Equity Residential is one of the largest apartment owners in the US. The company acquires, develops, and manages multifamily residential properties, which includes the generation of rental and other related income through the leasing of apartment units to residents. A real estate investment trust (REIT), the company wholly owns about 400 garden-style, high-rise, and mid-rise multifamily communities with some 110,000 units in large metropolitan areas. Equity Residential also owns two military housing complexes and partially owns about two dozen other apartment properties totaling around an additional 10,200 units. Its properties are spread across 12 states and Washington, DC.
Equity Residential generates the entirety of its revenue from rental income. It reports revenue by geographic segment: its operations are divided into core markets (Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Boston, San Diego, Orange County), and non-core markets (South Florida, Denver, Inland Empire).
The REIT owned 394 properties with nearly 110,000 apartment units at the end of 2015, with more than half of those units being in garden-style complexes, and nearly 50% of units being in mid- or high-rise buildings. The rest of the units were located on two military housing properties.
Based in Chicago, Equity Residential strategically operates property management offices in each of its nearly 20 markets. Equity Residential's core markets are Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
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Equity Residential focuses on growth regions throughout the US that have higher-than-average single-family home prices, employment growth, and high standards of living -- all traits found in the company's core markets.
Equity Residential's revenues and profits have trended higher over the past few years as it has expanded its property portfolio and has charged higher rental rates as the economy has strengthened.
The REIT's revenue increased 5% in fiscal 2015 to $2.7 billion, due to higher gains on property sales and higher average rental prices, higher occupancy rates, and a decrease in turnover rates.
Net income climbed 38% to $908.0 million on the back of higher net revenue, an increase in gains on property sales (relating to eight consolidated apartment properties), and an increase in income from investments in unconsolidated entities (relating to the joint venture with AvalonBay Communities).
The company's cash position improved slightly, with cash from operations edging up 2% to $1.4 billion.
Equity Residential has repositioned its portfolio from low barrier to entry/non-core markets to high barrier to entry/core markets in recent years. The company has acquired 68,000-plus apartment units in its core markets for about $20 billion since 2005, and has sold more than 194,000 apartment units primarily in its non-core markets for an aggregate sales price of approximately $22.9 billion. Additionally, the company has some $5.7 billion worth of projects under development in its pipeline, with about $1.2 billion in starts during 2014 alone (a "high water mark" for the company) driven by valuable and unique land sites that it bought in San Francisco and Seattle that the company expects to "create value for decades."
The REIT is banking on the coming-of-age "Echo Boom" generation (also known as Gen Y or Millennials) -- the children of Baby Boomers -- for whom it believes home ownership is no longer an integral part of the American dream. Echo Boomers typically are more likely to rent than own a home and be renters for longer than previous generations. Members of this generation also value the ability to walk to work, restaurants, coffee shops, public transportation, and parks. Multifamily housing often caters to those needs.
Equity Residential looks to acquire and develop assets in Boston, New York, Southern California (including Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and San Francisco), Seattle, and Washington DC while it exits Atlanta, Phoenix, Orlando, and Jacksonville. As part of its strategy, Equity Residential purchases completed and fully occupied apartment properties, as well as partially completed or partially occupied properties or land on which it can construct apartment properties.
The company has also been exiting markets to free up resources for more investment in its core markets. In early 2016, for example, Equity Residential sold a $5.365 billion- institutional-quality portfolio of 23,262 mid-rise and garden-style apartment buildings in 72 communities in South Florida, Denver, Colorado, Washington DC, Seattle, and Inland Empire, California to Starwood Capital. During 2014, it continued to sell off its properties in Phoenix and Orlando. In 2013, the company sold a portfolio of assets to a joint venture of the Real Estate Principal Investment Area of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC for $1.5 billion. The transaction, which valued the 27 properties at approximately $187,000 per apartment unit and a capitalization rate in the mid to high 5% range. As part of the deal, Equity Residential made significant progress selling assets in its exit markets and non-core assets in primary markets to fund its share of the acquisition of Archstone.