CoStar: Apartment buildings in Washington region are still a popular choice for buyers

August 24

By now, analysts had expected sales of multifamily properties to cool as a large number of newly built projects opened to renters, but that is not happening.

Brand-new apartment projects in the District continue to sell at a blistering pace as renters continue to snap up units. Demand for apartments in the D.C. area increased by almost 9,000 units over the 12 months ending in June 2014.

The past few months have seen many significant multifamily investment sales in the D.C. area. Some newly constructed buildings are being listed for sale even before they begin leasing. For example, paint had barely dried on the Woodley in the Woodley Park neighborhood before it sold in June for a record-breaking $195 million, or $920,000 per unit. Rents at the 212-unit luxury building run up to a whopping $12,000 per month, helping to justify the hefty price tag.

The buyer, pension fund investor, TIAA-CREF, also recently bought the Louis at 14th apartment complex from the same seller, Chevy Chase-based JBG Cos. TIAA-CREF is reportedly looking to diversify its holdings in the D.C. region beyond traditional commercial real estate, such as its fully leased City Center office building in the East End.

The Louis at 14th is in the hip U Street corridor at 14th Street NW, and features 268 upscale units above a Trader Joe’s. TIAA-CREF purchased the building for $176.5 million, or about $640,000 per unit. The purchase also included ground-floor retail space.

Major investors aren’t just interested in newly constructed apartment projects in the hottest downtown neighborhoods. Highly leased projects in the suburbs are also being targeted for investment. For example, Avalon Fair Oaks in Southwest Fairfax County sold to Grosvenor Americas earlier this month for $108.2 million, or $220,000 per unit. The four-star property, built in 1987, is about 99 percent occupied, and was renovated in 2003. Also, the Point at Pentagon City (formerly the Bennington), a four-star multifamily property built in 1981, sold to Pantzer Properties in March for $101.1 million (about $290,000 per unit). The property is currently 99 percent occupied, and is two blocks from the Pentagon City Metro stop.

As long as demand for apartments continues, investors are likely to keep pumping capital in to the Washington area multifamily market.

Maeve Gallagher is a real estate economist with CoStar Group in the District.

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