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Developers claim co-living suites earn more per square foot than regular apartment rentals

Co-living developers in New York and Washington, D.C. report strong demand from renters.

Hundreds of co-living suites are renting quickly at ALTA LIC, a new high-rise apartment building in Long Island City, Queens.

“We are now about four months ahead of our expected pace,” says Christopher Bledsoe, co-founder and CEO of Ollie, the company managing the ALTA’s co-living apartments.

Companies like Ollie are proving that there is plenty of renter demand for co-living arrangements. The co-living spaces at ALTA are now earning more dollars per sq. ft. than the new conventional apartments in the same building. Other operators of co-living properties also report strong results at their projects.

“We can only speak to performance of our OSLO properties… and they have been exceptional,” says Martin Ditto, CEO of Ditto, a company that operates three fully-occupied co-living properties in the Washington, D.C. metro area, and is now planning to open a fourth.

Strong rents prove demand for co-living

“Co-living” is a living arrangement in which the residents share some aspects of their living spaces with each other. It’s not as radical as it sounds—for Ollie and Ditto’s OLSO brand, co-living typically takes the form of multi-bedroom apartments shared by roommates. For years, the student housing industry has also been building suites that students share as roommates.

“Our product type is a natural evolution of the student housing model,” says Ollie’s Bledsoe.

ALTA LIC opened in May 2018 with 466 apartments. Of those, Ollie is operating 169 as furnished co-living suites with a total of 422 bedrooms. According to Bledsoe, it’s the largest purpose-built co-living property in the United States.

After less than a year in operation, 73 percent of these units are occupied, with renters paying from $1,260 to about $2,200 per month for a bedroom. The higher priced units may be larger, have better view, private entrances off the hallway or their own, un-shared bathrooms.

The cost of a bedroom also includes wireless Internet service and weekly housekeeping services, including bed linen, towels and toilet paper, along with shampoo and hand soap from Malin & Goetz. “It is the convenience of hotel living,” says Bledsoe.

The units are sized for efficiency and come furnished with custom furniture designed by Ollie to make the best use of small spaces. “For us a 535-square-foot studio is a two-bedroom micro-suit… a 750-square-foot one or two-bedroom is a three-bedroom suite,” says Bledsoe.

These co-living suites earn an average of 44 percent more income in rent per sq. ft. than the more conventional 297 luxury apartments at the 43-story tower, according to Bledsoe. The net operating income from these units is also 30 percent higher per sq. ft., even with the extra cost of co-living amenities like the housekeeping service.

 

Read more at National Real Estate Investor

Demand for apartment rentals surges unexpectedly as home sales slump

Surging demand and strong occupancy in the nation’s apartment market is “surprising” experts who say the continued strength is “unexpected.”

Just a year ago, as dozens of cranes swarmed over major U.S. cities, there was concern that the rental apartment market was overheated and overbuilt.

Apartment absorption, which is the rate at which new units are rented out, is now at the highest level in three years, according to the U.S. Census. Apartment construction took off in 2012 and reached a 20-year high in 2017. It remained elevated this year, despite warnings that demand would slow as more millennials aged into their homebuying years.

And while buyer demand did surge, sales were thwarted by tight supply that has pushed prices higher in the past few years, weakening affordability. When mortgage rates surged this year, even fewer people were left with the means to buy a home.

“People underestimate how far away from homeownership a lot of renters across the country, even in luxury apartment buildings, are,” said John Pawlowski, residential sector head at Green Street Advisors. “The demand has been better than expected. It’s been a stickier tenant base and pricing power at that tenant base, again in the face of elevated supply, has simply surprised us.”

The third quarter of this year marks the fourth consecutive quarter of positive operating “surprises” for apartments, according to a recent report from Green Street, which noted that the asset values of these apartment properties remain on firmer footing than most core property types. Apartment earnings were also better than expected.

 

 

Read more on CNBC

 

 

US homebuilding rose in October on a rebound in multifamily housing projects

U.S. homebuilding rose in October amid a rebound in multifamily housing projects, but construction of single-family homes fell for a second straight month, suggesting the housing market remained mired in weakness as mortgage rates march higher.

