Essex Property Trust acquires, develops, redevelops, and manages apartment communities, focusing on the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. The self-managed and self-administered real estate investment trust (REIT) owns about 160 residential communities with more than 32,000 apartment units; about half are located in Southern California. Essex also owns a handful of office buildings in its home state and has partial stakes in several apartment communities through joint ventures. The REIT adds to its portfolio through acquisition and through the development and renovation of properties.
When making acquisitions, Essex usually targets multifamily properties with more than 100 units and spends from $300 million to $500 million per transaction. It likes to be active in supply-constrained markets with populations of at least one million and drives rent growth through high occupancy rates (approximately 96% at year-end 2011). The REIT continually monitors its existing markets, and isn't afraid to exit if the housing supply increases too much. The company sells off assets if they no longer fit into its strategy, and often uses the money raised to buy newer communities.
As the economic recession settled over the US West Coast, Essex remained flexible and began pursuing non-traditional investments, such as parcels of land. In 2009 the company shifted its focus from building and acquiring apartments to resident retention and occupancy. However, as rental income dipped during the economic downturn, Essex looked again towards acquisitions to pick up the slack. Since the beginning of 2010 it has invested some $1.2 billion to acquire about 20 apartment communities in its key markets in several separate transactions.
The acquisitions contributed to a nearly 20% rise in net income for Essex in 2011. The REIT also benefitted from an increase in scheduled rents at its existing properties.
Insiders and unrelated institutional investors own almost half of Essex's stock. – less