Ranking the real estate asset classes in terms of risk

128's picture
Rank: Baboon | 149

Dear all,

Im having trouble to find arguments when ranking real estate asset classes in terms of risk.

Im mainly looking at:
-Student living
-Light industrials/Logistics
-Co-working spaces

I know that there are several factors playing into this, but assuming as much is equal is possible what would be a plausible ranking? What are the key factors and questions I have to ask myself when analysing riskiness? Is this also a linear function of cap rates?

Kind regards

Comments (18)

Mar 18, 2019

THE answer is so obvious when you look at the delinquency and special servicing rate of each asset as well as the recovery % after default

Mar 18, 2019

Not always though. Hospitality is known for being highly volatile but the CMBS delinquency rates are actually the lowest of any asset class except for multifamily. However, in past cycles we see hospitality shoot up and down for delinquency rates as it as much an operating business as it is a real estate business. The ups and downs heavily correlate to consumer spending.

Mar 18, 2019

Where do you find that information?

Mar 18, 2019

like everywhere, Trepp, CMAlert, rating agencies Fitch S&P Kroll etc.

    • 1
Mar 18, 2019

Is this a homework question?

    • 1
Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Mar 18, 2019

Interview prep


Mar 18, 2019

Coworking is an asset class now? When was this voted on?

Mar 18, 2019

Try to think about the types of risk a real estate asset has.

You have risk associated with the durability of income, which could be associated with the credit quality of the tenants, the average lease term, the long term demand growth for the space.

You have risk associated with costs, how high are regular maintenance costs, how high and frequent are capital improvements. Also keep in mind the cost inflation varies across industries.

You have risk associated with prices. Liquidity can be important when trying to exit, how sticky are cap rates in that sector relative to interest rates.

If you think through the specific risks of each property types, you can make this ranking yourself, but also be able to discuss specific reasons why, which will be impressive for your interview.

    • 1
Most Helpful
Mar 18, 2019

As a more general question, assuming we are talking about a somewhat central urban location, I would say office is the riskiest. Office is subject to chunky, staggered blocks of tenant rollover which may occur all at once or in a short period of time. This makes the cash flows significantly more variable and harder to predict, esp. when you consider you technically have no idea how much downtime there will be, how much you will need to spend on TIs and free rent, etc. You also have the issue of juggling tenant credit, which can affect financing proceeds and sale valuations. If a tenant goes bankrupt two years into a deal you spent $100 in TI, a year of free rent and 6% commissions, that's not good. Finally, it's just a more capital intensive business (TIs, commissions, higher capex == $$), which amplifies the downside.

In terms of development, office financing almost always requires 25%+ pre-lease commitment. But, developers often get stuck in a catch-22 where tenants aren't looking for space 3 years in advance, so it's hard to get a lease commitment and financing that allows you to get a deal out of the ground when a building can easily take 3 years to complete.

With multifamily and to a large extent hotels, the lease exposure is chopped up into much smaller pieces. Leases are subject to some seasonality, but having rolling tenant expirations largely insulates an owner from these risks. There are more manageable turnover costs, and credit risk is not as big of an issue (just evict them and get someone else).

    • 3
Mar 18, 2019

Im surprised! I always thought central urban office would be the least risk after residential...And I also thought long WALTs are a good thing as they ensure cashflow visibility which in turn makes Co-working/Hotels more risky?

If hotels are one of the least risky assets why do they have the highest caprates?


Mar 18, 2019

Hotel is normally considered one of the riskiest assets, but it's cap rate is also high because it has the highest cap ex requirements, so cap rates are higher because that is priced in.

Mar 18, 2019

No way does having longer, larger leases make your cash flow more volatile. The cash flow of a leased up office building is the most predictable. Your rent roll should be managed so only a percentage of your leases are expiring at any given time.

Hotels are considered the most risky, because you are completely at the mercy of day to day demand fluctuations.

Mar 19, 2019

All of this applies to retail as well except for development timing which is typically 6 months-1 year (depending on tenant size). Although, in some cases this process can get dragged out by the tenant's real estate committee extending the timeline for a significantly longer period of time.

Mar 18, 2019

"It depends"

Mar 24, 2019

Assuming a higher cap rate = more risky, than:

From riskiest to less risky:

Suburban Office Class A/B
Retail Neighbourhood
Downtown Office
Industrial Class A/B

    • 1
Mar 18, 2019

Many thanks!

One more question: Why do luxury hotels have lower cap rates compared to cheaper "limited service" alternatives? Seems more risky and counterintuitive to me? (e.g. market downturn, first thing people would abandon is luxury)


Mar 25, 2019

Luxury hotels are located in typically stronger markets so the cap rates you see are skewed. Whereas limited service hotels are all over the place (ie highway markets, rural, college towns) which pushes the avg cap rates up. Also there are several firms that have an appetite for luxury hotels because some of them are trophy assets or considered sexy for their portfolio so they pay a premium for it...Yes a lot of stupid people with a lot of money

    • 1
Mar 18, 2019