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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

Bell Partners' Formula for Finding Apartment Deals In the Current Environment


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Bell Partners has mastered the art of navigating turbulence with a strategy honed over its 50-year history. Amidst the challenges of 2024—a year marked by capital markets volatility, elevated interest rates, and a sharp 60% decline in multifamily transactions—the company continues to thrive, guided by a formula that balances caution with opportunism.


A Commitment to Quality


At the heart of Bell Partners' success is a steadfast commitment to quality. This principle was vividly demonstrated last month when the firm acquired Silverado Apartment Homes in Murrieta, California. Paying $146.5 million for the 17-year-old, 492-unit community, Bell Partners added another jewel to its Southern California portfolio, which now includes 11 apartment communities. This acquisition exemplifies their strategy: prioritizing assets in high-quality locations that promise durable cash flows.


Navigating Market Challenges


Lili Dunn, CEO and president of Bell Partners, encapsulates the company's approach succinctly. "In times of inflection, we place greater emphasis on prioritizing these assets with durable cash flows," she says. This focus has steered Bell Partners through the market's peaks and troughs, ensuring steady performance even when conditions are less than ideal.

In a typical year, Bell Partners closes between $1 billion to $2 billion in transactions.

However, Dunn acknowledges that 2024 will likely see the company operating at the lower end of that range. The reason? A significant price expectation gap between buyers and sellers. "Sellers are generally looking for a cap rate in the mid to high 4s, while buyers are looking for a cap rate in the low to mid 5s," Dunn notes. This disparity has led many sellers to refinance and delay sales, adding another layer of complexity to an already challenging market.


Strategic Buying and Selling


Despite these hurdles, Bell Partners remains active, leveraging its time-tested formula to both buy and sell properties. For acquisitions, the company zeroes in on assets located near major employment centers, lifestyle amenities, and easy access to transportation. This strategy not only ensures strong cash flows but also positions Bell Partners to capitalize on future market rebounds. The Silverado Apartment Homes purchase is a case in point, perfectly aligning with these criteria.


On the sales front, Bell Partners seeks to maximize value by marketing properties that have matured over five years can demonstrate strong cash flows, and offer assumable financing. These seasoned assets tend to attract top dollar, providing Bell Partners with the liquidity to reinvest in new opportunities.


Cautious Approach in the Sunbelt


One notable shift in their strategy is a cautious approach towards the Sunbelt region, where oversupply is currently suppressing cash flows. Instead, Bell Partners is focusing on micro-urban locations that, while less hyped, promise resilience and potential for growth.


Quality Over Quantity


This nuanced approach underscores a deeper philosophy at Bell Partners: quality over quantity. "We always gravitate towards quality, especially now," Dunn asserts. "And when we buy, we then focus on enhancing performance returns." This philosophy not only safeguards the company's investments but also ensures that it continues to deliver value to its stakeholders, even in the most challenging of times.


Looking Ahead


As the real estate market continues to evolve, Bell Partners' formula remains a beacon of stability and foresight. By placing a premium on quality assets with durable cash flows and maintaining a flexible yet strategic approach to buying and selling, the company is well-positioned to navigate the complexities of 2024 and beyond.

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