Wednesday, August 05, 2009

BRE Properties: Rents to Decline well into 2010

by Bill McBride on 8/05/2009 01:14:00 PM

"I think it is shaping up there is another leg down in terms of market rents and effective rents and that will be somewhere late this year or early [next] year where I think all the operators will move their rents down to basically handle the late stage of this recession."
BRE CEO, Aug 5, 2009
BRE is an apartment REIT in the West. Here are some comments from their conference call (hat tip Brian):
“In our market footprint non farm jobs have decreased almost 800,000 or 5% year-over-year. We feel we are at the midpoint of the market cycle. Operating fundamentals will continue to be challenged until jobs stabilize. Past recession patterns and current forecast [suggest this will be] 15 to 18 months after GDP stabilizes, currently expected in the third or fourth quarter this year.

... our current views have not changed from the start of the year, specifically the rent curve should continue to decline well into 2010. Cumulative rent loss may be double digits and pricing power will not return until jobs turn positive which may be late 2010.

On the disposition front, we were successful in selling the two Sacramento assets that were classified as held for sale. One community sale occurred in June and the second in July generating growth proceeds of 65 million. The cap rate was 8.5%. ...

This environment calls to mind the Churchhill comment,”if you are going through hell, keep going.”

... we believe we are halfway through a tough two-year period for rents and operations.

Occupancy at the end of the second quarter was 95%, we are slightly north of that today. We have two positive variables available to us, higher traffic and favorable renewal rates.

... market rent in our communities is down 4% year-over-year and down 6% since September. Essentially all the market decline was realized during the end of the year in the first quarter. Rents have been flat since the end of March. Effective rents are down almost 9% from peak levels in '08.
..
Concessions and/or discount pricing are prevalent in all operating markets, available from private and public operators. Whether you call it a concession or effective rent, discounts are available. In this environment the customer is focused on the check writing experience so the concession is taking the form of the recurring discount off the monthly rent. ...

Historically we haven't used concessions. In most of our markets, they weren't necessary. They are proving useful [today] on two fronts. One, we needed to recover the occupancy line [in Q2] and wanted some immediate velocity. This proved successful. The concessions are also helping where we go from here. There is another leg down from people with job losses. Our view is to pick the appropriate time in each market to adjust rents and at that time begin to reduce concessions. The objective is to reduce concessions and discount at some point by the second half in 2010.
...
Renewals are running 55%. We don't lose many tenants to other properties, about 3%. Move outs to home purchases are running 8.5% down from 16% a year ago. Jobs are the drivers for move outs. If we combine job transfer, job loss, relocation, personal reasons and financial problems, these five factors total 30% of move out activity. Unscheduled move outs, evictions and skips are another 9%.

There remains a fairly healthy rent to own gap in our Orange County, Seattle and San Diego markets, in LA where there is virtually no and the Inland Empire is negative 15 to 20%. Phoenix is negative 5% and Denver has a positive rent to own gap.
...
Analyst: I'm trying to specifically narrow down what is going to cause another 5% [decline in rents] in an environment where job losses are decreasing?

BRE: We expect there to be continued sequential declines in job growth in all of our markets through at least the midpoint of 2010. Right now the economy.com forecast is showing that you go from negative sequential declines to a point of stabilization to a beginning of modest job growth through 2010 and into ' 11. We are using that forecast and erring on the side of conservatism. We are still [expecting] another leg down in rents. In February when we gave our comments we said we thought '09-'10 would be a two-year decline in a range of 10 to 15%. I think that's still where we are today. If it is not there, we will be thrilled and happy not to cut the rents all the way down. Right now I think it is shaping up there is another leg down in terms of market rents and effective rents and that will be somewhere late this year or early [next] year where I think all the operators will move their rents down to basically handle the late stage of this recession.
emphasis added
This matches the data from the NMHC apartment market tightness survey released yesterday.