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Saturday 16 December 2017

NAMA sale of 10,000 apartments to shake up the housing market

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

NAMA is looking at selling off the 10,000-strong stock of apartments the agency has finished and rented out over the past four years, one of its most senior executives said.

State-owned NAMA is now the major player in the residential rental market, collecting rental income from 10,000 of the 14,000 residential properties on its books.

The plan is to sell off that portfolio over time in huge chunks of hundreds and even thousands strong lots to professional investment funds.

That promises to radically change the housing market here.

Irish housing has traditionally been dominated by owner-occupiers on the one hand and small-time, often part-time, landlords on the other.

NAMA's plan to attract in a whole new class of large-scale international property investor to own and manage entire blocks instead of one or two apartments could gradually see the development of a more Continental style rental market in Ireland – less personal but more professional.

Over time, greater professionalism could encourage more people to become long-term renters, especially among the generation scarred by negative equity and the bursting of the housing bubble.

In the meantime, NAMA warned that Dublin faces a potential housing shortage, after half a decade of little or no construction activity.

"Watch this space – there is a housing issue for sure," NAMA's head of asset management John Mulcahy told a business conference in Dublin.

CRASH

The number of properties available to rent in Dublin is down by one-third compared to last year, he said.

The focus on rental income developed as the agency kitted out and rented to tenants what had been unfinished and unoccupied apartments following the property crash.

The rents contribute much of the €100m a month the agency takes in cash, along with rents from commercial property and interest being paid on loans.

Despite that apparent financial success, NAMA must sell off its entire stock of assets by 2020 so it is now looking at how, and when, it can break-up the massive portfolio to be sold off to cash-rich investment funds.

"At the appropriate moment, we will package that and monetise it," Mr Mulcahy said.

If NAMA does move ahead, the most likely buyers are large-scale US private equity funds, such as Blackstone and Lone Star, both of which are already active here.

Some of that is already happening even before NAMA starts selling its stockpile of homes. Kennedy Wilson, a California-based fund with links to the Kennedy political dynasty has spent €140m over the last two years buying hundreds of apartments in three blocks in Dublin.

In the case of NAMA, as well as looking to sell to US investment funds, it is eyeing selling assets to new types of financial vehicles such as Qualifying Investor Fund (QIF) or stock market-listed real estate investment trusts (REITs).

NAMA has already been behind the construction and sale of 5,000 apartments in the UK, mainly in London, Mr Mulcahy said.

Irish Independent

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