It’s been a common question as the apartment recovery matured: When will cap rates stop falling in the so-called “sexy six” markets of New York, Boston, Washington, Los Angeles, Northern California, and Seattle?
Well, if you guessed the first half of 2014, you were wrong.
In its “Apartment Mid-Year Review,” New York-based firm Real Capital Analytics (RCA) reported that cap rates fell to 4.4 percent in the second quarter, equaling the historic low established in the second half of 2006. For mid- and high-rise properties, yields came in at 3.9 percent after they blew past previous lows in 2013. So much for fears cap rates were getting too low in the gateway markets.
“There is so much capital pouring into those big six markets that even if many investors are concerned about valuations, there are plenty of investors still competing fiercely for those properties that the investors with concerns have passed on,” says Ben Thypin, director of market analysis at RCA.
While volume increased in secondary and tertiary markets, average and top quartile yields for garden properties in non-major metro areas have actually gone up in 2013. Overall, garden cap rates came in below 6.5 percent and mid- and high-rise cap rates were below 5 percent.
Soultana Reigle, managing director for Prudential Real Estate Investors says concerns about exit strategies are part of the caution institutional investors have in these markets. But she is still investigating secondary markets like Pittsburgh.
“If you reach out into the second tier, you can find better yields,” Reigle says.
Prudential certainly isn’t alone in its institutional interest in secondary markets.
“We made strategic decision to do a fund primarily doing multifamily and retail in secondary markets,” says Ron Miller, director of acquisitions for Invesco Real Estate. “But we’re still very active in core markets. We have core funds with a lot of core clients.”
Overall, Philadelphia, Portland, and Baltimore climbed the highest in RCA’s list of top apartment markets (by volume) in the first half of the year. Markets that were in major metros, but not downtown, like the New York boroughs (as opposed to Manhattan) and Orange County, Calif., (as opposed to Los Angeles) also jumped in the rankings.
“There’s definitely a shift to secondary markets, especially those within large metro areas,” Thypin says.
But the biggest spikes in first-half volume were in places like Colorado Springs, Tallahassee, Pittsburgh, Tulsa and Birmingham. “Investors are now going out to compete in secondary markets,” Thypin says.
While cap rates haven’t reflected this increased competition yet, Thypin thinks as interest heats up, cap rates will eventually fall.
“I would be surprised in six months or a year if cap rates weren’t going down in these markets,” he says.