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The Real Impact of Institutional Property Managers on Home Prices

Updated: Jun 13

In recent years, the dynamic landscape of real estate has been significantly reshaped by the entry of institutional investors, introducing a new complexity to traditional models of property ownership and management. These entities, wielding substantial capital and sophisticated strategies in property management, have become formidable players in the housing markets. Their increasing prevalence raises critical questions about the impacts on home prices and availability, making it an essential consideration for stakeholders across the board. This growing influence of institutional investors not only challenges the status quo but also underscores the importance of understanding their role within the broader economic tapestry of real estate.

Impact of Institutional Property Managers

This article aims to dissect the real impact of institutional property managers on the housing market, with particular attention to home prices and availability. It will delve into the rise of institutional property managers, their effects on rental markets, implications for homeownership rates and accessibility, and the resultant economic ramifications. Additionally, the discussion will extend to regulatory and policy responses aimed at addressing these challenges and a look into the future outlook of the property market within this context. Through this exploration, readers will gain insights into the multifaceted role of institutional investors and the critical balance that needs to be struck in the quest for equitable housing markets.


Impact of Institutional Property Managers

Definition and Characteristics

Property management involves the daily oversight of real estate, encompassing residential, commercial, or industrial properties by a third-party contractor. Property managers are tasked with a range of responsibilities including day-to-day repairs, maintenance, security, and overall upkeep of properties. They typically serve the owners of investment properties such as apartment complexes, condominiums, private home communities, shopping centers, and industrial parks.


Institutional-grade real estate, which attracts significant attention from large-scale investors like hedge funds and investment banks, includes properties that are top-tier (Class A or A+) with minimal risk of obsolescence. These properties are new, include state-of-the-art systems, and offer the best amenities. Institutional real estate is often leased to tenants with strong financial standings, enhancing its appeal to these investors.


Roles in the Housing Market

Property managers play a crucial role in the housing market by bridging the gap between property owners and tenants. Their responsibilities extend beyond mere property upkeep to include tenant screening, lease management, rent collection, and ensuring compliance with landlord-tenant laws. For institutional investors, property managers handle significant assets, often valued at $10 million or more, ensuring professional care and aiming to maximize returns.


Institutional investors, characterized by their large-scale investments, engage property managers to handle the complexities of managing these high-value properties. This management includes coordinating building maintenance, resolving tenant issues, and frequently communicating with the property owner to ensure the property is maintained to high standards.


Furthermore, property managers are vital in managing the relationships with tenants, ensuring their satisfaction and addressing concerns promptly, which is crucial for maintaining high occupancy rates and stable revenue streams. They also stay informed about local regulations to prevent legal issues and ensure the property adheres to all legal requirements.


Through effective property management, institutional investors can focus on expanding their portfolios and enhancing their investment returns, relying on property managers to handle the operational aspects efficiently.


The Rise of Institutional Property Managers

Historical Context

The inception of modern property management can be traced back to the economic strains of the Great Depression, a period marked by the accumulation of diverse property holdings by financial institutions ill-equipped to manage them. This necessitated the development of property management programs, establishing property management as a distinct profession. The post-World War II era further catalyzed this evolution, driven by economic expansion, urbanization, and a surge in residential development, particularly in Ontario where modern apartment development escalated from the mid-1950s.


Post-2008 Housing Crisis

The 2008 foreclosure crisis was a pivotal moment for institutional property management. Large institutional buyers, bolstered by Wall Street capital, began acquiring substantial numbers of single-family homes. This marked the emergence of institutionally owned single-family rentals (SFRs), with firms accumulating over 200,000 homes valued above $30 billion by 2019. The industry saw a significant shift with two types of investment companies surfacing: those that raised capital to expand their SFR businesses and those that began acquiring SFRs before establishing a corporate entity. However, the rapid acquisition of homes slowed down in 2015 as housing prices started to recover.


