Being part of the massive Prudential Financial used to give Damian Manolis, managing director at Prudential Real Estate Investors, some basic certainties with his job. For instance, since he's part of Prudential, he didn't usually have to field calls from jittery investors wondering how the massive insurer was doing.
Then, AIG failed. The troubles of investment banks, the buyouts of large commercial banks, and the government bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, leaves many wary of large companies. "No one would have asked about Prudential up until three months ago," Manolis said at the "Luck of the Draw" panel at the 2008 Multifamily Executive Conference.
But the world has changed, and the problems on the capital markets are leaving many investors reeling. They've mainly stopped investing any new money and are nervous about the capital they've already put into apartment funds. For instance, pension funds, which once had a voracious appetite for multifamily deals, are now dealing with their asset values falling so far that they're suddenly overweighed in real estate.
Other investors have just grown scared. "Investors ask about our balance sheet," says Ted Koros, managing director of BlackRock.
Jon Lotter, CEO of Appian Capital, a lender that provides mezzanine financing, sees much of the same thing. "Our investors are reassessing everything they had taken for granted," he said.
Still, some of the panelists have been able to amass cash for future deals. BlackRock has a fund to buy distressed single-family land. Camden Property Trust just wrapped up a $375 million fund.
But even with that money, it's hard to make deals right now. With interest rates moving, uncertainty over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the possibility of distressed assets eventually hitting the market at big discounts, it's hard to see where many apartment deals make sense right now. "The challenge is underwriting and making the numbers work," says Laurie Baker, vice president of fund management for Camden.