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Inside the Deal: Lloyd Jones Capital’s Expanding Workforce Housing Portfolio

Lloyd Jones Capital’s purchase of The Westcott Apartments marked its second purchase in the market in less than a year. The Miami-based real-estate private equity firm paid $57.8 million for the 444-unit garden-style apartment complex in Tallahassee, Fla., expanding its footprint in multifamily assets located primarily in Florida, Texas and the Southeast.

Lloyd Jones, which specializes in the multifamily and senior housing sectors, was launched just four years ago, but its principals have been active in the industry for 38 years. The firm’s core strategy is to invest in cash-flowing assets that are undercapitalized or poorly managed and therefore offer value-add opportunities.

Lloyd Jones acquires, improves and operates multifamily assets with a holding strategy that ranges from three to 10 years, depending on the needs of its investors, which include institutional partners, family offices, private investors and its own principals.

Despite headwinds faced by multifamily—such as rising interest rates and construction costs as well as concerns about oversupply in some markets–Chris Finlay, chairman & CEO of Lloyd Jones Capital, remains bullish on the sector.

It’s absolutely the best asset class to invest in, primarily due to demographics,” he said. “You have 75 or 80 million Millennials, and about a third of them are still living with Mom and Dad, so there’s a huge untapped market. On the other side of the spectrum, you have the Baby Boomers, about a third of whom are renting now, and every indicator seems to show that percentage is going to increase as they get older.

Finlay said he’s not concerned about an oversupply of apartments, an issue he feels has been “exaggerated.” Due to high construction costs, most of the new supply coming online is Class A, he said, but his strategy is to focus on what he calls “market-rate workforce housing,” or housing that’s affordable to a median-income family. Since there’s little new workforce product in the pipeline, Finlay is confident that Lloyd Jones is transacting in a niche that will lead to good returns.

MARKET FUNDAMENTALS

Tallahassee is the state capital of Florida, and the multifamily market there is stable, with further growth projected. According to Yardi Matrix, in the second quarter of 2018, monthly rents averaged $1,173, up from $1,088 in the second quarter of 2016. Yardi forecasts average monthly rents to increase to $1,347 by the end of 2023. Occupancies have been holding steady, at 94.6 percent in the second quarter of 2018 and forecast to rise slightly to 94.8 percent by the end of 2023.

Unit in The Westcott Apartments

The supply/demand balance is very good there,” Finlay said. “It’s an extremely stable market because the state government is there, and irrespective of the economy, that always chugs along.

In addition, there are two major universities in Tallahassee—Florida State University and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) University—that drive both the student housing and off-campus multifamily markets.

Tallahassee is one of those markets that don’t boom but they don’t bust,” Finlay said. “It’s just a nice progressive growth—reasonable growth that you can count on.

Other experts agree. “The Tallahassee market has seen consistent growth over the last few years, both from a value-appreciation standpoint as well as rent growth and stabilized occupancy,” said Jad Richa, managing director of Capstone Apartment Partners in Tampa, who handles investment sales.

Richa said that every deal he’s sold recently in the area “has some value-add component to it.” Cap rates on closed deals range from 6 to 7.5 percent, he said, attracting investors priced out of gateway markets that are “chasing yield” in Tallahassee.

THE DEAL

The Westcott Apartments is a 444-unit Class B+ property located at 3909 Reserve Drive, just five miles from the state capital building. Most of the apartments were built in 2000 (300 units), with an expansion completed in 2005 (144 units). The floor plans include one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Rents at the time of acquisition ranged from $950 to $1,250, and the occupancy rate was about 93 percent. Finlay said the trailing cap rate was 5.5 percent.

It’s a great asset in a great location,” he added. “It’s in an area of Tallahassee that we see a lot of expansion happening, so there’s still room for growth. And it’s very easy to get to downtown.

Public records disclose that Lloyd Jones, which took title to the property in the name of an affiliated entity named LJC Westcott LLC, paid $54.6 million for the property. The $57.8 million purchase price reported by the company represents its total investment, including its anticipated capital expenditures and rehab costs.

The Westcott Apartments Amenities

Finlay said he was presented with the opportunity by the listing broker, Jones Lang LaSalle’s Capital Markets Group, which also arranged a $40.3 million 10-year floating-rate mortgage through Freddie Mac on behalf of the buyer. The seller was Irvine, Calif.-based Oaktree Capital, and the deal took about 90 days to close.

The prior owners invested $4.8 million in capital improvements such as landscaping, playground updates, exterior painting, two clubhouse remodels, two fitness center upgrades and unit upgrades. In line with its management strategy, Lloyd Jones plans value-add upgrades and improvements to The Westcott’s existing amenities, which include two swimming pools, two fitness centers, playgrounds and tennis courts.

Finlay said he’s spending some $7,000 per unit to upgrade about a quarter of the units, adding granite countertops, tile backsplashes, stainless-steel appliances, vinyl-plank flooring, and washers and dryers—what Finlay calls “a standard upgrade package typical in a value-add strategy.” Although the program hasn’t been implemented yet, plans call for an average $125 rent premium for upgraded units.

After improving the units, repositioning the project and raising rents, Finlay expects to sell. “This will probably be a five-year hold,” he said. “The strategy is to do the improvements and try to operate the property more efficiently and then position it to sell in five or seven years.

CRITICAL NEED

The Westcott is just one example of Finlay’s strategy to capitalize on the critical need for workforce housing in the United States. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University’s “The State of the Nation’s Housing 2018,” nearly one-third of all U.S. households paid more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing in 2016. For renters alone, however, the cost-burdened share is 47 percent. And of the 20.8 million renter households that are burdened, some 11 million pay more than half their incomes for housing and are severely burdened.

What we focus on is something that differentiates us from a lot of investment firms,” Finlay said. “We focus on the affordability of workforce housing.

He added that the firm’s first-year projected rents at The Westcott are at 25 percent of the median income for Tallahassee. “HUD basically stipulates that 30 percent is the guideline, and anything above 30 percent is considered rent-burdened,” he said. “We’re not even close to that 30 percent. We’re providing great housing for workforce families in that market when all the new stuff is unaffordable.

by Robyn A. Friedman

 

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Lloyd Jones Names COO of Property Management

MIAMI — Lloyd Jones has named Steven Druth its chief operating officer of property management. Druth brings over 30 years of real estate experience to the Miami- based, real estate private equity firm.

As a commercial brokerage and management specialist, Druth operated his own Boston based firm for ten years before moving to Manhattan’s largest independent real estate agency.

“I am very excited about my expanded role at Lloyd Jones and look forward to further increasing efficiency and resident satisfaction at all of our properties,” said Druth.

Throughout his career, operational efficiency and strategic leadership have been the trademark skills that Druth will now add to the Lloyd Jones executive team.

“I’ve known Steve for many years and his people management skills are exceptional,” said Lloyd Jones chairman, Chris Finlay. “With his extensive experience in our industry, I am very confident that he will take our operating platform to a new level.”

 

About Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones is a private-equity real estate firm that specializes in the multifamily and senior housing sectors. Building on thirty-eight years in the real estate industry, the firm acquires, improves, and operates multifamily real estate in growth markets throughout Florida, Texas, and the Southeast. Its investors include institutional partners, family offices, private investors, and its own principals.

Choosing a Real Estate Investment Partner? Six Questions to Ask

Before you entrust your funds to a real estate investment partner, ask some questions.

First: Is your real estate investment partner an Allocator or an Operator? There is a big difference.

Allocators distribute capital on your behalf to Operators. Allocators seek the best operators and invest, on your behalf, in whatever funds and deals operators bring to them. Allocators make sense if you are a pension fund (or similar) with no expertise in real estate investment. You are basically outsourcing that function and knowledge; however, it comes at a cost. You have no input in asset selection or fund strategy. And of course, the Allocator charges fees. This adds an additional layer of costs to you, and these fees come out of the investment thus reducing your returns. An Operator, on the other hand, is the preferred solution if you have the resources to analyze a specific fund or an individual deal. If you invest directly with a real estate operator, you will not only save a layer of expensive fees, but also get to choose a fund investment strategy, (or particular asset), its geography, investment term, and even the potential returns. But be careful how you choose an operator. They are not all the same.

Six questions you should ask your operator:

  1. Focus. What asset class do you specialize in?

If the answer is “retail, industrial, and student housing…” Run! An operator must be an expert in a specific asset class.

  1. Market. What markets do you specialize in?

The same applies to markets. A real estate operator must have a physical presence in the target market to really understand its nuances and trends.

  1. How long have you been in business? In the specific asset class? In the specific market?

Experience is priceless.

  1. How many economic cycles have you experienced? How did you weather the market crashes of early ’90s and ’08?

Real estate is great while the market is booming. Does your operator know what to do in a crash?

  1. Who manages your investment properties? Do you outsource to a 3rd party management company?

There is no substitute for your own, on-site management of your assets. As a wise farmer once told me, “The best fertilizer is the farmer’s foot on the soil.” This applies to property management, as well. You must have your foot – and your hands, eyes, and ears — on the property, at all times. The 3rd party manager has no skin in the game. It’s not his money at risk if there is a budget shortfall.

A word about property management: It is local, hands-on, and very difficult – and probably the most important aspect of a real estate investment. Your management team, especially at the site level, is critical to your property’s success. Few investors/operators pay enough attention to this fact. Let me assure you, it’s very, very difficult to assemble the right team. I can hire 1,000 financial analysts more easily than one, excellent on-site property manager. It’s that hard.

  1. How much of your own money are you putting in the deal?

Most sophisticated investors want to see the operator have money in the deal. It gives them comfort knowing that if the investment is not successful, the operator will share the pain.

At Lloyd Jones Capital, we always invest alongside our real estate investment partners, but, in fact, maintaining our good reputation and strong track record is what motivates us to succeed. With the transparency in the market today, an operator’s reputation is far more valuable than his money.

In summary, when choosing a real estate investment partner, ask these questions and remember:

Real estate is local and hands-on. Your partner should be, too.

Christopher Finlay is Chairman/CEO of Lloyd Jones Capital, a private-equity real estate operator that specializes in the multifamily and senior housing sectors. Headquartered in Miami, the firm acquires, improves, and operates multifamily real estate in growth markets throughout Texas, Florida, and the Southeast. Its affiliated management group is an Accredited Management Organization (AMO®) with a thirty-five-year history in multifamily real estate.

Lloyd Jones Capital Announces Vice President of Acquisitions

Private Equity Real Estate Firm Expands Its Texas Presence

MIAMI – Lloyd Jones Capital, a Miami-based multifamily investment firm, has announced the appointment of Neil Bertrand, vice president of acquisitions. Neil will lead the company’s acquisition effort for the Texas market.

“The addition of Neil to our team is instrumental as we continue to seek acquisition opportunities in Texas, one of our key strategic markets,” commented Chris Finlay, Lloyd Jones Capital, chairman and CEO.

Neil Bertrand’s 20-year real estate career includes positions with four of National Multifamily Housing Council’s Top 50 Firms. Throughout the course of his career, Neil has been responsible for the oversight of conventional, tax credit, senior housing, and student housing portfolios. Neil has led projects including acquisition analysis, due diligence, renovation, new construction, and lease-up of assets in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and North Carolina.

“I am excited to join the Lloyd Jones Capital team. With a successful history of more than 35 years in real estate, the company continues to produce positive results for its investors. Leading the state’s acquisition efforts should yield long-term results as Texas continues to lead the nation in employment growth,” remarked Neil Bertrand.

Neil attended Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, Texas, and holds the Certified Apartment Portfolio Supervisor (CAPS®) designation from the National Apartment Association. He is also an Accredited Residential Manager (ARM®) and a Certified Property Manager (CPM®) Candidate with the Institute of Real Estate Management.

About Lloyd Jones Capital

Lloyd Jones Capital is a private-equity real estate firm that specializes in the multifamily sector. With 37 years of experience in the real estate industry, the firm acquires, improves, and operates multifamily real estate in growth markets throughout Texas, Florida, and the Southeast. Lloyd Jones Capital provides a fully integrated investment/operations platform.  Its property management arm partners with the investment team to provide local expertise in each of its markets.

Headquartered in Miami, the firm has offices throughout Texas, Florida, and the Southeast, plus New York City.  The firm’s investors include institutional partners, private investors, and its own principals. For more information visit: lloydjonesllc.com.

Lloyd Jones Capital Acquires Jacksonville Apartment Community

MIAMI –  Lloyd Jones Capital, a Miami-based multifamily investment firm, has acquired the Deerwood Park apartment community in Jacksonville, Florida. The property is located in the Deerwood Office Park on Touchton Road, home to 5.2 million square feet of office space and the largest employers in the MSA. Residents of Deerwood Park enjoy an address that offers a live, work and play lifestyle in Southside, one of Jacksonville’s most desirable neighborhoods.

The 282-unit acquisition brings the Lloyd Jones Capital multifamily portfolio to nearly 5,000 units spread across Texas, Florida, and the Southeast.

“We are elated with the acquisition of Deerwood Park. Jacksonville is a key market for us and Deerwood Park is a value-add asset with tremendous upside opportunity,” commented Chris Finlay, chairman and CEO of Lloyd Jones Capital. “Lloyd Jones Capital plans to enhance the property with a value-add program that we anticipate will yield rent and occupancy growth for our investors.”

Built in 2002, the gated property offers one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments with highly sought-after amenities including attached garages, a resort luxury style pool, outdoor kitchen with gas grills and a dog park.

Deerwood Park will be managed by Finlay Management, the operations group at Lloyd Jones Capital.  Finlay Management is an Accredited Management Organization (AMO®) as designated by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®) and has a 37-year history in the industry.

About Lloyd Jones Capital

Lloyd Jones Capital is a private-equity real estate firm that specializes in the multifamily sector. With 37 years of experience in the real estate industry, the firm acquires, improves, and operates multifamily real estate in growth markets throughout Texas, Florida, and the Southeast. Lloyd Jones Capital provides a fully integrated investment/operations platform.  Its property management arm partners with the investment team to provide local expertise in each of its markets.

Headquartered in Miami, the firm has offices throughout Texas, Florida, and the Southeast, plus New York City.  The firm’s investors include institutional partners, private investors, and its own principals. For more information visit: lloydjonesllc.com.

 

Affordable Housing – It’s time to shake it up.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the American dream was to own a modest home in which to raise a family. This was more than a dream; it was an assumption, an expectation. Even the lowest-income workers aimed for and usually achieved, this dream. Not anymore. There is a tremendous last of affordable housing. Millions of our working families cannot even afford a rental apartment.

But that can change. I submit that we can double affordable housing assistance without increasing funding. We currently spend

$50 billion for affordable housing programs

plus

$130 billion to assist non-low income households via tax deductions

Billions. That’s a lot of money. Where does it go?

1. Affordable housing.

Federal and state governments have literally hundreds of programs designed to provide housing assistance – $50 billion worth. This massive bureaucracy comes at a tremendous cost to efficiency, and it meets the needs of only a fraction of the very-low-income population. Plus, it drives up the costs.

2. Assistance for home-owners

We spend $130 billion to assist non-low- income households through mortgage interest and real estate tax deductions. $130 billion to home-owners when we have homeless families?

I’ve just finished reading a 2015 report by the Congressional Budget Office (Federal Housing Assistance for Low-Income Households). It looks at several potential policy changes to address the problem of affordable housing: revising the composition of the assisted population, adjusting tenant contributions to the rent payment on HUD’s voucher program, and repealing and/or replacing various programs. (Just repealing the LIHTC [Low Income Housing Tax Credit] program would increase revenues $42 billion over the next 10 years per the Joint Committee on Taxation.)

This CBO report is an analysis of various options; it offers no solutions. I propose an additional option, but first, we have to address the real issue.

The real issue:

In my opinion, these options do not address the underlying problem: the massive bureaucracy inherent in any government program. Layer upon layer of bureaucracy: administration, multi-tiered approvals, pages and pages of legislative rules and regulations, legal fees, accounting fees, compliance fees – and record maintenance into perpetuity. In one of my LIHTC compliance newsletters, the writer took over 350 words to explain “simply” which income limits to use to qualify a household. If it takes 350 words to tell me which year’s income limits I must use, it’s not simple. It takes attorneys, accountants, and compliance experts to understand the intricacies of each program. How many thousands of people are involved in every project? It’s very expensive to produce affordable housing. I recently read that the cost to construct a low-income housing tax credit unit is $250,000 – for one unit!! I suspect that same unit, market rate, would come in around $150,000.

My Proposal: Let’s dismantle the entire bureaucracy!

Let’s use the funds – from all sources – and provide assistance directly to the end user whose income is too low to afford a median-income rental apartment.

How many would qualify?

According to the CBO report, in 2014 the federal government provided about $50 billion in housing assistance to 4.8 million low-income households. But we have 20 million eligible households (those earning less than 50% of Area Median Income), so we still have 15 million very-low- income households that receive no assistance.

And what about those between 50% and 100% of median? Families earning $30,000 to $60,000 dollars? According to a 2015 report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, 20 percent of households earning $45,000–$74,999 (median area income range) were cost burdened in 2014.

The term “cost burdened” typically refers to those paying more than 30 percent of income on housing expenses, including utilities. In my opinion, that definition should be raised to 35 percent or 40 percent.

New System:

Now let’s design a system to provide funds directly to the end user– the household or person needing the assistance. Note that I said “directly.” Let’s cut out the middlemen. Let’s keep it simple. Basically, the recipient needs to prove his/her income, perhaps with an income tax return.

Households whose incomes are below national median income (adjusted for family size) will receive a stipend to supplement their incomes to the point that they can afford a median income rent (i.e. 30 percent of national median income.) This stipend will allow renters to go to any apartment in the country and rent whatever they want and wherever they want.

Assume national median income is $55,000. (In 2015, it was $55,775, per US Census.) Affordable rent for a median-income household of four is $1375 per month. ($55,000 /12 x .30)

So, let’s make sure every household can pay $1375 (adjusted for household size).

For instance, if the household earns only $40,000, it can afford $1167 without being overburdened. That household would receive a monthly stipend of $208. ($1375-$1167)

What if the household lives in a high-income area? Let’s take Dallas as an example.

Median income is $71,700, so median income rent is close to $1,800. This same household would have a choice: Stay in Dallas and pay an extra $450 out of pocket (The difference between national median rent and Dallas median rent) or move to a more affordable community. Again, it’s a choice.

The point is: instead of spending billions of dollars on bureaucracy and expensive production, give the money to the end users. Let them decide their own priorities. Proximity to work? Superior school system? Or maybe someone just likes a blue building. Whatever. The recipients may decide to spend more (or less) than 35% of their income on housing (like our Dallas household). That’s OK.

They can’t do that now with a HUD housing voucher. HUD restricts the amount they can pay, so they have no choice of lifestyle or location, or even the number of bedrooms, for that matter.

Employment- a very important issue

I’m talking here about low-income wage earners. There’s no employment requirement to receive HUD housing vouchers. In fact, the CBO report refers to studies that indicate receipt of a voucher reduces both household employment and earnings. About one-half of HUD’s housing voucher and public housing recipients are of work age and able-bodied, but only half of those count work as a majority of their income. Their other income comes from supplemental non-housing assistance.

In my plan, to receive the proposed stipend, households must show a willingness to work, preferably in a full-time capacity. But, per the report, the cost to wean recipients off housing assistance will cost about $10 billion. (more bureaucracy/administration?)

What has happened to common sense? Our voluminous legislative regulations, encouraged by special interest groups have us so tied up in “programs” that we are failing the working American family. There’s a lot of talk about adjusting programs, but I am talking about eliminating them.

Of course, my broad-brush vision is just that – a general concept. But it is based on my thirty-five years in the multifamily industry, as LIHTC developer, manager and now, investor. I think the number crunchers will show it can work. To get from here to there, however, will not be an easy task.

Christopher Finlay is Chairman/CEO of Lloyd Jones Capital, a private-equity real-estate firm that specializes in the multifamily sector. With 35 years of experience in the real estate industry, the firm acquires, manages and improves multifamily real estate on behalf of its institutional partners, private investors and its own principals. Headquartered in Miami, the firm has operations throughout Texas, Florida and the Southeast. For more information visit: lloydjones.wpengine.com.

