Principal Thesis & Background
The aim of this text is to guage Mid-America Residence Communities, Inc. (NYSE:MAA) as an funding choice. The company is a “actual property funding belief that focuses on the acquisition, selective growth, redevelopment, and administration of multifamily houses all through the Southeast, Southwest, and Mid-Atlantic areas of the US”.
My followers know I’ve owned (and really helpful) MAA many instances over my ten yr writing profession right here on SA. This included in Q1 2023, once I noticed some worth within the REIT after it dropped by over 16%. Trying again since March and that overview, a purchase name was affordable at the moment:
So MAA has been a winner, however so has many of the market to be truthful. As we enter the second half of the yr, I view this slowing momentum as a motive to get a bit extra cautious on my outlook. I feel the broader client setting will stress rental costs and that would pose a problem for MAA to maintain these beneficial properties going. A rise in rates of interest may also act as a headwind. This leads me to suppose a downgrade to “maintain” is most acceptable at this juncture and I’ll clarify why intimately beneath.
Rents Could See Some Strain (Broadly Talking)
One theme we have now seen on a macro-level all through the previous couple of years must be of no shock to readers. That is rising house costs and rents, which has been pretty constant throughout the nation (and different components of the globe). A scarcity of provide coupled with inhabitants progress, a need to stay extra unfold out, and rising enter prices have led to housing being a rising problem for a lot of People.
That is nonetheless the case right this moment in all honesty. However we have now seen house costs begin to cool as extra provide hits the market and rates of interest stint affordability. This has truly benefited rental performs like MAA as some would-be house consumers are pressured in to steady renting:
This was central to my bullishness on MAA for some time. However right this moment I’m it with a brand new lens. Because the housing market begins to show a bit, the identical cannot be stated for the condo rental market. Once more – that is “good” for MAA in the interim. However my concern is that it’ll not final. As we have now seen in prior financial cycles, rents will sometimes come down together with house costs, albeit with a little bit of a lag:
That is by no means meant to be alarmist. The backdrop for MAA remains to be affordable and rents are usually not simply going to plummet. However as with every inventory or funds, MAA must be approached on the proper time. TO provoke a place when rents could begin to see some stress AND the REIT has had a pleasant run-up over the previous quarter, strikes me as a bit ill-timed. I’ll keep affected person and see if a greater entry level presents itself, which is why “maintain” is smart to me.
Increased Charges Have Taken Their Toll Earlier than
I discover on SA that well-liked REITs – together with MAA – get loads of reward. That is fairly commonplace and the overall consensus is normally “purchase”. I do not inherently disagree within the total worth and high quality of this firm and administration. However we have now to be life like that no single thought is a purchase on a regular basis. We have now to contemplate the present value motion and what’s going on out there. This was central to my prior “maintain” downgrade initially of 2023. I noticed rising rates of interest as a basic headwind and believed readers could be well-advised to disregard the fixed “purchase” mantra and be selective. Suffice to say, those that ignored that recommendation and purchased anyway would have discovered themselves nonetheless sitting at a loss right this moment:
Why is that this related? It is not to pay myself on the again. Somewhat it’s to indicate the historic relevance of being affected person on the proper time. Trying forward, I feel that is additionally one such time.
The reason is that the rate of interest headwind will not be going away. After a broadly accepted perception that the Fed might halt rate of interest will increase (with some even wrongly predicting cuts in 2023), Fed Chairman Powell has thrown chilly water on these concepts. Simply this previous week he was quoted:
We anticipate the reasonable tempo of rate of interest selections to proceed.”
And markets have taken discover. The yield curve inversion has been pushed in the direction of its one yr peak. This means that traders imagine short-term charges will carry on rising sooner than long-term charges. With the Fed all however signaling extra hikes to return – and traders nervous about long run financial progress and that affect on charges – it isn’t a shock the yield curve stays inverted. However the sharpness of the inversion is a priority:
This ties again to MAA as a result of increased rates of interest stress REITS – all different issues being equal. This doesn’t suggest MAA will see its share value decline, and even that it’ll carry out poorly. Nevertheless it does imply the corporate will most likely see increased rates of interest have an effect via a lower the worth of properties they personal. Additional, MAA will see increased borrowing prices together with the remainder of company America. It may possibly additionally make comparatively excessive dividend yield, which sits underneath 4% proper now (3.7%), much less enticing than it in any other case could be.
