Supersize Apartments Are Back in Demand
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Supersize Apartments Are Back in Demand

Developers across U.S. try to meet millennials’ needs and accommodate the shift to remote work.

By Sami Sparber
Wed, Jun 30, 2021 11:25amGrey Clock 3 min

Apartment sizes are getting bigger across the U.S., just as more people are looking for additional space while spending more time working from home.

In 36% of U.S. cities, apartments under construction are larger on average than those built over the previous five years, according to a report from RENTCafé, a nationwide apartment-search website. Units in 33 of the 92 cities studied rose nearly 50 square feet on average, the report said.

The demand for larger units follows several years when apartments were shrinking in size, in part because smaller units are more profitable for property owners. In dense urban areas and around universities, many developers continue to build smaller apartments to offer more of them and meet high rental demand, according to Yardi Matrix, a real-estate market-intelligence firm that provided data for the RENTCafé report.

But the percentage of bigger new apartments is the highest it has been in five years, reflecting recent tenant preferences, said Doug Ressler, Yardi Matrix’s manager of business intelligence. Older millennials have reached the typical homebuying age, but many are unable to find a home they can afford. Instead, they are looking to rent larger apartments for themselves and their families, Mr. Ressler said.

While the urge to upsize apartments predated the Covid-19 pandemic, some real-estate executives suggest it will continue as the health crisis puts a new premium on space. Developers say they are building units that offer more space to work and relax in, as a way to accommodate residents who are moving out of high-density cities and into suburban areas across the country.

“We’re doing little things like adding built-in offices and areas where people can work from home in nooks and crannies,” said Michael Van Der Poel, founding partner of Asia Capital Real Estate, a private-equity firm that specializes in multifamily-housing development and investment.

J. David Heller, chief executive of the NRP Group, a developer of multifamily buildings, said his firm is offering a den that can be used as a home office in both its one- and two-bedroom apartment plans.

NRP, which develops communities in St. Petersburg, Fla., and San Antonio, among other cities, has expanded a number of its floor plans by 30 to 50 square feet, Mr. Heller said.

Some multifamily developers in northern New Jersey are taking a similar approach, replacing one-bedroom apartments with one-bedrooms plus a den, said Brian Gretkowski, president of Sparrow Asset Management.

The extra space that U.S. developers are offering is incremental, but “in a 600-square-foot apartment, 50 square feet adds up,” said Justin Brown, president and CEO of Skender, a Chicago-based construction firm.

RENTCafé’s report, which it released in early June, analyzed apartment data in the 92 U.S. cities where floor-plan-size information was available as of last month for projects under construction.

One-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are increasing in size in almost half of the cities RENTCafé analyzed. Those units are adding to their average size 28 square feet, 39 square feet and 105 square feet, respectively, according to the report.

Everett, Wash., is leading the trend. Developers there are building apartments to be 267 square feet larger than those built in the past five years, the report said. Other leaders include Kirkland, Wash., with 211 additional square feet, followed by Scottsdale, Ariz., with 208 more square feet, on average.

The report didn’t address whether the shift to add space will affect rent prices. Not all developers are convinced the trend will stick, citing affordability challenges.

“We’re unsure if long term, average unit sizes will increase because that would ultimately mean higher rents,” said Omar Rihani, head of multifamily development at Project Management Advisors.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: June 29, 2021



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Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

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Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

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