real estate investor who started out in single family properties and moved on to apartment buildings? We would love to hear your story-
“Even compared to a healthy and expanding nationwide market, multifamily in the Pacific Northwest is seeing exceptionally strong gains. A growing renter population and accelerating job growth have helped solidify cities like Portland and Seattle as cornerstones of the apartment industry, and the positive trends show no sign of letting up.” So begins a glowing report in the latest digital edition of MHN Magazine (On page 22). What’s not to like about an article like that, especially one with a cover shot as beautiful as the one in this article? Below is just a portion of it and Photoshopped or not it is something to behold.
In May we posted an article Top 10 US Cities for new apartment building permits where Seattle came in sixth in new apartment building units permitted. Now a new list is out from Axiometrics with a breakdown by submarket and Seattle’s Downtown/Capitol Hill/Queen Anne submarket lands at number two with almost 4,000 units due to come on line in the near future.