Q4 2015 Apartment Trends

Strong Profit Growth Keeps Apartments as Favored Property Type

Apartment property performance in 2015 continued to outperform even the strong performance seen in 2014 and 2013, according to the latest financial data collected on thousands of multifamily complexes. And the net operating income performance for the property sector may still head higher.

The combined 2015 net operating income at nearly 5,900 conventional multifamily complexes reporting year-end numbers totaled $8.16 billion, according to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac data collected through April and analyzed by CoStar Group. Those complexes contained 1.16 million apartment units — consequently representing NOI per unit of $7,044.

CoStar analyzed property-level data on collateral backing loans securitized by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Since conventional multifamily properties make up the bulk of that collateral, student, senior and manufactured housing was excluded from this analysis.

For the nearly 4,800 units that reported full-year NOIs for the last two consecutive years, NOI/unit increased 5.2% year over year. Those properties represented nearly 914,000 units. The 2015 increase outpaced growth in 2014 and 2013 of 4.09% and 5.01%, respectively, according to separate research conducted by Wells Fargo Securities.

Multifamily properties securitized in CMBS conduit offerings appeared to be faring even better posting year-over-year NOI gains of 7%, according to Wells Fargo Securities.

Priciest Properties Appear to Lead Increase

The year-over-year increase seems to be a top-down phenomenon. For multifamily properties with 2015 NOI/unit of $5,000 or more (about 607,400 units), the annual NOI increase came in at an average of 5.9%, according to CoStar analysis.

In properties where the 2015 NOI/unit was anything less than $5,000 (about 310,300 units), the annual NOI increase came in at an average of 4.4%.

By apartment complex size, the largest complexes of more than 500 units posted the lowest increase in NOI of just 4%. Apartment complexes ranging from 100 to 500 units appeared to be a ‘sweet spot’ for NOI, posting NOI increases of 6.1%. Smaller complexes of less than 100 units posted NOI of 4.9%.

NOI decreases were reported for 216,930 units, which account for about 24% of units reporting NOIs for the last two years. And only five properties totaling 433 units reported NOI losses for 2015.

Occupancy Flattened Out

The average annual physical occupancy for the reporting properties was static coming in at 94.3% for both 2015 and 2014.

In total, nearly 40% of the properties reporting physical occupancy for the last two consecutive years reported decreases in occupancy. Those properties represented 402,838 units, about 44% of units.

Notably, however, profitability continued to grow even as occupancy declined. Net operating incomes shrunk in less than 30% of the properties reporting occupancy declines. Overall NOIs in those properties grew year over year by $128 million.

Also, judging by recent performance at the newly opened properties, there is still strong demand for multifamily units. Of the properties reporting, 205 of them containing 7,585 units were newly constructed in 2014. At year-end 2015, their average occupancy was 94.2%. Additionally, properties delivered in 2013 were reporting 2015 occupancy of 94.7%.

“The occupancy and NOI findings from Freddie and Fannie are not surprising, as they are consistent with what we’ve experienced within our own multifamily portfolio,” said Yvana Rizzo, senior vice president of asset management for Resource Real Estate in Philadelphia, which owns and manages a portfolio of real estate investments with an aggregate value in excess of $3 billion, including approximately 25,000 apartment units.

“NOI growth has been driven by a top line increase in rents, which is simply a result of the powerful supply/demand dynamic in this sector,” Rizzo added. “We’re still very optimistic about current state of the apartment market and the favorable imbalance of demand over supply. This trend is being driven by a shift in people’s preference towards renting over homeownership.”

High rental demand is coming from Millennials, the middle-class workforce and retiring boomers, she said.

Multifamily Remains Q1 Growth Leader

Estimating NOI based on changes in rent and estimated expenses for the entire apartment sector nationally, CoStar Portfolio Strategy, the company’s analytics group, is projecting that NOI growth for the multifamily sector this year will outpace last year.

Actual quarterly NOI growth in the first quarter of 2016 came in at 2.94%. CoStar is projecting that NOI will increase in each of the next four quarters peaking at 5.22% in the first quarter of next year. This would be the best performing period on record for apartments since the last market peak in 2007.

NOI growth is expected to begin to taper off quarterly in the second quarter of 2017 and decline slightly each quarter through 2020, the last year of the current projection.

Apartment property price growth has also been strong. CoStar’s April 2016 Multifamily Repeat Sale Index expanded 0.8% in the first quarter of 2016 and 9.9% in the 12-month period ending in March 2016. These were the strongest quarterly and annual rates among the four major property types.

Multifamily remains the only U.S. property index to have regained its pre-recession peak, ending the first quarter of 2016 18.8% above its previous high level in 2007. Notably, the CCRSI’s Prime Multifamily Metros Index has skyrocketed to 44.9% above 2007 levels.

While an unprecedented pipeline of new supply is beginning to exert pressure on multifamily fundamentals nationally, vacancy rates remained relatively tight at 4.4% in the first quarter of 2016.

Softening on the Horizon

Nationally, the outlook for the multifamily sector for the rest of this year is for some softening of rent fundamentals, according to Fannie Mae economists.

Rent growth has been exceptionally strong since 2011. It has remained in the 3% range over the past two years. The expectation for 2016 is that rent growth will once again be positive, but that it will ease slightly into the 2.5% to 3% range due mainly to a large amount of new supply should come online in 2016.

Fannie Mae expects much of the new supply will be concentrated in about 12 metros. There is approximately 330,000 apartment units expected to be constructed this year, according to CoStar data. About 48% of those units are expected to be delivered in these 12 markets:

Market Name — Number of Units

Houston — 27,553
Dallas/Ft Worth — 21,038
Washington, DC — 12,310
Long Island — 11,806
Atlanta — 10,282
Northern New Jersey — 10,004
South Florida — 9,957
Austin — 9,696
Charlotte — 8,806
Chicago — 8,535
Denver — 8,488
Nashville — 7,741

“As an investment, we feel multifamily makes sense as long as investors are selective and focus on the right product in the right markets,” Resource’s Rizzo said. “We think the best opportunities are in the older, existing Class B communities that are ripe for rehabilitation. Ideally they are located in suburban communities with employment growth and strong schools.”

“Not only are these desirable areas to live but they are places where it is extremely difficult to build new supply. High-end, Class A, luxury apartments make up the majority of new construction. They are expensive and tend to be located in urban areas,” she added.

Source: CoStar Mark Heschmeyer May 12, 2016

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