Seattle’s Strange Trip Through the Apartment Building Investment Cycle Part II
In part I we saw that some of the most widely followed market cycle research can’t be relied on without question. If knowing where we are in the market cycle is the most important thing (and not everyone agrees, see the comments from one of my private equity guys about that under part I here) then the best solution is probably to chart the cycles for the markets we’re investing in ourselves. If you’re in multiple CRE sectors in a lot of markets hopefully you have someone on your team or can hire a consultant (like Ashworth) to chart those cycles.
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:
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.
…. “Only six markets advanced their position on the [Dividend Capital Apartment Market] cycle chart.” Once again with the notable exception of Seattle who has left in the basement of the cycle despite overwhelming evidence that it has moved well up in the cycle by his own definition. See my post from last quarter detailing the definitions and why Seattle’s apartment building investment cycle location according to Dr. Mueller is incorrect here. For other cities have a look and let me know if your markets are accurately placed:
In their latest apartment building permitting report Axiometrics says: “permitting increased 44.3% or 84,308 units from the January 2012 figure of 274,640 units.” This is very near the long term average of 280,000 units, see the chart:
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.