The Outlook For Hotel Investments.
By Scott Smith, MAI
Tuesday, 28th July 2009
As we now live through the current economic recession and its impact on lodging revenues and expenses, it has become evident that investors anticipate continued declines in operating incomes and resulting loss in property values through the remainder of 2009 and into 2010.

That being said, investors also expect the industry to rebound in 2011, and todayˇs distressed environment will provide exceptional investment opportunities to those buyers with the ability to take advantage.

To gain a better understanding of todayˇs lodging investment environment, let us review the results of the 2009 edition of PKF Consultingˇs Hospitality Investment Survey.

Investment Criteria
  • Overall hotel capitalization rates have increased 122 basis points from 2008 to 2009. Survey respondents indicated that most of the increase is due to declining NOI and limited short term upside.
  • On average, the older the property, the higher the perceived risk resulting in a higher capitalization rate.
  • The 4.52% spread between the overall capitalization rate and discount rate suggests ownersˇ expectations for growth in net operating income over the rate of inflation.
  • Debt coverage ratios remained at levels similar to 2008 suggesting that lenders continue to be cautious in their underwriting.
  • Investors continue to price the cash flows of hotels in the full service segment higher than limited service hotels.
  • Capitalization rates for forecast NOI increased 120 basis points, whereas terminal capitalization rates remained the same.
  • Both full-service and limited-service hotels continue to offer attractive equity yields and cash-on-cash returns.
Mortgage Criteria
  • Current mortgage terms for both limited-service and full-service hotels indicate a tightening of the underwriting criteria resulting in increased capital costs.
  • From 2008 to 2009 there has been a dramatic shortening of the length of the average loan term.
  • With little or no fixed rate mortgages available, variable rate mortgages protect the lender from anticipated increases in interest rates.
  • As lenders face more scrutiny in their underwriting to limit potential foreclosures and loan defaults, conservative (i.e. more costly) underwriting criteria will be the norm throughout the remainder of 2009 and into 2010.
Investment Will Return

The lack of debt financing and the declining growth in income continues to increase the perceived risk premium for most hotel investors. As a result, the difference between expectations of buyers and sellers continues to be very wide. Investors are fearful of the near-term downside risk and see uncertainly and an unreliable upside.

This has already resulted in very few transactions. However, as owners become increasingly compelled to sell (or lenders begin to foreclose), we expect the transaction market to improve in the latter half of 2009. These transactions will be limited to sales of single assets and smaller portfolios, and will include a lower asset class.

Funding will be provided by private equity investors that have been anticipating deep discounts in price. Should poor operating profits and lack of debt financing continue to persist for the higher class of assets, we anticipate that buyers will have an unparalleled opportunity to purchase investment grade property at discounts ranging from 20 to 40 percent.

As the most recent survey indicates, we have indeed entered into one of the most depressed periods in the lodging investment cycle. Most investors in our survey indicated that the downturn in the lodging sector will be deep and longer than anyone could have imagined.

However, this is a cycle and each cycle has its recovery. Although current economic indicators are weak, investors are certain that exceptional opportunities will surface in the coming months as owners are forced to sell or raise additional capital. Our survey respondents expect capitalization rates to moderate and that hotel values in the short term will continue to decline as profits decrease.

Only those sellers that have to sell will, and at a discount. As in past downturns, distressed hotel sales taint the overall health of the lodging investment market. Those well capitalized owners with good quality assets in premium locations will hold for dividend yield and wait for the next cycle.

The six-page 2009 Hospitality Investment Survey presents both investment criteria (cap rates, IRR, equity yield, cash returns) and lending criteria (LTV ratios, interest rates, loan terms, debt coverage ratios), as well as three topical articles. To purchase a copy of the report for $250, please visit www.pkfc.com/buyhis

Scott Smith, MAI, is Senior Vice President in the Atlanta office of PKF Consulting www.pkfc.com

This article was published in the June 2009 edition of Lodging.

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