After all there are upsides to inflation and better charges for REITs. They typically have the flexibility to go on inflationary prices to their prospects. This might profit MAA within the type of increased rents, one thing not all firms can depend on when their prices rise. This firm specifically additionally makes use of a considerable amount of fixed-rate debt. So until they plan on happening a borrowing spree within the close to time period, or if charges keep increased for lengthy, MAA may very well be higher leveraged to journey out the approaching storm higher than most:
The takeaway for me is that I imagine REITs equivalent to MAA could get caught-up within the sector promoting as charges push increased. However when sector rotations like that happen they’ll typically be undiscerning. Tactical traders ought to use that because the shopping for alternative since MAA is structured with long-term debt and may due to this fact journey out short-term rate of interest volatility properly on a sensible degree. That does not imply the share value will not take successful – and I imagine it should. Nevertheless it does imply the elemental soundness of the corporate will not be too impacted. This push-pull dynamic is central to why I see “maintain” (and never a extra bearish outlook) as the correct name.
Solar-Belt Nonetheless The Place To Be
To assist stability out this overview I’ll now shift to some constructive features for MAA. I’m up on this REIT and – as talked about – I’m not a robust bear by any means. I’ll hold holding as a result of there are some central attributes that make my funding thesis for first shopping for in to this firm as related as ever.
The first is the markets the place MAA serves. This can be a “Solar Belt” play, because the Southeast and Southwest are the corporate’s core markets. And, not surprisingly to people who are following intra-country migration patterns, these are additionally the states People are transferring to. Based on a Nationwide Affiliation of Realtors report, (primarily based on U.S. Census information), Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Idaho, Alabama and Oklahoma made up the highest 10 states for home internet migration final yr. This immediately advantages MAA as the corporate serves residents by way of residences in eight of these states (the exceptions being Idaho and Oklahoma).
For readability, MAA is closely uncovered to Texas, Florida, and Georgia. But when we take a look at the broader breakdown of their residences communities we see the opposite states talked about within the census information as key elements of the corporate’s portfolio:
This bodes properly for the corporate for the foreseeable future and is vital to why I’ll carry on proudly owning MAA and look to construct on this place when the chance strikes.
Price Fears May Be Overblown
I touched on why I’m much less nervous about increased rates of interest impacting MAA essentially as a result of its debt construction. However I additionally pointed that oftentimes the market will not be discerning – when a sector/theme/thought sells-off, typically the great get hit with the dangerous.
On this level although – will issues actually be “dangerous” within the second half of the yr? They may very well be if inflation stays cussed and the Fed retains up its tempo of charge hikes sooner than the market actually desires. However there are some indicators of aid on this entrance which will imply the Fed may very well be carried out in spite of everything.
Particularly, we’re seeing inflation gauges drift decrease as increased borrowing prices and fewer stimulus from the federal government takes its toll. The Fed’s most popular inflation measure, which is makes use of to dictate the way it will transfer with respect to charge hikes, has lately hit a two-year low:
This may very well be a constructive for MAA (and equities total) if the market normalizes and that enables the Fed to pause. That’s what traders are in the end hoping for, and metrics like this counsel we’re getting nearer to that actuality. Whether or not it should occur in 2023 stays to be seen, however we’re clearly on the trail to a normalized inflationary setting.
Wage Progress Nonetheless, However Slowing
My closing level is one other combined one. That is associated to U.S. employee wage progress. This impacts discretionary sectors – equivalent to Client Discretionary – greater than areas like housing to make certain. Mortgage and rental prices are extra sticky than common on a regular basis objects. However we do have to contemplate that wage progress is prime to affordability of upper rents. Folks can solely pay a lot to stay someplace and that needs to be thought-about.
On this regard there’s not a direct concern. Wage progress popped because the Covid-reopening bought underway in America. It soared properly past historic norms and nonetheless sits at a excessive degree relative to previous financial cycles:
How one reads this may be subjective. On the one hand wages are rising at a traditionally excessive charge and that’s supportive of upper rental costs for dwelling lodging – benefiting MAA. Alternatively, these beneficial properties are beginning to gradual together with inflation. That may make rental will increase more durable to swing for many condo REITs, balancing out a few of the constructive. The conclusion I draw right here is that is neither a purchase or promote indicator, so it helps justifies a maintain.
I’ve been investing in MAA for a very long time and have typically been happy with the outcomes. The return over time has been robust, dividend progress has been dependable, and it offers some diversification for a portfolio that’s closely depending on the foremost indices:
I see a future forward the place this firm continues to carry out properly and advantages from migration patterns, a rising white-collar workforce within the Southeast, and the flexibility to go on increased rents to its residents.
However there are dangers at these ranges too. Inflation stays cussed and wage progress is slowing. The Fed has reiterated extra charge hikes may very well be on the best way. MAA has additionally seen a pleasant short-term bounce in share value and those that comply with this firm know there might be loads of swings alongside the best way. This leads me to a extra cautious outlook at this juncture. I counsel readers rigorously take into account new entry factors because of this.