This morning, I spoke with a friend in the Phoenix area whose company is a major distributor of residential building materials, and you know what he said about all the sudden buzz of an incipient housing recovery?
"I wish they'd stop saying it."
For the past couple of years, the housing economy, and even the broader economy to some extent, has been acting like one of those Jekyll and Hyde teams that coaches agonize over how to get to play both halves of a game, right down to the buzzer.
People in the sector are human. They have downturn fatigue and want this thing over with once and for all, but at the same time, they've gone for the Fool's Gold recovery head-fakes twice now, and even die-hard optimists mightn't tend to allow themselves to be regarded as so stupid they'd fall for a decoy three times in a row.
For multifamily players, there are special challenges. The so-called juggernaut in multifamily is happening in a narrow swath of the business. But where and how strong it's happening is goosing the national benchmark numbers. Like so much else today, there's a sharp haves vs. have-nots polarization in the debt financing and equity investment area of multifamily housing, so it could be easy to mistake the entire lot in the "a-rising-tide-lifts-all-boats" sense.
That's a myth.
Picture, if you will, a campfire around which dozens of scouts sit, each with a marshmallow on a stick for toasting. Thing is, there's only heat in one little section of the campfire, so all the marshmallows push into that one little section where the embers are hot.
We're holding a conference that will raise challenges about why capital currently is working in a way similar to those scouts with marshmallows on spits. It's our Apartment Finance Today Meet the Money event, April 2-3 at the Four Seasons, Las Vegas. If you haven't checked it out, do.
An important issue here ties to having a good back half of 2012 and to the 1 percent versus the other 99 percent of the players in the multifamily industry. That issue is that in real estate it can be very risky if too many people act and spend in a risk-averse way.
In other words, when a finite number of investment opportunities represent the "supply" and an outsized amount of investable income, ravenous for yield wants in to one of them because they qualify along a relatively constrained set of criteria, an imbalance happens.
At our Meet the Money event in just under a couple of weeks, we're going to raise a bunch of the right questions about that imbalance, and pose some challenges around multifamily players, among "the other 99 percent," can do their part to relieve investors and lenders of some of the risk of their shared risk-aversion.
Meanwhile, what do you make of the prospects for rent strength, sustainable momentum, and a broader swath of equity investment and lender interest for strong, non-core multifamily projects in the second half of 2012?