Report says avoid Sunbelt or you may get burned

Before treating the hundreds of real estate players to a reception filled with miles of delicious hors d'oeuvres (we were big fans of the spinach-and-artichoke dip) and free drinks, Atlanta-based Lend Lease Real Estate Investments and New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers last month unveiled their Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2000 study at the Swissotel in Atlanta. (A full report on the study appeared last month in NREI on page 68.) Among the advice for multifamily investors: Seek out Class-B apartments "in A and A- locations, especially in East and West Coast cities."

Also, take a pass on apartments in Sunbelt markets such as Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix, which the report describes as "high-risk, high-growth." As for Class-B apartments, the study says home prices in East and West Coast cities "have increased by 50% or more in recent years." Combine that with increases in interest rates, "and many families are priced out of buying," the report says. This should lead the investor to B apartments, which attract "people who can't afford to own a home," according to the study. However, in the Sunbelt markets, more affordable home prices "make apartments in these areas more of a 'way station' for tenants, increasing turnover and limiting overall demand," the study notes.

The survey also warns that apartment renters will telecommute more and more in the future, which means they will need high-speed Internet access in their units. "Developers should plan accordingly," the report notes. "Living spaces must be configured to meet home office demands. ... Apartment units need to be adequately wired and retrofits will become a necessary expense in existing space."

Emerging Trends gives the apartment market as a whole a solid outlook for the year 2000. "Apartment rents will increase modestly and there's little downside investment risk," the report says. "Supply-demand balance will hold firm in markets with higher development hurdles. Good, steady appreciation ispredicted over five- and ten-year holding periods."

In this business you can never really have enough information. The report is chock full of easy-to-read graphs and tables that provide up-to-date information and statistical projections for the coming years. It's hard to say investors or developers will remember all of the data and observations when they're sitting down to make a deal. But at 60 informative pages, this report is well worth any real estate player's time.

As for Ohio properties, Brookstone Village, a 276-unit complex in Cincinnati, closed for $17 million, cash to existing financing. Mark G. Rohr, senior vice-president of The Dietz Organization, represented the sellers in all of the deals. Kevin P. Dillon, a senior associate of The Dietz Organization, represented the seller and buyer of Woodbridge Manor.

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