Recent Trends

In recent years, the industry has witnessed a consolidation, dominated by firms like BlackRock, which together own approximately 130,000 SFRs. These firms tend to purchase more expensive homes and charge higher rents compared to other firms. The selection of investment markets is strategic, focusing on areas with low housing prices, high population growth, and limited housing supply, which leads to a concentration of SFR homes in specific cities, particularly within the Sunbelt. This strategy ensures high local density, which is crucial for maintaining demand and minimizing vacancy rates.


Moreover, many investors have developed robust, in-house property management services that vary in centralization and standardization across different markets. These services are designed to maintain high occupancy rates, minimize tenant turnover, and reduce nonpayment risks through stringent tenant screening processes.


Impacts on Home Prices

Impact Analysis

Institutional and large corporate investors have significantly influenced the dynamics of the housing market, particularly impacting home prices. The median purchase price among institutional buyers was typically 26% below the state median price. In states with a higher institutional buyer share, above 13%, this difference was 20%, and in states with an institutional buyer share below 13%, the difference increased to 30%. This pricing strategy enables institutional investors to acquire properties at lower costs, often outbidding individual homebuyers who are unable to compete with all-cash offers. These investors often bypass traditional buying processes, such as appraisals, which can expedite their purchase timelines and give them a competitive edge in hot markets.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the activity of these investors surged, with institutional purchases of single-family homes averaging 28% per month in the first quarter of 2022, a significant increase from 19% the previous year. This increase in investor activity not only reduces the inventory of homes available for potential owner-occupants but also drives up home prices in concentrated markets. For instance, in areas with high investor activity, there is a notable decline in the number of homeowners and homeownership rates, particularly affecting first-time homebuyers and historically marginalized groups.


Case Studies

Research has shown that institutional purchases of distressed properties can positively affect neighboring home values. Properties within a quarter mile of an institutionally purchased home sold for 1.4% higher than those a quarter- to a half-mile farther away. This effect was even more pronounced for properties that were foreclosed upon or similar in age, with increases in value up to 4.3% and 2.5% respectively. In the most distressed neighborhoods, the increase could be as high as 7.4%.


However, the overarching impact of institutional investors on the real estate market can be dual-faceted. While they can spur recovery in property values in certain areas, their aggressive acquisition strategies can limit the availability of affordable homes for sale, contributing to a 9% increase in real house price growth from 2007 to 2014. This phenomenon underscores the complex role of institutional investors in shaping housing market dynamics, balancing between beneficial and potentially exclusionary impacts on the housing economy.


The expanding role of property management services, particularly in multi-owned housing developments, also plays a crucial role in influencing dwelling prices. Studies have found that observable common property attributes dependent on property management services can significantly influence dwelling prices, potentially affecting market values by up to 30%. This highlights the importance of effective property management in maintaining property value, especially in densely investor-populated markets.


Effects on Rental Markets

Rental Price Trends

Rental prices have experienced significant fluctuations, particularly influenced by the actions of institutional investors in the rental market. As of April, rent prices are reported to be 31.4% higher than pre-pandemic levels, with a notable increase of 3.6% compared to the same period last year. This trend is consistent across the United States, with the highest annual increase observed in Providence, R.I., at 7.7%, followed by Louisville, Ky., at 7%. These increases are partially attributed to the strategic acquisitions of Single-Family Rentals (SFRs) by institutional investors in specific neighborhoods, effectively reducing competition and potentially allowing these investors to set higher rents without challenge.


The impact of these strategic acquisitions is particularly pronounced in the Sunbelt region, where investments are heavily concentrated in metro areas of Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina. This concentration allows institutional investors to potentially monopolize certain rental markets, driving up rents. Concerns have been raised about the effects on affordability, especially for African American renters who are disproportionately affected in these targeted neighborhoods.


Vacancy Rates

Vacancy rates serve as a critical metric for assessing the performance of rental properties and the overall health of the real estate market. A balanced vacancy rate indicates a healthy turnover and occupancy level that benefits both property owners and tenants. However, high vacancy rates can signal issues such as overpricing or undesirable property conditions.