Other details of the report published by the Commerce Department on Tuesday were also soft. Building permits declined last month and homebuilding completions were the fewest in a year. Housing starts increased 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.228 million units last month.

Data for September was revised to show starts dropping to a rate of 1.210 million units instead of the previously reported pace of 1.201 million units.

Building permits slipped 0.6 percent to a rate of 1.263 million units in October. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a pace of 1.225 million units last month.

The housing market is being hobbled by rising borrowing costs as well as land and labor shortages, which have led to tight inventories and higher house prices. This is making home buying unaffordable for many workers as wage growth has lagged.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is hovering at a seven-year high of 4.94 percent, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. Wages rose 3.1 percent in October from a year ago, trailing house price inflation of about 5.5 percent.

Residential investment contracted in the first nine months of the year and housing is likely to remain a drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter. Economists expect housing activity to remain weak through the first half of 2019.

U.S. financial markets were little moved by Tuesday’s housing starts data.

Single-family homebuilding stalls

Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, dropped 1.8 percent to a rate of 865,000 units in October after declining in September.

Single-family homebuilding has lost momentum since hitting a pace of 948,000 units last November, which was the strongest in more than 10 years.

A survey on Monday showed confidence among single-family homebuilders dropped to a more than two-year low in November, with builders reporting that “customers are taking a pause due to concerns over rising interest rates and home prices.”

Single-family starts in the South, which accounts for the bulk of homebuilding, fell 4.0 percent last month. Single-family homebuilding jumped 14.8 percent in the Northeast and fell 2.0 percent in the West. Groundbreaking activity on single-family homes dropped 1.6 percent in the Midwest.

Permits to build single-family homes fell 0.6 percent in October to a pace of 849,000 units. These permits remain below the level of single-family starts, suggesting limited scope for a strong pickup in homebuilding.

Starts for the volatile multifamily housing segment surged 10.3 percent to a rate of 363,000 units in October. Permits for the construction of multifamily homes fell 0.5 percent to a pace of 414,000 units.

 

Read more on CNBC

 

 

Are food halls a magic elixir for retail owners?

The concept of the food hall has taken deep root in U.S. retail properties, with scores up and running and hundreds in the pipeline.

Though a popular addition for struggling retail properties, celebrity chef Todd English said that without the right approach, food halls are not always the solution for owners. English spoke at the recent Second Annual International Council of Shopping Centers-Baruch College Real Estate Conference, as reported by Real Estate Weekly.

He warned that some food halls are merely “glorified food courts with better options.” He further called food halls a WeWork model, a kind of coworking space that “has to be about more than just food.”

Food halls are a draw because of their perceived authenticity, as local eateries, healthier options and craft breweries edge out standard food court fare (fast food, that is).

While not every food hall is going to feature chef-curated or otherwise expensive options, they have to be creative in some way, English said during the ICSC conference. “It’s not just another great turkey sandwich or croissant, or whatever the latest trend is, it’s something that brings people in.”

For retailers, a successful food hall is thus not a matter of simply setting up a food hall. With the increasing number of food halls, they too need to stand out to be competitive.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

Markets may be signaling rising recession risk: Fed study

A narrowing gap between short-term and long-term borrowing costs could be signaling heightened risk of a U.S. recession, researchers at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank said in a study published on Monday.

The research relies on an in-depth analysis of the gap between the yield on three-month and 10-year U.S. Treasury securities, a gap that like other measures of short-to-long-term rates has narrowed in recent months.

Several Fed officials have cited this flattening yield curve as a reason to stop raising interest rates, since historically each time it inverts, with short-term rates rising above long-term rates, a recession follows.

The study, published in the San Francisco Fed’s latest Economic Letter, bolsters that view.

“In light of the evidence on its predictive power for recessions, the recent evolution of the yield curve suggests that recession risk might be rising,” wrote San Francisco Fed research advisers Michael Bauer and Thomas Mertens.

