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Don't Expect A Big Discount On SoCal's Multifamily Properties, Experts Eyeing Market Say

Investors looking to snag distressed apartments and multifamily properties across Southern California during the coronavirus pandemic may have to wait a bit longer or go somewhere else. 

Multifamily property prices in the region have yet to drop significantly enough for opportunistic buyers to swoop in, experts said, including in Los Angeles

Universe Holdings Chairman and CEO Henry Manoucheri working from home.

"There's a perception out there that if I jump into the market today, I'm magically going to pay 20% less. That is not an unrealistic desire to want to do that," Universe Holdings CEO and Chairman Henry Manoucheri said during a recent Bisnow webinar.

"The fact is, there's been very few transactions done since [the pandemic], and the adjustments I've seen is about a 5% number. The 20% number is not out there yet. There is still a huge disparity," he said. "Any seller used to the pricing four months ago is not going to sell unless they are really, really motivated."

Manoucheri spoke along with NorthMarq Capital Senior Vice President and Managing Director Shane Shafer and moderator Elizabeth Dryden, real estate partner at Ervin Cohen & Jessup, during Bisnow's State of Los Angeles Multifamily webinar

More than 700 people registered for the webinar, which covered the impact of the coronavirus, rent collections, how teams are getting through turmoil and how to get deals done in a challenging environment. 

Pre-coronavirus, the multifamily landscape in the Greater Los Angeles region was seeing a record number of completions, with demand for housing still outpacing supply. Los Angeles was in the top five markets on the West Coast for rent growth, according to CBRE.

"These markets in Los Angeles and across Southern California are very resilient," Shafer said. "They've been able, in the last decade, to bounce back [more] quickly than other markets."

Shafer said the regions' access to talent and diversity of jobs separates them from other tertiary markets. For example, in the Inland Empire, many residents and workers there work in e-commerce or in industrial. In San Diego, there is a robust life sciences and health market.

Clockwise from top left: Ervin Cohen & Jessup partner Elizabeth Dryden, NorthMarq Managing Director Shane Shafer and Universe Holdings CEO Henry Manoucheri discuss LA's multifamily market during a Bisnow webinar

"In the short term, there are challenges to consider, but at the end, buyers who are buying properties today and post-COVID are looking at the long term," Shafer said. 

Manoucheri said even if there is a deal to be made, underwriting has become extremely complex. There is a lack of due diligence and no payment data. 

"The first thing a prospective buyer asks a seller is, 'What's the rent? What's your collections?'" he said. "But in this environment in which a tenant's rent is being deferred or in some cases not being collected, how do you determine that?"

Manoucheri said vetting a tenant's work history, background and rent guarantees are going to be important considerations when getting deals done. It could take another eight months to a year to see if any property goes into the market with a 20% cut in its values, he said.

"I don't think this is a V-shaped recovery, where everything all of a sudden overnight is  hunky-dory and rosy," he said. "I think this is going to have scars on the market and there is going to be a two- to five-year slow time, and I think, eventually, the market is going to ramp up and listings come back."

As for now, everything seems to be on pause. Manoucheri said he knows of multifamily brokers who have properties but have yet to list them, with most still waiting for things to get back to normal.

"We are going to figure our way out of this," he said. "We always have."