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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Multifamily: Rents Rising, Record low completions, Starts increasing rapidly, more "hate" for owning

by Calculated Risk on 4/28/2011 03:04:00 PM

Here are some conference call comments from AvalonBay Communities, Inc (ht Brian). AVB has close to 50,000 apartment units. We've discussed many of these key point:

• The percent of residents moving out to purchase a home was at 12%; an all time record low (we are starting to feel the "hate" for owning).

• A record low number of multifamily units will be completed this year. AVB mentions starts of around 150,000 units this year, and probably 240,000 units next year (for delivery in 2013 and 2014). There were just over 100,000 multifamily starts in 2010, so there will be a strong increase this year.

• Rents are increasing - around 7% year-over-year for leases expiring in June (this probably includes some concessions last year). AVB is seeing some push back (moveouts) due to higher rents, but not a large number - this might limit future rent increases.

AVB: The factors driving the improvement in apartment fundamentals are reasonably well known. Probably most visibly is an improving economy, now generating approximately 200,000 new jobs per month. It's both the magnitude and the composition of the jobs that matter and importantly, a disproportionate share of the new jobs created have been in the under 35 age cohort. Over the past year, job growth in the younger age group has been at a rate more than two times than that of the economy as a whole. With more jobs, they are increasingly unbundling. Secondly, corporate investment and equipment and software is rising at an annual rate of approximately 15% nationally, setting off strong job growth in our key high tech markets such as San Jose, Seattle, and Boston. Another key factor affecting rental demand is the continued weakness in the for sale market. Yesterday, the first quarter homeownership data was released, which showed the homeownership rate falling once again, now down to 66.5%. The weakness in the for sale market provides an obvious and direct benefit to the rental market, with households that are increasingly choosing to rent versus buy. As you know, we tracked the reasons for moveout, and during the first quarter, the percent of residents moving out to purchase a home fell to 12%, down from 15% last quarter, and is now at the lowest level since we began tracking this data. Historically -- low to mid 20% range. The increase in rental housing demand is being met by a sharp reduction in the supply of new apartments. Just to put this into perspective, over the 10-year period from 1998 through 2008, there's an average of about 240,000 new rental completions per year. Last year, there were 160,000. And this year, completions are expected to be below 80,000 units, which would make it a 50-year low. This level of new completions is actually less than the estimated annual loss due to obsolescence, meaning that we're seeing essentially a net zero increase in the stock at a time of strong demand. Recently there's been a fair amount of discussion regarding the likelihood of an increased volume of new apartment starts, and there's little doubt that the volume will increase, it's important to remember that we're coming off of a 50-year low. For 2011, third party estimates project new rental starts in the range of about 150,000 new units, which is substantially below the 10-year average of 240,000 I previously mentioned. New starts are not expected to approach historical levels until late next year, 2012, which means it would likely not be until late '13 and into '14 that we'll see completions return to historical levels. And obviously it's the completions that are what's important in affecting the supply demand fundamentals. ...

AVB on Rents: Growth in portfolio rents is broad-based, as accelerating as we move into the peak leasing season in the second and third quarters, when over 60% of leases expire. During Q1, year-over-year growth in same-store revenues accelerated through the quarter from 3.2% in January to over 4% in March. This momentum is continuing, with April revenues projected to be up around 4.5%, driven by an average rental rate increase of 4.8% compared to April 2010. Renewal rates are continuing to escalate as well, with offers for renewal increases averaging around 7% per May lease expirations and over 8% for June expirations, up from around 5% April. For June, in Northern California, New York, New Jersey, and New England, the range is around 9 to 9.5%. Every region is experiencing acceleration and renewal increases, except the DC market, where renewal increases leveled off in the 7% range for June. As we mentioned last quarter, Seattle and Southern California had been lagging other regions in recovery. However, during Q1, these regions began to recover as they posted the highest levels of sequential rent growth for new leases over the quarter. Over the last three months alone, new lease rents, which are a blend of new move-ins and renewals, have risen in Seattle and Southern California by 9.5% and 6.5% respectively. Both of these regions have been helped by positive job growth over the last six months. With the recent improvement in Seattle and Southern California, every region is now experiencing improving performance. As the year progresses, we expect that the West Coast markets will continue to accelerate at a faster rate than the East Coast, although every region should continue to experience a healthy rate of growth.


Analyst: I just was wondering if you're seeing any pressure from rental housing?

AVB: We're not seeing anything new, any new pressure from rental housing. If you're alluding to, like, a gray market. If anything, we're seeing the gray market pull back. Whereas a year ago, I would have said there were certain submarkets where we saw more gray market activity. As I speak to the people that run the various regions, we're actually seeing less competition from that, that rental housing stock.

Analyst: What is the main reason moveouts are saying right now?

AVB: The top reason for move out that we're experiencing is when people are just relocating. But it's right consistent with historic averages. You know, as Bryce indicated, home purchase is an area where it's changed, where we're well under historic averages. And then related to rent increase or financial reasons, that's up. And that's up to around 14%, where it's typically run 8 to 10%.

Advance Report: Real Annualized GDP Grew at 1.8% in Q1
Residential Investment and Non-Residential investment in Structures at Record Lows as Percent of GDP