Market Overview

Investing In Seniors Housing: No-Go Or No-Brainer?

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A demographic of baby boomers has allowed seniors housing to become a winning investment—both in commercial real estate (CRE) overall and healthcare realty specifically. And there are plenty of reasons.

Research shows that 100,000 units must be built each year through 2040 to meet anticipated demand. When you consider seniors housing is also recession-resistant, many would call this investment a basic “no-brainer.”

Over the past decade, seniors housing has outperformed every other asset classes of CRE. But recently, some investors have expressed concern over rising interest rates and potential overbuilding. In 2016, the occupancy rates declined 0.5+% (to 89.3%), leading some to wonder if oversupply could potentially impact returns in the long term. In fact, some sub-sections of the seniors housing market have already been impacted, specifically skilled nursing.

Which begs the question: is seniors housing still a wise investment? Research indicates “yes.” A survey from CBRE showed nearly 60 percent of U.S. investors actually plan to increase their seniors housing portfolios this year. And that’s an increase from less than 50 percent last year. Many seem confident a wide range of opportunity still lies in the seniors housing sector—if investors can keep the following factors top of mind.

Consider Secondary Markets: It may be true that some primary markets face a potential oversupply, but many secondary and even tertiary markets hold lots of potential for both renovation and new construction. Indeed, a significant portion of supply across all markets is outdated, leaving room for much-needed enhancements, such as making spaces more comfortable and sociable for seniors.

Do the Research: There is no substitute for doing your own due diligence. Whether you’re looking to invest in private equity or a REIT, make sure your chosen fund manager is knowledgeable, experienced, and aware of current market conditions. Request a portfolio showing past investments and new deals, as well as historical returns. Lastly, ensure that the fund manager takes time to consider each individual investment, analyzing existing demographics and competitors before committing to any specific project.

Be Informed: Keep an eye on current issues to make sure the fund or REIT you select is on trend. Skilled nursing declined this last year, and memory care has likewise seen impact in some areas from overbuilding. Meanwhile, independent living is now a favorite, which is off-trend from previous years. In fact, independent living reached a seven-year high in occupancy rates closing 2016—so high that it was actually the highest absorption rate in a single quarter since NIC started collecting data back in 2006. The best fund managers will be aware of these trends.

Ask Lots of Tough Questions: A strong fund manager will likely tell you that project operators play a large role in ensuring the success of a given investment—sometimes even the most significant. Dan Brewer, the Chief Fund Manager at Senior Living Fund, says, “The operator is hands-down the most important player in our investment decisions. They can make or break any opportunity, regardless of market or demand.” In other words, don’t shy away from asking who your fund manager may be working with, how long they’ve worked with one another, and to what outcome.

Keep It Real: As with all investment opportunities, market conditions like interest rates or political issues, can impact returns. Although seniors housing has seen unparalleled growth in the past 10 years, it’s reasonable to think the industry will keep growing—if only at a slower rate.

The great news about seniors housing: the opportunities are just beginning. The current wave of seniors now seeking care is the first of many to come. Research shows our 75+ population will likely grow at rates above current inventory growth rates (3.1 percent) until 2021. Indeed, for the 75-79 age group, growth could be as high as 5.7 percent. That leaves lots of room to grow the sector—and lots of room for solid returns for smart investors.

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Jess Stonefield is a contributing writer on aging, technology, senior care, housing, and the greater longevity economy for publications such as Forbes.com, Entrepreneur, and CNN Money. She is passionate about impact investing and the greater concept of “equitable equity”—spreading wealth to all levels of our society.

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

Posted-In: REIT Specialty ETFs Health Care Hedge Funds ETFs General Real Estate

 

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