Tags: REIT | single | family | homes

REITs Capitalize on Housing Bust

By Michael Kling   |   Thursday, 25 Oct 2012 07:48 AM

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) typically own apartment complexes, shopping centers and other commercial properties, but a few are taking an unusual strategy and buying large numbers of single-family homes at bargain-basement prices.

For instance, Colony Capital has launched its Colony American Homes, an REIT specializing in single-family homes, according to Institutional Investor. Its strategy is to buy homes in areas that have seen huge drops in home values, rent them out for several years, and then sell them after home values rebound.

Capitalizing on the housing bust could bring healthy returns — in the mid- to high teens, CEO Justin Chang told Institutional Investor.

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It has purchased 3,000 homes, mostly in Sun Belt areas like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Atlanta, Institutional Investor reports. It already has $525 million in institutional commitments and hopes to buy 15,000 to 20,000 homes before its initial public offering next year.

One advantage of REITs is that they have access to capital markets through stock sales, unlike small private real estate outfits. However, managing thousands of homes spread over multiple states could prove to be a property management challenge.

Many REITs own and manage thousands of apartment units, but the apartment units are usually similar, Steven Marks of Fitch Ratings told Institutional Investor.

“But for a single-family home, each dwelling has its own unique roof and four walls,” he said. “The dishwasher and washer-dryer are different in each house, whereas they are usually the same in apartment building units, which enables owners to operate more efficiently.”

Other types of corporate investors are seeking to take advantage of the housing bust and purchasing large numbers of low-priced homes as lenders sell foreclosed properties.

The trend is accelerating as Fannie Mae is starting to sell foreclosed homes in bulk in an effort to dispose of the properties faster, according to USA Today. Fannie Mae sold 94 Chicago properties and 699 Florida properties to companies that plan to rent them out, and plans to sell almost 2,000 homes and condominiums.

The Cogsville Group normally purchases distressed commercial properties, but recently bought a huge number of Chicago homes from Fannie Mae. Owning single-family homes is an extension of its commercial property strategy, Don Cogsville, the firm's chief executive, told USA Today.

"It is different, but it's doable."

Editor's Note: You Deserve to Know What Obama and Bernanke Are Hiding From Americans

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