For instance, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a national rental vacancy rate of 7% in April 2019, a significant decrease from the peak of 11.1% during the 2009 housing crisis. This decrease in vacancy rates generally suggests a tightening market where demand outstrips supply, often leading to increased rents. Property managers and investors monitor these rates closely to adjust their strategies, whether by improving property conditions or reconsidering rental price points to optimize occupancy.


Property management companies play a crucial role in maintaining low vacancy rates through effective tenant retention strategies. Maximizing lease renewals is a key tactic, as high renewal rates reduce the frequency and cost associated with finding new tenants. Effective response to maintenance requests and consideration of tenant feedback are essential practices that help improve tenant satisfaction and retention rates.


In conclusion, the rental market dynamics are significantly shaped by the actions of institutional investors and the management practices of property owners. As rental prices continue to rise and vacancy rates stabilize at lower levels, the importance of strategic property management becomes even more critical to maintaining a balance between profitability and tenant satisfaction.

Homeownership Rates and Accessibility

Trends Over Time

In recent years, homeownership rates have shown a consistent struggle, with the latest data indicating a slight decline to 65.6% in the first quarter of 2024, marking the lowest rate in two years. This trend is particularly pronounced in New York City, where the homeownership rate stands at 30%, significantly below the national average. The rate has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade, despite fluctuations in the market segments, such as the increasing renter occupancy of single-family homes and condos since the onset of the pandemic.


Key Factors Influenced

Several key factors have been identified as influencing homeownership rates and accessibility. Firstly, accessibility features in buildings, such as wheelchair ramps and accessible parking spaces, are crucial for enhancing the mobility of individuals with physical disabilities. Compliance with these regulations not only ensures accessibility but also impacts the property value and desirability. Moreover, the location of a property plays a critical role, with properties in accessible areas commanding higher prices due to better connectivity and proximity to essential services.


Economic conditions also play a significant role. For instance, the price/income ratio, which indicates how many years' worth of income a typical homebuyer would need to pay for a home, has shown a slight decline since 2010. However, current higher mortgage rates have made financing more burdensome, impacting affordability. Additionally, the proportion of homeowners paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs has increased since the pandemic, indicating a growing financial burden on homeowners.


Economic Implications

National Economy

On a national scale, the economic implications of institutional investment in the housing market are profound. Institutional buyers contributed to 58% of the increase in real house price growth between 2006 and 2014. This significant rise in house prices, particularly in cities with low housing supply elasticity, underscores the substantial influence these investors wield over the national housing market.


However, this growth in housing prices has not been without its challenges. The increased activity of institutional investors has been linked to a 75% decline in homeownership rates during the same period. This decline is particularly concerning as it highlights the potential for institutional investors to crowd out individual homebuyers, thus exacerbating issues of housing affordability and accessibility.


Furthermore, the activities of institutional investors have led to an increase in the construction of new housing units. A one percentage point increase in the share of small and medium-sized real estate investors (SMREI) correlates with a 4.5% rise in new construction permits for single-unit buildings and a 15.7% increase for buildings with five or more units [39]. This suggests that while institutional investors are contributing to a surge in housing prices, they are also playing a role in addressing housing supply challenges by encouraging new developments.

In conclusion, the economic implications of institutional property investors extend beyond simple metrics of housing prices and homeownership rates. They have a complex and multifaceted impact on both local economies and the national economic landscape, influencing everything from employment levels to public revenues and housing supply dynamics.


Future Outlook

Potential Long-term Effects

The property management market is expected to continue its rapid advancement, heavily influenced by technological innovations. The integration of Fintech and Proptech, which includes blockchain, IoT, AR, machine learning, and AI, is set to revolutionize property transactions by significantly reducing costs and enhancing efficiency [51]. These technologies not only streamline operations but also offer comprehensive solutions that improve user experiences in real estate management.