Still, they noted, “the flattening yield curve provides no sign of an impending recession” because long-term rates, though falling relative to short-term rates, remain above them.

 

 

Read more on Business Insider

 

 

 

Should California’s Costa-Hawkins rent control act be repealed?

Debating the pros and cons of rent control at the Urban Land Institute

The Urban Land Institute of San Francisco held a public forum at the Google Community Space Tuesday night debating Proposition 10, the November ballot initiative that would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act and allow California cities to potentially expand their rent-control ordinances.

Arguing in favor of Proposition 10 and potential rent-control expansion was Amy Schur, the director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

John Eudy, co-chair of the “no” campaign Californians for Responsible Housing (and also a vice president at Essex Property Trust) argued against repeal.

David Garcia, a policy director at UC Berkeley’s Terner Center For Housing Innovation, appeared as a third-way party; however, since Garcia appeared to nominally oppose Costa-Hawkins repeal, he often functioned as a second anti-Proposition 10 voice.

All three parties agreed that the state’s goal should be more housing production. They also agreed that Costa-Hawkins as it exists now is ineffectual at protecting renters and that the status quo won’t do in the future.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

Facebook creates three huge Bay Area job hubs for expansion

Facebook has created three Bay Area work hubs that each total at least one million square feet, following big leases with two legendary developers that widen its Silicon Valley footprint.

The tech titan could employ as many as 19,000 in the expansion sites, located in Fremont, Sunnyvale, and Menlo Park.

The social networking giant is already expanding in its hometown of Menlo Park and has signed a mammoth lease in Sunnyvale. Now, it has signed major leases with Sobrato Organization and Peery Arrillaga totaling 18 buildings in a part of Fremont near the Dumbarton Bridge’s east end.

The most recent set of leases in Fremont total 1.04 million square feet, according to Facebook.

 

 

Read more on The Mercury News

 

 

 

Free time and fun: the new must-haves at apartments

As the luxury multifamily market approaches a peak, apartment owners and managers turning to social amenities to engage residents at their properties.

The new must-have amenity for luxury apartment projects? Time.

During this economic growth cycle apartment developers have engaged in a virtual arms race of amenities. Most were physical goodies they could tout in property tours – features like furnished guest suites for resident’s out-of-town visitors, rooftop pools, and walk-in lobby refrigerators for food deliveries.

Now, say apartment developers and property managers, the trend is towards providing services that save residents time, or experiences that make effective use of it.

Across the country high-end apartments are now offering a host of new services to attract renters: dog-walking, wine tastings, poker nights, errand-runners.

“There’s this feeling that the amenities war has run its course – everyone has the same check list on their website,” said Tom Geyer, vice president of branding at the Bozzuto Group, the Greenbelt, MD.-based developer and apartment manager.

“But I do think the battle of services is a newfound strategy to build value.”

Bozzuto, which owns or manages more than 60,000 units up and down the East Coast, has become a specialist in adding these experience-based and time-saving services, and notes the appeal of service and experience-based amenities goes across all age groups.

For its part, Geyer said Bozzuto doesn’t try to mold their properties to fit a certain age group – for millennials, say.

Rather, the company sees its properties and tenants in terms of “tribes.” Some properties have a preponderance of bike riders, some have dog owners, and others are dominated by retirees looking for urban living experiences.

“Most of our residents are not non-social people,” said Geyer. “Building amenity space is about supporting interaction, looking for a chance meeting of the tribe.”

For example, Geyer said residents aren’t just interested in an onsite gym, they want access to classes.

“Classes are the number one thing, group classes,” he said.

That means not just adding amenities, but re-designing some of the existing amenity spaces. Gyms have to be designed to accommodate the new trends of cross-fit, PX-90 workouts. And equipment has to be placed to accommodate classes.

National Development, a multifamily developer and manager based in Boston, agrees with the new thinking. It hired a full-time marketing and community engagement manager who coordinates events for a dozen National Development properties.

“It’s not an either-or proposition,” said Ted Tye, a managing partner at National Development. “There’s been a real push for physical amenities, and that hasn’t abated. Layered on top of that, as the market gets more competitive, is the social amenity.”

