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U.S. Hotel Market Now At A Standstill

U.S. hotel sales have dropped to historic lows, with fewer than 10 properties trading hands nationwide in April, Real Capital Analytics reports.

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"We have never seen this level of illiquidity in the hotel market," RCA Senior Vice President Jim Costello wrote. "It is effectively a frozen marketplace."

The coronavirus pandemic wasn't the only factor driving the market down, he said. Sales were already dropping because of excess product in some markets and competition from companies like Airbnb.

The last time the hotel market was even close to being this slow was in 2009, when 21 properties traded, according to RCA data.

A separate survey by the Lodging Industry Investment Council, completed in late April, pointed to a wait-and-see attitude among many would-be hotel investors.

Namely, 64% of investors surveyed said they are still "cautiously underwriting" new lodging investments. But 74% are taking a wait-and-see approach at the same time.

In a March LIIC survey, only 9% of respondents said they believed the total dollar volume of U.S. hotel transactions in 2020 would drop more than half compared to 2019. In the organization's April survey, 32% said that. 

Another reason for the slowdown in investment sales seems to be a disconnect between buyer and seller expectations.

"I'd say that the COVID-19 discount gap is too wide right now," Park Hotels & Resorts Chairman and CEO Thomas Baltimore said last week during the company's latest earnings call.

"Sellers would probably like to sell with a 10%, perhaps even 15% discount, depending on their individual needs," Baltimore said. "But I think buyers are looking for somewhere north of 30%, even 40%. 

"So I think there's plenty of liquidity trying to get in this sector, recognizing that now is a good window to begin to build up a portfolio, but I think the gap is too wide to really expedite any sort of transaction," Baltimore said. "You should see the number of deals that have blown up here in the last few weeks."