In addition, drone technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in property management, providing a cost-effective method for monitoring large properties and construction sites, thus facilitating smoother operations in the real estate sector [51]. The cumulative impact of these advanced property management services could potentially elevate property values in multi-owned housing developments by up to 30%, underscoring the significant influence of effective management on the real estate market.


Market Predictions

The focus on technology and data-driven decision-making is expected to deepen within the corporate housing market. Large companies are likely to increase their reliance on advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to pinpoint investment opportunities and refine property management processes. This shift towards technology could lead to more streamlined operations and heightened efficiency, although it also brings up concerns regarding privacy and the risk of algorithmic bias.


Moreover, the trend of institutional investors expanding into new markets, particularly smaller cities and suburban areas, is anticipated to persist. This expansion could intensify competition for limited housing stock and drive property values higher in these communities, affecting local housing markets and potentially displacing long-standing residents.


Institutional investors are also expected to continue targeting cities with strong job growth prospects and a limited housing supply. Cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, Tampa, and Charlotte have been primary targets for these investors, particularly in the rental property sector. The presence of institutional investors in these areas has been associated with a 5.2% increase in average rents and a 4.4% rise in eviction rates.


The ongoing growth of the market for single-family rentals owned by institutional investors is likely to influence housing prices and rental market dynamics significantly. The rapid expansion during the early 2010s, followed by a more competitive environment due to increased activity from individual home buyers, illustrates the dynamic nature of this market.


Conclusion

Through the lens of Property Management Advisors, the impact of institutional investors on the U.S. housing market underscores a meaningful challenge for small landlords and tenants alike. The growing dominance of large-scale investors represents not just a shift in property ownership and management practices but also poses significant obstacles for small portfolio owners striving to compete in an increasingly concentrated market. For small landlords, navigating this landscape requires a nuanced understanding of the marketplace and strategic management of rental properties to sustain profitability and growth amidst formidable competition. It is here that a partnership with expertise in residential management becomes crucial, offering a pathway to mitigate the impacts of large investors and safeguard their investments.


Indeed, Property Management Advisors stands as a beacon for landlords seeking to adeptly manage their rental business amidst these market dynamics. Our dedicated team provides specialized insights and seasoned guidance tailored to empowering small landlords, helping them thrive even in challenging markets. Are you a landlord looking for reliable and trustworthy property management services? Look no further than Property Management Advisors! Our team of experts is here to help you understand the ins-and-outs of managing your rental properties. Let us take the hassle out of being a landlord so that you can rest assured knowing your investments are in good hands. Contact us today to learn more about our residential management solutions and get started with PMA! Also follow us on Facebook @PropertyManagementAdvisors


By facilitating effective strategies that hinge on understanding market trends, optimizing rental operations, and enhancing tenant relations, we ensure that landlords can navigate the complexities of the housing market with confidence and success. Moreover, by fostering partnerships like these, we contribute to a healthier, more balanced housing economy, underscoring the value of professional management in leveling the playing field for small portfolio owners.


FAQs

How do institutional buyers influence the housing market?

Institutional investors, with their substantial financial capabilities, play a significant role in shaping both local and national housing markets. Their ability to purchase homes in large quantities, especially in growing regions, reduces the availability of housing. This is particularly true for affordable starter homes, making it harder for ordinary buyers to find suitable properties.


What portion of the housing market do institutional investors own?

Statewide, institutional investors, defined as those owning 10 or more properties, hold less than 2% of single-family homes. These investors typically target markets that are experiencing rapid population growth and where real estate prices are low relative to rental rates.


What is the primary driver of housing prices?

The most influential factor affecting housing prices is the balance between supply and demand. This economic principle dictates that prices tend to rise when demand exceeds supply and fall when supply outpaces demand.


Are investors contributing to the current housing shortage?

Yes, investors are playing a role in the housing shortage. Their aggressive pursuit of properties priced below market value has intensified the competition for available homes. This trend not only exacerbates the shortage of inventory but also poses significant challenges for regular homebuyers, who find it increasingly difficult to compete in such a market.

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