Why You Should Invest in Midwest Multifamily Real Estate
Housing Supply is Restrained Relative to Demand
We focus narrowly on Midwest markets we know well, with an emphasis on Ohio, Indiana and Northern Kentucky. This region is within a one day's drive of 60% of the U.S. population, and this region is increasingly the the beneficiary of supply chain trends which now emphasize domestic manufacturing and reduced time to market. These trends are leading to solid economic growth, steady job gains, and sustained demand for new housing. However, unlike many coastal and sunbelt markets where strong job growth has led to significant increases in the supply of new housing, the supply of new housing in the Midwest is not outpacing demand. The result is that rent growth in Midwestern markets like Cincinnati are currently leading the nation, while rent growth in many sunbelt and coastal markets has turned negative as these markets struggle to absorb new inventory.
The balanced supply/demand picture in the Midwest means that investments in the Midwest typically offer more reliable cash flow & income, yet given the new emphasis on domestic manufacturing, growth opportunities are often just as prevalent in the heartland as they are on the coasts and in the sunbelt. This can make the Midwest more attractive on a risk-adjusted basis than investments in coastal and sunbelt markets.
Indeed, the "Steady Eddy" nature of Midwest real estate investments isn't as glamorous when coastal and sunbelt markets are experiencing headline-grabbing gowth, but when performance in these more cyclical markets softens, the more stable heartland markets shine when it comes to strength and resilience. Accordingly, investments in Midwest real estate can be a good hedge against downturns elsewhere, because the Midwest can provide opportunities for income and capital appreciation that are independent of market conditions in other regions.
Midwest Employment Growth is Strengthening
In 2006, we made our first Midwest investment in a market where the largest local employer was a vertically integrated steel mill. The mill had three blast furnaces, but only one furnace was in operation, and management had locked out thousands of employees in a labor dispute. The mill was limping along, and its future was unclear.
Today, all three blast furnaces are running at full capacity, and the mill is the largest flat rolled steel producer in North America. This story is but one small component of what we see happening all over the Midwest: international supply chains are being redrawn locally, and key manufacturing technologies like semiconductor manufacturing are being brought back to the Midwest in response to concerns over national security, transportation costs, and efforts to reduce time to market.
In addition to rebuilding supply chains, the old "Rust Belt" moniker has given way to the new terms like the "Battery Belt" and the "Silicon Heartland." The new jobs associated with these changes are creating fresh housing demand in Midwestern cities like Dayton, where a California-based company just announced plans to invest $500 million in a new factory that will build flying cars and employ thousands of people. Job growth in cities like Cincinnati and Indianapolis are currently surpassing the national average for the first time in years, and each of these two cities currently lead the nation in rent growth. The Midwest may not see Silicon Valley-level income growth anytime soon, but Midwestern job growth is increasing and its reputation for decline is clearly stale and outdated.
Midwest Operating Costs, Such as Insurance & Property Taxes, Are Less Volatile
Insurance costs have been increasing nationwide, and some multifamily owners in Florida have been completely locked out of the market due to the rising costs of natural disasters. While the Midwest does have its fair share of bad weather, insurance can still be obtained at a much more reasonable cost relative to states like Florida and Texas. This makes asset valuations less vulnerable to expenses that are beyond management control
In addition, property taxes are one of the primary sources of revenue in states like Texas and Florida, but this is not the case in most Midwestern states. As a result, property taxes are much less volatile in Ohio and Indiana than they are in some sunbelt states, and they are much easier to predict. This further reduces the risk of exposure to uncontrollable costs .
Most Midwest Markets Are Overlooked by Institutional Capital
Institional investors are often more agressive because they have access to more abundant and less expensive forms of capital. This means it is more efficient for these investors to deploy larger sums of money in much larger assets located in primary "Gateway" markets like Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta & Washington, D.C., rather than in smaller assets located in "secondary" and "tertiary" markets like Cincinnati, Indianapolis or Columbus.
Because Piping Rock's focus is on smaller, middle market assets (100-200 units) in secondary and tertiary Midwestern markets, we can often obtain a 100 to 200 basis point yield premium vs. investing in larger assets in primary markets -- without sacrificing opportunities for meangingful capital appreciation.
The Midwest Offers Stability, Cash Flow & Opportunities for Meaningful Capital Appreciation
We believe these market conditions create compelling opportunities to purchase existing assets at prices below replacement cost and reimagine them with new amenities, upgraded interiors and exteriors, and new management technologies. New amenities and upgraded interiors and exteriors typically drive increases Net Operating Income ("NOI"), which in turn results in meaningful opportunities for capital appreciation and attractive risk adjusted returns relative to other markets.