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Single-Asset Apartment Sales Continue to Slip

Apartment Sales

While 2017 has gotten off to a rocky start, there is optimism that volume will pick up in the second half of the year.

Apartment sales volume rose 6 percent year over year in April, according to commercial research firm Real Capital Analytics (RCA). 

The increase to $9.4 billion comes with a caveat. More than one-quarter of apartment transactions came from one sale—Starwood Capital’s $2.85 billion acquisition of Milestone Apartments REIT.

Single-asset sales, the backbone of the apartment market, fell 21 percent year over year to $5.4 billion. April was the fifth consecutive month that they declined.

While apartment sales volume has been falling, pricing for apartment communities remains strong. Average cap rates were 5.5 percent in April, which was a 20-basis point decline from a year earlier.

Blake Okland, head of U.S. multifamily for brokerage firm ARA Newmark, attributes the drop in 2017 transaction activity to post-election uncertainty.

After President Trump was elected, Okland estimates that approximately 50 percent of the deals agreed upon in Q4 2016 were renegotiated and ultimately fell apart when interest rates moved and buyers’ expectations changed. That had a dramatic impact on transaction volume in early 2017. “Lots of deals are done at the end of the year, but then spill into the first quarter,” he says.

With many of the early 2017 transactions shuttered, Okland argues that this year’s sales market has been disrupted. That doesn’t mean there aren’t willing buyers. “Every group this year has more money than last year for multifamily,” he says.

Okland expects sales to pick up in the second half of the year.

“I don’t see a cyclical slowdown,” he says. “I see a disruption that messed up the flow of deals. It is going to a lumpier year. But I would not be surprised if we ended up close to the sales levels of last year.”

 

Les Shaver, Senior Content Writer at NAA