 

 

Read more on CoStar

 

 

 

Big downtown San Jose office, retail Museum Place complex pushes ahead

A new vision has emerged for a crucial downtown San Jose development known as Museum Place that would add offices and retail next to The Tech Museum of Innovation, according to city documents being reviewed this week.

Some details about the new Museum Place approach were contained in San Jose city staff reports regarding an agreement to bring aboard a group led by realty entrepreneur Gary Dillabough. The Dillabough group will provide fresh capital and investments to get the project moving forward. This news organization had reported previously about Dillabough’s planned involvement in the Museum Place development on Park Avenue.

“The developer has a formidable vision for San Jose’s future,” according to a memo prepared by Kim Walesh, San Jose’s economic development director. “Mr. Dillabough has indicated a strong desire to make the Museum Place project a standout location that the City of San Jose can look to with pride.”

 

 

Read more on The Mercury News

 

 

How to Find Continued Value in Apartment Acquisitions

With concessions ticking up and rent growth slowing, is it time to question or finetune allocation levels and strategies in multifamily investing?

The stability, durability and continued capital flows into multifamily investing permeate today’s headlines, with industry pundits believing apartments to be the most popular product type with real estate investors in 2018, second only to industrial. Mixed signals abound among varying markets, and it’s important to dissect and triangulate the real data as the analytics don’t always tell the full story.

A first quarter report from Fannie Mae cited:

  • Positive, but slowing net absorption in 2018 compared with 2017 (CoStar)
  • Surging apartment development, peaking at over 440,000 units nationwide and up 16 percent from 2017 (Dodge Data & Analytics)
  • Rising nationwide vacancy rate predicted to approach recent historical average of six percent by year-end (Fannie Mae)

With concessions ticking up and rent growth slowing, is it time to question or finetune allocation levels and strategies in multifamily investing? Two principal factors are worthy of consideration here: geography and investment horizon.

Nationally, development is projected to keep pace with net absorption, as Fannie Mae projects net rental demand of 380,000 to 460,000 units in 2018. However, parsing geographies more discerningly reveals that new multifamily construction has been heavily concentrated in America’s largest cities, where pockets of oversupply are projected. New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco present some of the highest unit construction per capita in the country, yet are all projected by Moody’s Analytics to experience job growth in 2018 that lags the national forecast of 1.5 percent.

All markets do not bear these metrics though, especially in select secondary markets where Fannie Mae reports the ratio of projected population and employment growth to rising apartment inventory is more favorable. Cities such as Houston, Dallas, Austin, Texas, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore., even while seeing brisk construction, are forecast to increase job growth between two to three percent amid continued rental escalation. Two markets worth investigating include Phoenix, where projected 2.6 percent employment growth forecasts the demand for 10,000 units against projected 2018 delivery of 8,000 units, and Las Vegas, where projected 2018 absorption is double the number of units under construction.

Development nationwide should peak in 2018, as planned units in comparison to those under construction taper off, even in cities with the most active pipelines. This suggests that investors with a longer hold horizon may see their patience rewarded when new supply is absorbed and vacancy rates level off. Several long-term demographic trends also bode well for multifamily absorption and rental rates:

  • Householders continue to delay marriage and childbirth, thus tending to remain in apartments
  • Population growth in many areas, particularly in the Southwest, is being fueled by immigrants who tend to be renters
  • Real household income growth is occurring only in the upper 20 percent of earners, rendering home ownership less affordable for many
  • Student loan debt, which doubled as a percentage of GDP between 2006 and 2012, stymies home ownership for younger households
  • Conversely, the 65+ baby boomer generation, America’s most rapidly growing domestic cohort, is demanding more rental housing as they age out of owned homes and reevaluate their investment and retirement options

In our view, investors who choose their geographies wisely and take a long-game approach should see their properly selected multifamily investments buoyed by these market and demographic trends, while enjoying relatively predictable cash flows in the interim.

Read more from National Real Estate Investor