Over the years, REITWeek: NAREIT's Investor Forum has supplied a leading indicator of sorts for industry performance as the biggest, most transparent companies in the industry gather a couple of months into peak leasing season and tell investors and analysts what they’re seeing. Here’s what came to the forefront last week, according to the analysts covering the events:
Things Are Still Good
Some analysts came into the event expecting some hesitation from REIT executives, especially in light of the slight slowdown late last year. That didn’t happen.
“Virtually across the board, the tone was very positive,” says Paula Poskon, a senior research analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. “It’s not that different from what we’ve been hearing the last couple of years at NAREIT. A couple of management teams said fundamentals are excellent and whenever new supply begins to kick in, things will go from excellent to still pretty good.”
The commentary made quite an impression on Poskon. Her firm was planning to temper its rent growth expectations for 2013 and 2014, but that may change. “That’s clearly too conservative a view given what we heard from management teams,” she says.
The strong rental market, combined with their superior access to capital has allowed REITs to shuffle their portfolios and resize their footprints over the past few years.
UDR’s push into the New York market continues and Cleveland-based Associated Estates (AEC) continues to lessen its reliance on the Midwest by selling its Western Michigan properties. In the first quarter, it also made its first moves into Los Angeles and Raleigh Durham, where it bought 549 units for $74 million, according to New York–based investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill + Partners. Now, fewer than 50 percent of the company’s properties are in its home region, according to Poskon.
Sandler expects continued growth for AEC in Raleigh and possiblly other areas. “AEC is looking at more off-market deals in Southern California, but stated that future development projects in these areas may be through joint ventures,” the firm said in its report. “The company expects to have no more than three developments underway at once, with the next round already being filled with Dwell Turtle Creek [Dallas], Dwell Bethesda [Bethesda, Md.], and The Desmond on Wilshire [Los Angeles].”
After it saw Lehman Brothers maintain control of Archstone, CEO David Neithercut says its business as usual at Chicago-based Equity Residential, according to REIT.com
"So, today, we just go back to what we've been doing the last 10 years, and that's selling assets in non-core markets and taking that capital and trying to reallocate it in the markets we're trying to focus on," he said in the REIT.com story.
Later in the article, Neithercut said the company had seen an uptick in move out for home purchases in markets like Florida and was adjusting its portfolio appropriately by trying to reduce its exposure in some of those areas.
Rehab on the Rise
REIT’s continue to see opportunity in development. Houston-based Camden Property Trust has invested $550 million in refurbishing approximately 3,000 units, REIT.com reports. The company currently has a pipeline backlog of approximately $500 million. Arlington, Va.,-based AvalonBay Communities is refurbishing properties to fit into its two new brands.
Palo Alto, Calif.,-based Essex Property Trust had been successful buying failed condo projects. With that well essentially dry, it’s looking more at its core competency of purchasing value-add opportunities. “Essex wanted to own B assets in A locations and isn’t afraid of buying a C and turning it into a B plus,” Poskon says.