Summer is at its height. Kids slip on waterslides in their blissfully green front lawns. The air is stiflingly thick with humidity. Last month, fireworks ravaged the sky. And just about that same time, the annual “State of the Nation's Housing” report by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies came across my desk.
As ho-hum as the dog days themselves, right? Well, not exactly. The study had a few thought provokers. For instance, the report found that renter households grew by 1.2 million from 2004 to 2006, more than making up for losses in 2002 to 2004. Pretty interesting, I thought, but taken in light of the subprime debacle of the last few years, it may not be such a good sign for the economy as a whole. (Check out MFE Senior Editor Chris Wood's story this month on the impact of sub-prime lending, Tipping Point.)
Still, the bottom line is that the number of renters is on the rise, and you can probably clock the time it will take for rents to inch upward and “no vacancy” signs to appear throughout city centers.
Does that mean it's time to build new apartment communities? Possibly, if you follow the money trail. The 11th annual World Wealth Report, published by Merrill Lynch in June, noted that high net worth individuals have increased their investment in real estate—specifically in commercial and mixed-use markets, as well as REITs.
Still, one developer I recently spoke with says that antidevelopment attitudes, especially around apartments, are increasing nationwide. “Most communities have had their fill of development, and on top of that, they're just flat out not interested any-more in higher-density or affordable housing properties,” he said. As a result, he thinks that despite strong investment, it might be difficult to garner support for certain projects in the coming years.
What happened? It seems that only two years ago, civic leaders were scrambling over one another to bring the next great real estate Mecca to their citizens. The mixed-use complex that one town promoted couldn't compare to the transit-oriented condo community down the highway. Why did the multifamily industry fail to make that positive energy last longer than the land frenzy? Or is it that “bad” development draws attention while well executed urban projects get slighted by the media?
I don't purport to know the answers to these questions, but I do believe the industry needs to consider its next move with caution. Whether you're managing a property that's filled to capacity or pitching downtown Los Angeles' next residential haven, pause and take a look around. What are your competitors doing? Where are the market trends? What is the state of housing today? This summer's research reports are just one of many places to start.
The reality is that the for-sale real estate market has chilled, and the hot rental market presents its own challenges. It will take the energy of the entire industry to navigate these changes. I, for one, will spend the last days of summer—lemonade in hand—keeping a watchful eye on what happens next.
Shabnam Mogharabi, Editor
VIVA LAS VEGAS Register now for MFEC 2007
The subprime fallout, surviving a housing slump, the future of the market—these heady topics and more will be explored at the 2007 MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE Conference. Held Oct. 2-4, 2007, at The Venetian Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, the program will focus on “Valuable Pursuits.” During informative sessions and events, industry leaders will share ways to enhance your portfolio, people and performance. For a detailed program, visit www.mfeconference.com. Act now—early bird registration ends Monday, Aug. 20, 2007. Hotel reservations must be made by 5 p.m. EST on Friday, Sept. 7, 2007, to ensure a discounted rate. See you there!