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Blackstone’s $10 Billion Bet on Property Prices Going Up

Key Points

  • High home prices and mortgage rates make it difficult for first-time homebuyers.
  • Blackstone just made a $10 billion acquisition of American Income, a residential REIT - a bet that could mean property prices are on the rise again. 
  • One other REIT, Equity Lifestyle Properties, fits the characteristics of the next potential double-digit rally, and markets are willing to pay for it. 
  • 5 stocks we like better than Apartment Income REIT

Photo: Miniature wooden houses and red arrow up, indicating the growth of rent and mortgage rates. The United States housing market has struggled the past 12 months, as the real estate sector severely underperformed the broader S&P 500 during this period.

Some investors, particularly those focused on momentum plays, may stick to technology stocks. However, for those who prefer to take a value approach, backed by a fundamental strategy with none of the wishful thinking, real estate may do the trick. By looking at the Vanguard Real Estate ETF, you can see how real estate now has a gap of up to 23% to fill if it wants to catch up to the rest of the market. Knowing this, strategists at Blackstone Inc. decided to plunge into the property market.

Not all properties are created equal, though, and Blackstone chose to place $10 billion into the residential sector by buying out Apartment Income REIT Corp. NYSE: AIRC. And with that move, the $155 billion private equity real estate behemoth is telling Main Street that residential property prices may rise shortly.

The Devil in the Details

It's a sizeable deal indeed, but the devil lies in the details. Blackstone paid $39.12 a share in an all-cash deal, a 25% premium to the stock's closing price on Friday, April 5.

Apartment Income's dividend yield at the time of acquisition was 5.7%, beating stubborn U.S. inflation rates and the so-called 'risk-free' yields paid by the U.S. treasury. Even after its double-digit rally, Apartment Income is still valued by its 4.7% dividend yield.

Because the Vanguard ETF only pays a 3.8% yield, the Apartment Income REIT is still undervalued despite Blackstone's premium payment. Moreover, the fund is looking to invest a further $400 million in upgrading properties and acquiring more, indicating that property prices could be compressed in today's market. This wouldn't appear to be the case, as the residential REIT sector trades at an average of 90% of its 52-week high price, so it is traditional valuation methods count here.

The residential REIT industry trades at an average price-to-book (P/B) valuation of 2.5x, and based on historical valuations, it may be due for an expansion. This expansion may be brought on by potential Fed interest rate cuts, which could be coming as soon as May or June 2024, according to the CME FedWatch tool.

Is Equity Lifestyle Properties the Next Deal?

Before interest rate cuts reach mortgage rates, which would also lower, investors may be looking for the next REIT. Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc. NYSE: ELS may offer lower dividend yields than Blackstone locked in with American Income. However, it is still worth considering. Far from its 2021 high of $88.7 a share, this REIT is still earning the market's love in its valuation. On a P/B basis, Equity Lifestyle commands an 8.0x multiple, which is 120% above the residential REIT industry. 

Like Apartment Income, only the best bets can make markets pay a premium valuation. According to their February 2024 price targets, Wolfe Research analysts think this REIT could go as high as $75 a share. Seeing the potential upside for the REIT,  PNC Financial Services Group decided to boost its position in the stock by 8.3% as of March 2024, representing a transaction of just over $100,000.

From a technical viewpoint, short interest in Equity Lifestyle has declined steadily since the third quarter of 2023. With a net short balance of $554 million to start, bears are currently retraced to a net balance of $227 million. Compared to worthy peers like Equity Residential and Essex Property Trust Inc., valuation trends keep favoring the smaller $12 billion market capitalization portfolio of residential properties.

The saying "It must be expensive for a reason" applies here, and as the average home price remains more than 31% higher than the pre-pandemic levels of $375,000, homebuyers may look to rent instead of buying a new home. Notably, apart from higher home prices, today's 7.3% average mortgage rates make it even more difficult for newcomers to join the wave of homeownership, making these residential properties an even stronger investment thesis for investors.

Should you invest $1,000 in Apartment Income REIT right now?

Before you consider Apartment Income REIT, you'll want to hear this.

MarketBeat keeps track of Wall Street's top-rated and best performing research analysts and the stocks they recommend to their clients on a daily basis. MarketBeat has identified the five stocks that top analysts are quietly whispering to their clients to buy now before the broader market catches on... and Apartment Income REIT wasn't on the list.

While Apartment Income REIT currently has a "Hold" rating among analysts, top-rated analysts believe these five stocks are better buys.

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Companies Mentioned in This Article

CompanyMarketRank™Current PricePrice ChangeDividend YieldP/E RatioConsensus RatingConsensus Price Target
Vanguard Real Estate ETF (VNQ)N/A$81.86+0.1%3.95%22.09N/AN/A
Blackstone (BX)
4.418 of 5 stars
Apartment Income REIT (AIRC)
2.6814 of 5 stars
CME Group (CME)
4.7938 of 5 stars
Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS)
4.5255 of 5 stars
The PNC Financial Services Group (PNC)
4.8899 of 5 stars
Equity Residential (EQR)
4.3211 of 5 stars
Essex Property Trust (ESS)
4.0923 of 5 stars
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Gabriel Osorio-Mazilli

About Gabriel Osorio-Mazilli


Contributing Author

Value Stocks, Asian Markets, Macro Economics


Gabriel Osorio-Mazilli has been a contributing writer for MarketBeat since 2023.

Areas of Expertise

Value investing, long/short trading, options, emerging markets


CFA Level I candidate; Goldman Sachs corporate training; independent courses

Past Experience

Analyst at Goldman Sachs, associate at Citigroup, senior financial analyst in real estate

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