A Hot Market Within a Hot Market

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Multifamily housing – everything from duplexes, fourplexes, condominiums and apartment buildings – are among the hottest attractions within an already sizzling real estate market, specialists say.

“It’s crazy hot right now,” says Don Thomas, managing partner, commercial real estate at Platz Realty Group. “We’re seeing a lot of investors from out of the area.”

Demand for these units is commanding prices that the Mahoning Valley market has never witnessed, Thomas observes. “It’s all over the board,” he says.  “There’s big demand for apartments, there aren’t enough units in the region and no one is building right now.”

Skimpy inventory in the residential market has in turn fueled demand for rental housing, increasing the value of multifamily properties among investors. While many of the larger deals command much of the attention, most sales are buildings that contain six to 12 units, Thomas says.

“They’re bringing in really good dollars, and they’re not active on the market for very long,” he says. 

Indeed, very seldom does a multi-family commercial property – Platz only sells buildings with four or more units – make it to the company’s website before it’s sold, Thomas says.  On average, these units will last between 60 and 90 days on the market, he says.

“It’s pretty unusual,” he says. 

For example, Platz sold approximately 700 apartment units in 2021, which translates to about 25 buildings, Thomas says.  Furthermore, the market is showing no signs of cooling down. 

“Right now, I would think the average door price is between $50,000 to $60,000 per door,” Thomas says. 

That would mean an apartment complex with 10 units, for example, could on average command between $500,000 and $600,000 on the market today. In some cases, units could draw between $65,000 and $70,000 per door, he says. 

A recent bump in interest rates also hasn’t put the brakes on multifamily transactions, at least not yet, according to Thomas. A 0.5% hike proposed by the Federal Reserve in June could dampen activity during the second half of the year. 

“It could slow it down quite a bit,” he says.

Nevertheless, Thomas points to a series of positive developments in the Mahoning Valley that have raised investors’ interest in the region. 

Among these are Ultium Cells LLC’s $2.3 billion battery cell manufacturing plant under construction in Lordstown. Once fully operational, the plant would employ more than 1,100 workers.

Also, Thomas says the recent purchase of Lordstown Motors Corp.’s factory by Foxconn, the completion of Royal Dutch Shell’s $6 billion ethane cracker plant in nearby Center Township, Pa., and opportunities in additive manufacturing are all positive developments that draw attention, as well as potential workers to the region.

“We were several generations into not having good news,” he says. “Now, we have some good news. We’re seeing people moving into the area, or back to the area for opportunity.”

These factors, mixed with the low inventory of residential real estate, have accelerated demand in the multifamily sector, Thomas says.  As a result, the Mahoning Valley has witnessed some eye-popping transactions for apartment and multifamily complexes, he says.

“These are deals that drive visibility,” he says. “The volume is there, and those are the ones driving interest in the area.”

The multifamily market in the region has generated plenty of action over the last two years. In November 2021, a developer based in Bayville, N.Y., purchased five apartments in Youngstown’s Wick Park neighborhood for $1.9 million. The properties were purchased in 1995 for just $32,000, according to records from the Mahoning County Auditor’s office.

More recent transactions show that the market continues to surge, as demand has pushed up average rents, thereby increasing value for multifamily properties.

In April, the Hitchcock Commons apartment complex along West Boulevard in Boardman sold for $10.6 million to New Jersey-based St. Andrews Manor Real Estate LLC, according Mahoning County auditor records. 

Historic data show that Hitchcock Apartment Associates, a limited partnership based in Rochester, N.Y., first developed the complex in 1986 and remained the sole owner until the recent sale.

In Liberty Township, a Florida real estate company in May acquired 42 condominiums from Klines Cove Real Estate LLC for $7.25 million, according to public records.

The most recent forecast from the Mortgage Bankers Association projects commercial lending for multifamily projects across the country to reach $493 billion in 2022.  These estimates represent a new record and a 5% increase over 2021, the organization reports.

At the same time, new construction in the United States for multifamily units is expected to decrease in 2022 after a year of solid increases, according to data published by Statista.  Data show that in 2020, the number of multifamily housing starts stood at 389,000.  In 2021, that number jumped by 84,000 to 473,000.

However, it is expected that new construction will drop this year and into 2023 nationally, Statista data show.  The research site projects multi-family housing starts will decrease by 23,000 in 2022 to 450,000.  In 2023, that number is expected to fall to 430,000.

Still, local real estate agents say they’ve never seen buyers with such an appetite for local multifamily units.

“A lot of investors are liquidating their assets because the market has never been this strong,” says Maureen Cline-Skowron, broker/manager of Century 21 Lakeside Realty. 

Cline-Skowron deals with multifamily properties that are considered residential, since they consist of four apartments or fewer.

“Even smaller units – fourplexes and duplexes – they’re not on the market very long,” she says.  “They are selling.”

Pictured at top: Hitchcock Commons complex in Boardman was purchased by a New Jersey company that paid $10.6 million for the units.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.