Just imagine nice houses with resort-style amenities, situated in a nice community, probably with a pool — and maybe even a golf course nearby.
I’m talking about manufactured home communities. In the case of Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS), 70% are communities for those 55 years of age or older. It’s a great niche, and this REIT has grown into 370 communities and resorts in 32 states and British Columbia, which contain 140,000 actual sites. The properties certainly look nice on the company’s home page, and community living for seniors has taken on increased popularity over the past twenty years.
This is the kind of operation that I like, because once someone moves into a community like this, they are very likely to remain for quite some time. Not that someone who chooses to move out won’t get replaced by another buyer (the average home cost is only $75,000), but the company reduces its market price risk by effectively capturing long-term homeowners.
And because ELS stock must pay out 90% of income as a dividend anyway, it’s particularly reassuring to know that such income should be relatively consistent.
ELS stock just reported results for Q1. Funds from operations increased $6.4 million to $71.4 million (78 cents per share), compared to $65.0 million, year-over-year. Net income increased $3.1 million to $38.1 million, or 46 cents per share. That’s a solid gain of 10% across the board.
These increases came on rather modest revenue gains in the 6% range. ELS stock reports “property operating revenues,” which increased $10.5 million to $186.4 million. Income from property operations increased $6.7 million to $111.0 million.
A big concern for most REITs is mortgage debt. Equity LifeStyle’s debt structure is prudent, and the company is always trying to pay off more expensive debt and/or replace it with lower-cost debt. In fact, ELS stock paid off $20.7 million in mortgages in Q1, which carried a 5.63% weighted average interest rate. That was done in conjunction with a year-long refinance, which netted the company $430 million in proceeds at a mere 4.54% weighted average.
The best part is that the debt doesn’t mature until 2034 at the earliest. That’s the beauty of mortgage debt: It costs very little, so if a company can generate more than enough revenue to pay that debt and make money to boot, it’s a real business.
And the company is indeed able to cover those interest payments — almost four times over. ELS also has a cash backstop of $56 million and continues to expand via acquisition. It completed two purchases in the quarter for $61 million. The advantage of this niche market is that an entire community can be scooped up for eight figures, from which multiples can be earned over the life of the property.
With a 3.2% dividend yield and a solid business model, ELS stock is a good choice for core and retirement portfolios alike.
Lawrence Meyers does not own any security mentioned.