Apartment sales are abysmal, according to the latest quarterly survey on apartment market conditions, released this week by the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council (NMHC).
The survey's Sales Volume Index declined to five, the lowest on record. That's no surprise, with 90 percent of respondents saying sales are worse today than they were three months ago—prior to the Wall Street meltdown. No respondents indicated sales were better. This is the 12th consecutive quarter the index has been under 50, which indicates that conditions are declining. (Note: If the index is above 50, conditions are improving.)
The results are spot-on, says David Frieze, director of multifamily acquisitions for Northland Investment Corp., an apartment owner based in Newton, Mass. "Sales volume is barely existent," he says. "There are not a lot of deals getting done."
Considering what's happening on the equity and debt markets, its little wonder deals aren't going down. Among the other indices, the Equity Financing Index, fell to four, the lowest result on record, while the Debt Financing Index also declined to four—another record. A whopping 93 percent of respondents said financing conditions have worsened compared to three months earlier; one-sixth of respondents said that the crisis hadn't affected their current activities.
Even the industry's one bright spot in recent months—occupancies—seems to have hit a rough patch. The Market Tightness Index, which measures changes in occupancy rates and/or rents, dropped to 24 from 40 last quarter. This was the fifth consecutive quarter in which the index has fallen below 50. Translation: The recession is now hurting apartments.
"What we're seeing is the last of the real estate sectors to be dragged into the recession," says Doug Bibby, president of the NMHC.
Berkshire Property Advisors CEO Frank Apeseche, an apartment owner based in Boston, says conditions have been poor for about six months. "Two years ago, people were forecasting projects," he says. "Even six months ago, those projections made two years ago were not holding true. The occupancies, depending on the market, were holding in strong markets. But the rental growth people were expecting to receive when they bought two years ago was starting to slow down."
Frieze has seen some fall-off, but he says things generally aren't that bad. "We've seen some softness," he says. "Our rents are stabilized, and there has been a very slight dip in occupancy."