This year, real-estate investment trusts, or REITs, are expected to start close to $1 billion in new multifamily projects, according to real-estate research firm Green Street Advisors. While that still is less than average, it is a significant increase over the $100 million of development starts in 2009.
Analysts caution that the increase in construction doesn't mean there has been an improvement in the business. Apartment vacancy is at a record and unemployment, essential to the sector's health, remains elevated.
But operators are betting that limited new supply, combined with an improving economy, will lead to ideal market conditions nationwide starting in 2011 or 2012. From then until 2015, "apartment REITs may generate the best property net operating income growth that they've seen in a very long time, maybe ever," said Haendel St. Juste, a REIT analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.
To be sure, there are risks. Given the multiyear construction window, companies have to start now to be ready in time. If the economy weakens further and recovery is delayed, landlords may be forced to keep rents low or offer free rent to get leases signed.
"There's an element of risk," said Andrew McCulloch, an analyst with Green Street. "But if you were to go back a year, the outlook is much more clear today. Their confidence level in that eventual recovery is much higher."
Owners said the rent declines appear to have bottomed out in some areas and concessions are moderating.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Rebound beginning in apartment complex construction
Real estate investment trusts are betting on an eventual economic recovery by starting construction on more apartment complexes: