The retailization of the single family home rental play

March 4, 2013

By Matthew Goldstein

It started slowly but the push by Wall Street into the single family rental market is fast becoming a Main Street play as well.

Last year, one of the big stories on Wall Street and in the U.S. housing market was the push by institutional investors to raise billions of dollars to snap-up foreclosed homes and rent them out while waiting for the right time to sell them. It’s become the biggest “long” bet on housing for private equity giants like Blackstone, which has already spent close to $3 billion buying up more than 16,000 foreclosed homes.

And with Wall Street firms all projecting they can get an 8% return from renting out the the homes they acquire, the foreclosed home market has become a great yield play for yield-starved wealthy investors.

But now it’s time for retail investors to get in the game too.

Late last year two firms that are buying foreclosed homes and renting them out went public—Silver Bay Realty Trust (SBY) and Altisource Residential Corp. (RESI). Silver Bay, set up as a real estate investment trust, raised $245 million in its December IPO. Altisource Residential is a spinoff of Altisource, a real estate portfolio management company, and is buying both non-performing mortgages and single family homes at foreclosure auctions.

In the coming weeks, American Residential Properties, an Arizona-based acquirer of foreclosed homes, expects to soon file for an IPO. But the most anticipated IPO in this burgeoning market will be one from American Homes 4 Rent, which ranks right behind Blackstone in gobbling up foreclosed homes. Last week, the Malibu, Calif.-based firm, led by Public Storage founder Wayne Hughes, issued a press release saying it will soon filed for an IPO.

American Homes 4 Rent, backed by an initial $600 million investment from the Alaska Permanent Fund, has been buying up foreclosed homes all across the U.S. An IPO for the company should draw a lot of interest given the company’s pace of acquisitions and the fact that American Homes 4 Rent has been quite reticent in talking publicly about it plans and strategy.

In fact, an American Homes 4 Rent IPO will really be the company’s second foray into the retail market. Late last year, it began raising money for single-family home acquisition fund in partnership with brokerage Raymond James, which declined to comment on the fund.

With the housing market continuing to show signs of life, look for more institutional buyers of single family homes to go public this year. Of course the big question is whether these publicly traded vehicles will be good investment opportunities.

Last year the story in the foreclosed home market was the entrance into the market of institutional players. This year the story increasingly will be an operational one and how these big institutional players look to cash-in on their investments and whether its a game that retail investors can play in as well.




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