The rental comparable analysis is the process of analyzing similar apartment communities in the general area to determine the market rents of the subject apartment community.
As an apartment investor or apartment syndicator, the three main times you will perform a rental comparable analysis is 1) during the underwriting process when initially analyzing a deal, 2) as a part of the market survey during the due diligence process and 3) on a recurring basis after closing on a deal.
Ideally, you’ve partnered with property management company who agrees to perform the rental comparable analysis during all three of the three stages – and most importantly, during the due diligence phase. However, there may be times when you will need to perform the analysis yourself. For example, if you find a deal before partnering with a property management company, if you only have a few days to submit an LOI or if you want to perform you own analysis for comparison purposes. Therefore, it is important that you have the ability to calculate the market rents on your own. And in this blog post, I will outline the process to do so without the use of fancy property management software. All you will need is an internet connection and a phone.
The first step of the rental comparable analysis is to find 5 to 10 apartment communities (i.e. rental comps) that are similar to the subject property. That means they were built around the same time, are in the same submarket and have the same level of interior upgrades and amenities. The best resource to find rental comps is on www.Apartments.com.
Once you’ve located the 5 to 10 rental comps, log the property address, year built, number of units and contact phone number. Then, pick up the phone and call the property. The purpose of the phone call is to collect data required to confirm that the rental comp is similar to the subject property, as well as to collect the rental data so that you can determine the market rents of the subject property. And in order to obtain this information, you will pose as a resident who is interested in renting a unit.
Here are the 6 main pieces of information to obtain:
1 – Rental Data
One of your main goals is to obtain the rental data for the rental comp. Sometimes, this information will be listed on the rental comp’s Apartments.com page. However, you still want to confirm that the information is accurate on the phone call.
If the rental comps has 1-bed and 2-bed units only:
- First, ask “I am interested in renting a 2-bedroom unit. How much do those rent for?” to which they will respond with the rental amount. If they offer multiple 2-bed units, whether they are different floorplans or have different upgrades, they will provide you with a range of rents.
- In order to obtain the 1-bed unit rents, say, “Oh. Your 2-bedroom rents are slightly outside of my price range. I was hoping for an extra bedroom but how much are the 1-bed unit rents?”
If the rental comp has 1-bed, 2-bed and 3-bed or more units:
- Follow the same approach for the 1-bed and 2-bed apartments
- Call back a few days later and ask for rents of the other unit sizes
At this point, you will have the rental data for all of the unit types offered at the rental comp.
2 – Upgrades
One of the most important factors in the rental comparable analysis are the unit upgrades. You want to make sure that the units at the rental comp are of the similar type and quality at the subject property.
When gathering the rental data, ask, “have you performed any unit upgrades recently?” The upgrades to the kitchen and bathrooms, in particular, must match the upgrades at the subject property in order to qualify as a rental comp.
Additionally, ask “have you performed any property-wide upgrades recently?” The quality of the common areas must also match those at the subject property as well.
At this point, you will know the upgrades for all of the unit types offered at the rental comp, as well as any property-wide upgrades.
3 – Amenities Package
Another factor that must match between the rental comp and the subject property are the amenities offered to the residents. Because, like the level of unit and property upgrades, the type of amenities offered will dictate the rental rates demanded.
Ask, “something that will heavily weigh into my decision to rent are the amenities offered. What are the individual unit and property amenities?”
Examples of unit amenities are the type of flooring, washer and dryer hookup or actual washer and dryers in unit, storage availability (i.e. closet space), pet-friendliness, patios/balconies, fenced in yards, etc.
Examples of property amenities are fitness center, clubhouse, pool, online rent payment, online maintenance request, type of parking, common area, utilities included in the rent, etc.
Then, for all of these amenities, ask “are there additional monthly fees for any of the amenities you listed?”
At this point, you will know if type and quality of amenities offered match those of the subject community.
4 – Rent Specials
Next, you want to know the types of concessions offered. Concessions are the credits given to offset rent, application fees, move-in fees and any other revenue line items, which are generally given to residents at move-in.
Ask “do you currently offer any rent or move-in specials?” Examples are security deposit specials, rental discounts for signing longer leases, referral programs, etc.
Concessions are generally offered to boost occupancy rates. So, understanding the types of concessions offered at your competitors will give you an idea of the types of concessions you will need to offer at the subject property. Additionally, if they are offering a lot of concessions, that implies that either the demand is low or the rental rates are too high.
5 – Demand
Understanding the rent specials offered will give you an idea of the demand at the property (which will give you an idea of the demand at your subject property).
For additional demand information, ask “I am relocating to the are in the next couple of months. Do you have any available units are is there a waiting list?” If they have a waiting list, that implies that the rental rates may be too low, and vice versa.
6 – Customer Service
At the conclusion of the phone call, take a few minutes to take notes on the level of customer service you received. If you own the subject property or end up closing on the subject property, the person you spoke with will be your competition!
Determining the Market Rents
At the conclusion of the phone call, you will have confirmed or disproved that the property is a rental comp, keeping in mind that the upgrades and amenities do not need to be an exact match – just similar. Also, the rental comps should be similar to your stabilized subject property. That is, for value-add apartment syndications, the unit upgrades should match the post-renovation upgrades and not the current level of upgrades.
Repeat this process for all 5 to 10 rental comps.
After all of the phone calls, the apartments that aren’t similar to the subject property can be eliminated. For the ones that are, determine the rent per square foot for each of the unit types in order to determine an average rent per square foot for each unit type in the overall market. Then, you can determine the market rent of the units at the subject property using this average rent per square foot and the square footage of the subject property’s various unit types. For example, if the average market rent per square foot for 1-bed units is $1.09 and the 1-bed unit at the subject property is 900 square feet, then the market rent is $981.
This was a general outline for how to approach performing the rental comparable analysis over the phone. It is not an exact step-by-step guide to be followed verbatim. Instead, it should be used as a guide for what questions to ask to obtain the information you need to gain a better understanding of the market and the market rental rates.
Also, the results of this rental comparable analysis should be used in tandem with a more detailed analysis performed by your property management company. This analysis can be used as a starting point for the market rental rates but should not be the sole basis for purchasing a deal.
Finally, if you are just starting out, I recommend doing a few practice calls on non-rental comps to get a feel for the flow of the conversation.
What about you? Comment below: How do you perform a rental comparable analysis for apartment communities?
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