I’ve been sleeping on several issues that impact my two multifamily companies (AEC and CLP).
These issues are the effects of higher interest rates as they determine mortgages, the subsequent demand for rental units, and the ability of the space to borrow money to finance growth.
It’s a pernicious structuring, for sure. No easy answers here; as the effects seem to run counter to one another and can vary immensely depending on who you are and what your positioning is.
However, my general feel for the situation is this:
For the moment, financing for multifamily/REITs is generally secure. Conservatives are salivating to dismantle Fannie and Freddie, and the public probably concurs with those sentiments, but that would strike at the heart of liberal incentives. So any attempt to reform those institutions will probably be shut down or deflected.
However, this financing is set to get more expensive, if bonds keep rising. If you’re a company saddled with debt, this could cause all sorts of trouble. I remember back when I was first perusing through the space for purchases, I saw a lot of multifamily REITs that were knee deep in loans with bad cash flow and not enough on the books. If financing for apartment construction goes up and you’re holding the wrong companies, growth will go out the window and these badly situated players turn into takeover targets for the best of breed.
Meanwhile, there will most likely be shown to have been a small upsurge in housing purchases this last month. Players on the sidelines who became fretful that the window of opportunity was permanently closing likely rushed out to lock in a house purchase. After that surge though, the path to homeownership is getting harder, not easier, with the treasury selloff. This should solidify the 95% occupancy rates these companies have been experiencing, and get any apartment communities they construct filled.
I like AEC and CLP because they have had a vigilance about paying off debt, improving credit ratings, reinvesting into the business, and controlling operations. Their cash positions are well padded, and if push came to shove, they could quickly turn their cash flows on the liabilities, locking the companies down. I’m not worried about either of these two companies getting swept away from higher rates.
AEC just finished their second equity offering, and CLP is busy merging with MAA to make one of the largest multifamily REITs in the country.
Thus, until I see contradictions to these beliefs, I’m inclined to feel that both AEC and CLP will benefit on net from raising interest rates, even though it may momentarily hamper their growth. They are in superior positions relative competitors thanks to smart management decisions. And I am holding firm here.