Ballard 57, a core, very high-quality new construction asset, is located in the eclectic Ballard neighborhood with top walkability convenience. The 48-unit apartment community consisting of well-designed studio- and one-bedroom units offers residents efficiency along with impressive amenities. Ballard 57 is completely made up of single efficiency dwelling units (SEDUs), which average 250 square feet and are very popular with developers. 100% of the units at Ballard 57 were leased in under three months. The owner, Meter Properties, was a local syndication in Seattle and close client of the CBRE Seattle Investment Sales team. CBRE had previously sold Meter the land used to develop Ballard 57. After completing lease-up, the asset was stable for about a year. Meter had a business objective to sell out of all their assets in Seattle and other Pacific Northwest markets to reinvest into higher yield markets and decided it was the right time to sell Ballard 57.
The CBRE team knew that the smaller unit sizes are generating a higher dollar per square foot for rent simply because they are smaller units and there can be more of them within an apartment building. The size and price point of Ballard 57 were very good and difficult to find, making it a rare offering in the marketplace. The team recognized that by educating the market on why this type of investment makes sense, they could help meet both the seller and buyer’s business goals.
SEDUs are a newer product in the market, around for only 3-5 years, and are just now gaining popularity in the market. They are attractive to tenants because of lower rent and attractive to landlords because of the ability to offer more units in a building. The challenge of SEDUs is that it is really an untapped market, and nobody is sure what the turnover will look like, how the market will perform in the downtown, what the longevity of residents will be and how it will play out in the future. The CBRE team needed to find a buyer who was comfortable with the price point and affordability range, as well as the relative unknowns. They were also tasked with convincing a buyer of the low risk associated with this asset type because of its affordability, especially in the highly expensive Seattle market.
Furthermore, new construction, core, Seattle sales have been more challenging to get done because of the returns at a 4.5% cap rate. High net worth buyers that are still in the market are limited, so trying to find that new equity group that wants to buy this type of asset can be difficult. Additionally, Meter had put a lot of interns into short-term rental leases over the summer, and the CBRE team was tasked with trying to close the sale while many of those units were turning over.
The marketing process of Ballard 57 involved more of an education process than usual on the buyer, lender and appraisal sides. To use traditional metrics for this product type just doesn’t work, and the CBRE team really had to educate the market on why it does make sense and deliver creative ideas on how to extract value. Wilshire, out of Los Angeles and already a client of CBRE Debt & Structured Finance, was currently buying another SEDU building in Seattle working closely with the team. Wilshire was a relatively well-known office investor in Southern California but hadn’t gotten much into Multifamily. Knowing they were in the market for this type of deal, the CBRE Debt & Structured Finance team made the introduction for Wilshire to the CBRE Investment Sales team.
Wilshire’s Seattle strategy was based in growth and technology and having acknowledged the job growth and drivers in Seattle, they were ready to expand their portfolio. Because of our strong relationship with the buyer and their low risk, the CBRE team recommended selecting Wilshire as the buyer for Ballard 57. The CBRE Sales and Debt & Structured Finance teams in Seattle partnered to ensure the buyer was educated on this specific asset type. The local CBRE appraisal team was brought in to the deal early on and was strategic to provide the CBRE team with relevant comps.
The CBRE team was ultimately successful in their education process of a newer product in the marketplace that is now starting to rapidly be adopted, partly due to the affordable housing challenge. The deal closed on time, and the team was able to achieve the seller’s pricing expectation, allowing Meter to reinvest into higher yield markets. Buyer financing was provided through Freddie Mac via CBRE’s dedicated Optigo Lending platform. For Wilshire, Ballard 57 was a very integral part of their business plan, as they have a lot of institutional equity partners that they need to place capital for. This was the second multifamily asset they purchased in 2018 to help gain momentum for their investment strategy. While this was the CBRE Investment Sales team’s first deal with Wilshire, they completed two more deals with Wilshire within the next four months, and the relationship turned out to be very positive.