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This week we ask an important question, recently raised by a number of investors: Are there likely to be many distressed multifamily assets coming to the market in 2023? So, let’s have a closer look at this topic which has important bearings on investment sentiment.
Overall commercial real estate (CRE) market
The CRE market has been affected to different degrees by a series of events over the last 2-3 years. In fact, CRE investment sales have been trending down for some time, with higher interest rates, amongst other things, creating uncertainty about the future direction of property values. For example, in the fourth quarter 2022, overall investment sales volume in the US fell 62% compared to the year before, to $138.9 billion.
With the possibility for a recession of sorts in 2023 causing further unease for some real estate investors, other investors are wondering whether a number of distressed multifamily assets will be coming to the market, thereby creating investment opportunities.
Multifamily market broad overview
Before we look further into the potential for distressed assets, it is important to understand the state of the multifamily market and how it reacts especially in a recessionary phase. In general, the multifamily market stayed relatively stable throughout the pandemic, in the rising interest rate environment and even when a major recession was being touted. Demand for rental properties has remained strong, and rent growth has been robust in many markets.
However, there are two trends worth noting which may have some impact on the multifamily market in the coming months.
The first is the so-called “urban exodus” which saw many renters leaving dense urban areas in favour of suburban and rural locations during the pandemic. This trend has slowed down somewhat of late.
Additionally, eviction moratoriums put in place during the pandemic have prevented some renters from being evicted for non-payment of rent. This has helped keep rental vacancy rates low, but it could lead to a backlog of evictions once the moratoriums expire.
On the other hand, a key demand driver for multifamily and/or BTR-SFR accommodation, namely that from retirees, shows no sign of abating.
So, will there be many distressed or other multifamily assets coming to market?
The short answer is that it is difficult to say for sure. Whilst there are certainly some factors that could contribute to distressed assets hitting the market and affecting values and cap rates, there are also several factors which could help prevent this from happening.
Some key factors causing multifamily properties to come to market (note: not all distressed sellers) include:
- The eviction backlog: as touched upon above, once eviction moratoriums expire, landlords may find themselves with a backlog of unpaid rent and no way to recover those losses. This could lead to distressed properties hitting the market as landlords try to recoup their losses by selling their properties;
- Expiration of government relief programmes: a number of renters and landlords were able to stay afloat during the pandemic thanks to government relief programmes, such as stimulus cheques and rental assistance. However, these programmes are not sustainable in the long term and, once they expire, some landlords and renters may find themselves unable to pay their bills. This could lead to distressed properties hitting the market as landlords try to relieve their financial burden
- Loans maturing: some sellers will need to sell because their loan is maturing. They financed with high-leveraged floating rate debt and so there’s some sort of distress. Such borrowers will likely be the first group of sellers;
- End of fund life: others will sell because they are at the end of the fund life. They are in a position to not make as much money as if they had sold in 2021 or early 2022, but enough to achieve their targeted returns.
In fact, the entities most motivated to make deals or transact are groups which in 2021 financed with floating-rate bridge loans at 80% leverage, with interest rate caps at 2.5%. Whether such a transaction is a sale or a refinance that also requires additional capital vis-a-vis preferred equity or mezzanine in the form of a cash-in refinance, those groups will be the most motivated to make deals.
On the buy side, capital is patient and waiting for transactions to hit the market at the appropriate pricing level. As these motivated sellers begin to sell, that will set the market precedent for pricing and cap rates.
Why some multifamily and/or BTR assets may not come to market
Firstly, is the strong demand for rental properties that has persisted throughout the pandemic, as interest rates have risen (making buying properties less affordable) and up until the tremors of the recent banking crisis. Even if some landlords are struggling financially, there may be other investors willing to step in and purchase their properties. Additionally, the still relatively low-interest-rate environment could make it easier for landlords to refinance their properties and avoid foreclosure.
Furthermore, distressed assets do not necessarily have to hit the market. Some landlords may be able to work out deals with their lenders or sell their properties off-market rather than going through a public sale. This could help prevent distressed properties from flooding the market and driving down prices.
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Even for an experienced investor and multifamily syndicator such as CPI Capital, it is difficult to predict with certainty whether many distressed multifamily assets will hit the market in the coming months. Whilst there are certainly some factors which could contribute to this, such as, as mentioned, eviction backlogs and the expiration of government relief programmes, there are also factors that could help prevent it, such as strong demand for rental properties and interest rates which discourage some from buying.
In reality, the multifamily and/or BTR-SFR market has remained relatively stable over the last 3-4 years, and it is likely that it will continue to do so in the coming months and years. In any event CPI Capital is well positioned to take advantage of any particularly attractive distressed deals which come to market as we remain confident that multifamily will continue to yield attractive returns for our passive investors
CIO, Co-Founder CPI Capital