Investor interest in core markets has been intense since mid-2009, leading to rabid bidding wars and ever-higher price tags.
But in some ways, the “sexy six” markets—New York; Boston; Washington, D.C.; the Bay Area; Southern California; and Seattle—have run their collective course. Capitalization rates have gone so low in those areas, declining to and, in some cases, outpacing their pre-recession lows, that a growing list of investors is searching for yield in less-celebrated cities.
“If all the money flows into the sexy six, either not everyone will get fed, or people will get fed but won’t like the meal,” says Mike Kavanau, senior managing director in the Chicago office of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler. “At the end of last year, we saw cap rates back up a little in the core markets—they can only go so low before people start to look at secondary markets.”
With the exception of Manhattan, where cap rates fell 100 basis points (bps) last year, the nation’s core markets saw little, if any, cap-rate compression. In fact, the average cap rate increased in Boston and San Francisco.
The markets that saw the biggest uptick in value last year include Austin, Nashville, Palm Beach, and Detroit. They may not be sexy, exactly, but these markets have outperformed the nation’s top markets in some key ways.
Austin saw the most dramatic improvement, with a 42 percent rise in price per unit over the year before. Nashville has also risen in the ranks—average price per unit jumped 18 percent in the Music City last year. Another standout was Palm Beach, which saw its average price per unit rise 18 percent. Still, of the top 10 markets with the most downward cap-rate movement last year, half of them were from the Midwest. Following Detroit were Kansas City, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, which all saw at least 100 bps of compression last year.