How Three Multifamily CEOs Are Shifting (Or Maintaining) Their Strategy
To buy or to build, that is the question. Milestone Group CEO Robert Landin, Monogram Residential Trust CEO Mark Alfieri and Gables CEO Sue Ansel (snapped with Axiometrics analytics head Jay Denton, far left, at Bisnow’s Multifamily Annual Conference last week) are mostly leaning toward the former. Robert has focused on acquisitions for the last decade because he says it’s the best for yield. He says the apartment business is built around recurring distributions, and 60% or more of his returns are from cash flow. He likes catering to renters-by-necessity—which, despite all the renter-by-choice hype, is still the biggest population—and focuses on buying and holding middle-market properties with rents in the $1 to $1.40/SF range, which the majority of Americans can afford.
Although development is Monogram’s core growth strategy, Mark says that’s gotten very difficult to underwrite anywhere in the US. (Plus, every one of his markets around the US is seeing a slowdown and oversupply concerns.) You can buy new development at or below replacement cost, so he’s turned his attention to buying new supply. Monogram purchased three properties last year and all are outperforming pro forma.
But Gables is holding firm to development. Sue told the crowd she’s just not seeing great acquisition opportunities yet, and while construction has gotten tougher, rents are still way in excess of pro forma, so development still makes sense. Gables’ portfolio is 80% stabilized product and the rest is value-add, and the firm is still completing and starting new product. Her target markets now: South Florida looks good, DC is coming back and SoCal has good opportunities although it’s hard to build there. But she’s happy to feed the acquisition pipeline; she says it’s a good time for dispositions, and Gables does a few of them a year.