Skip the Flip in Multifamily Investment

It’s time to go long.

Historically, multifamily investment has been about long-term, cash-flow returns. However, in recent years, as the industry caught the eye of private equity, the emphasis turned to a property’s IRR or Internal Rate of Return.

The “fix and flip”, the “value-add” became the standard: short hold, quick fix, big return. And the multifamily real estate buying frenzy began. The strategy has proved to be very profitable over the past five or six years, but in my opinion, those days are (almost) gone – for several reasons.

TODAY, THERE’S NOT ENOUGH MEAT left on the bones of C and B properties to ensure investors of increased rents and resultant returns. The fix and flip strategy had been to buy an apartment community and execute a “value-add” to approximately 20% of the units, thus leaving “meat on the bone” for the next investor. At the same time, the investor would raise the rents to cover the cost of the improvements. So rents increased, NOIs rose, prices went up, and the buying frenzy continued.

The next investor then thought he could upgrade another 40% of the units. But in fact, as cap rates fell and he had to pay more for the asset, he had to rehab 70% or 80% to reach his hurdles, leaving almost nothing left for the following investor. Consequently, today, after a couple of “flips”, most “value-add” deals don’t make financial sense.

RENTAL RATE INCREASES  Because of demand, rents have risen sharply in nearly every market, but according to economists, that increase should moderate to about 3.5 to 4% due to new construction coming online. Consequently, investors cannot assume drastic rent increases in their acquisition proformas. If it doesn’t work now, it won’t work in the future.

THE ECONOMY:  We’re long into our economic expansion cycle having exceeded the historic five-year average, but today in the US, growth is virtually stagnant. Are we reaching the peak? The good news is that multifamily real estate will continue to be among the strongest asset classes (if not #1) for reliable, steady returns regardless of the stage of the economic cycle. Why?

DEMAND: There is still an unfulfilled demand that is expected to be with us for a long time. That is the multifamily investment’s ace in the hole. Seventy-five million millennials plus another 75 million baby boomers. The multifamily rental business is poised to perform better than any other asset class. We have all read about millennials and their student loan debt and inability to afford a home. I personally think it has little to do with money. It’s about lifestyle, flexibility, and priorities. Young people want flexibility to move to that next job; they want amenities and social interaction. A house is not a priority to them. Retiring baby boomers, on the other hand, have “been there; done that.”  They are ready to free themselves from the burdens and expenses of home ownership. Whatever the reason, more people are renting today than at any time in the past 51 years.

INTEREST RATES: This brings us to interest rates – a very key and important ingredient in real estate investment. Who knows what might happen next? Answer: Nobody. One thing we do know: there’s little likelihood of a reduction in interest rates, although it’s not impossible. In Europe, where the real rate is in negative territory, some banks are considering storing money in their vaults because of the negative yields. It costs them money to make loans! And the US is getting close to that level. (See my blog post from June 14, 2016, titled “Is it time to keep your money under the mattress?“) But luckily for the multifamily investment industry, this big question mark can be taken off the table. We can counter the risk by locking in fixed rates today. We know what our debt will be for the duration of our investment.

So what does all this have to do with “going long”?

Multifamily investment is probably the most stable, reliable investment one can choose. But the strategy has changed. It’s time to “go long.” Forget about the unrealistically high-return value-adds so prevalent at the beginning of this cycle. They no longer exist. Lloyd Jones Capital recommends buying quality properties that produce consistent cash flow. Focus more on yield than IRR. Consider a long-term hold and do not over-leverage. Then, assuming good management, you should enjoy a reliable, long-term return on your investment.

Christopher Finlay is Chairman/CEO of Lloyd Jones Capital, a private-equity real-estate firm that specializes in the multifamily sector. With 35 years of experience in the real estate industry, the firm acquires, manages and improves multifamily real estate on behalf of its institutional partners, private investors and its own principals. Headquartered in Miami, the firm has operations throughout Texas, Florida and the Southeast. For more information visit: lloydjones.wpengine.com.