Despite a tough year for new development, operations seem to be holding steady. It will take focus and continued investment to maintain those levels going forward, said panelists at the "Taking Stock" session?which included Matthew Akin, senior vice president of acquisitions and dispositions at UDR; Stephanie Brock, central division president at Riverstone Residential Group;and nis Smillie is the President of Multifamily Solutions?at the 2008 Mutlifamily Executive Conference this week.
"Probably where I see the most change is where someone has a value-add plan and continues that instead of switching to a sales strategy," Brock said. Renovations no longer make much sense in going from a Class B to Class A property or from a Class A to Class A+ property. But it does make sense for going from a Class C to a Class B property.
In terms of good and badk markets, Brock noted that she thinks Phoenix is bad, Denver is realistic, the Midwest is a stronger play, and "Austin scares me," adding that "it's almost a wait-and-see approach."
Akins discussed briefly UDR's $1.7 billion sale of 25,000 units earlier this spring. Sold at a 6.5 percent cap rate, the firm looked at five criteria to align the buyer's demands with its own. Today, he thinks the cap rate would have been higher.
Looking ahead, the panelists dished out a great deal of advice on the kinds of tech investments to make into portfolios and properties for the time being. Akins said it's important to focus on lead management. Brock, meanwhile, believes features such as a portfolio-wide, 24-hour call center are more important. "If you don't respond quickly in this market, you lose people. We are a 24/7 society," she added.