Student Housing Business is launching a new series of five-question interviews with a wide range of constituents from the student housing sector. This week, we sat down with Andrew Stark, founding principal of Timberline Ventures.
What has Timberline been up to? Are you a buyer? Seller? Or both?
Timberline continued to be active in 2018 with a number of transactions throughout the year with a mix of core and value-add acquisitions focused on high quality assets with advantageous adjacencies to campus. To round out the year, we sold some of our legacy assets as well. We expect 2019 to be similar, with a mix of acquisitions and sales, although we are feeling a little chill in investment confidence and valuation — and that is not just from being outside skiing. In 2019, we want the sector to stay on top of its skis, not get way out over them.
How would you describe the current state of the investment market in terms of pricing and transaction velocity?
Others say they are seeing clear skies and no changes in the pace and pricing of transactions in student housing, however we are feeling some headwinds. Not storm clouds by any stretch, but we are cautionary in our view. We have felt that same outlook prevailing in our end of year discussions with our select group of partners.
What do you see as an important issue or trend in the overall student housing industry right now?
More and more focus has been shifting to enhancing the student academic experience in our properties as an extension of their on-campus learning. As we serve our Gen Z residents, we see that the over-the-top amenity race has cooled; more attention will be given to study spaces (technology enhanced) and creating a sense of place for the community. Of course fitness centers and pools will always remain part of our amenity packages, but package rooms, reliable connectivity and practical spaces are prevailing. New to many in the sector is providing a gathering space to watch live gaming events — if you don’t know what that is yet, you are not alone, but ask your kids or — better yet —your residents. We have been schooled by our student residents and we hope to pass with great grades.
What is your outlook for the year ahead for the industry?
We are optimistic, but cautious as we head into 2019. We might very well experience some cap rate expansion.
Can you give us a prediction of something big that will happen in 2019?
The biggest thing we will see in 2019 is the end to the government shutdown! Actually, I am hopeful we will see a change in the student loan program to help reign in the spiraling “for profit” university student debt and some relief for the $1.5 trillion in existing debt to encourage and promote more students to return to school, and therefore provide more demand for student housing.