Focus on the optimisation of the portfolio
The Fund's primary focus is on the optimisation of its portfolio. Last year, we once again managed to make a number of high-quality acquisitions, with even greater focus on strategic fit and the right product/market combinations, with a view to meeting the needs of the various target groups we have identified. In addition, all of our acquisitions last year were in the Holland Metropole region (G4 cities and Eindhoven), which we believe offers us the best chance to future proof and enhance the quality of our portfolio. And we divested a large number of assets that no longer meet our strict risk/return standards or our strategic criteria.
We also optimised our portfolio through investments in our standing portfolio. These included investments in the sustainability of our assets and the upgrading of properties through the installation of new, modern bathrooms and kitchens, as well as the enhancement of green areas and other amenities for our tenants.
Lifecycle-proof and high-quality apartments
In addition to the much-discussed quantitative mismatch (supply lagging demand), the Netherlands is faced with a growing qualitative mismatch. For one, a new generation of young people (starters and young professionals) is entering the housing market and the vast majority have little choice but to enter the rental market. The majority of these young people are looking for (smaller) apartments in the big cities. At the same time, the 65+ target group is also changing and becoming increasingly diverse in terms of their housing needs and requirements.
Bouwinvest closely monitors the trends among the above-mentioned target groups to gain a better understanding of their very different housing needs. This gives us the insight we need to respond even more effectively to the needs of these target groups and in turn realise even more future-proof homes for a wide range of potential tenants. This is why we are focusing on lifecycle-proof and high-quality apartments for starters, young professionals and seniors (one-person and two-person households).
To meet its own diversification guidelines, the Fund strives for a healthy balance of houses and apartments.
In 2020, the Fund bought and sold both houses and apartments. Due to our focus on inner-city areas and the fact that apartment complexes are almost always larger than projects involving houses, the proportion of apartments will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
Portfolio composition by type of property based on market value
Investments and divestments
Following the Covid-19 outbreak in the spring of last year, we lowered our acquisition target due to initial market uncertainty and the cautious approach adopted by many investors. However, it was quickly apparent that the crisis was having little impact on the housing market or residential property prices, which continued to rise throughout the year. As a result, we resumed our acquisition activities and managed to make three high-quality acquisitions. Acquisitions eventually totalled around € 200 million in 2020, close to our original, pre-Covid target of € 225 million. We acquired a total of 548 apartments, including 156 affordable homes. All of the properties we acquired have an energy index of 0.2 or lower and all have a minimum GPR score of above 7.5.
Apart from the purchase price, market vendors appreciate matters such as reliability, vigour and expertise. It is also very important to stand out in terms of deal security, efficiency, rapid (legal) structuring and decision making. All these aspects played a role in achieving these results. The Fund financed the acquisitions from existing commitments, the commitments of new shareholders, top-up commitments from existing shareholders and through divestments. All of the properties we acquired in 2020 were located in the Holland Metropole region.
Properties added to the portfolio
In 2020, the Fund added a total of 432 apartments and 115 houses to its portfolio. See below for a list of the new properties in the portfolio.
No. of residential units
Tudorpark Phase 2
Jeruzalem Blok G
Added to the pipeline in 2020
Added to the pipeline in 2020
Due to the uncertainty in the market in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak, we halved our divestment target to € 75 million, from € 150 million. However, when the government unveiled plans to raise the real estate transfer tax (RETT) on commercial transactions to 8% from 2% from 1 January 2021, we upped our divestment target, as we thought this move could have a negative impact on the value of our portfolio. In the end, we recorded an excellent result, divesting properties for € 133 million, comprising 410 houses and 28 apartments.
The decision to sell residential complexes is largely driven by the returns they are expected to generate over the next ten years. Factors in any decision to sell include the location, the product/market combination, the potential to increase the rents and the local rental market. Despite the ongoing crisis, residential real estate is still very much in demand among both domestic and foreign investors, and we are seeing high levels of interest in assets we put up for sale. For this reason, we see very few obstacles to the continued optimisation of our portfolio.
The following properties were sold for an amount of € 133 million and delivered in 2020.
No. of residential units
De Heeze I
At the end of 2019, the Fund signed a sales agreement for the following 12 properties. These properties were delivered in 2020.
No. of residential units
Alphen aan den Rijn
Hoek van Holland
Heer Oudelands Ambacht II
Due to the refreshment of our portfolio in 2020, the weighted average age of the portfolio declined slightly compared with year-end 2019 (17.3 years in 2020 versus 17.6 years in 2019).
With a pipeline of around € 707 million and a divestment plan of around € 150 million per year for the coming years, the weighted average age of the portfolio is expected to decline further in the future. The age of the portfolio is not a target in itself, as a number of factors determine whether a property meets the Fund's risk/return standards and strategic criteria.
Allocation of investment property by age as a percentage of market value
A key element of Bouwinvest’s active asset management is our aim to achieve an optimal fit with tenants’ needs by engaging with (potential) tenants and adapting both new and existing homes to the evolving housing desires identified by our marketing and asset management teams. Bouwinvest has therefore divided the tenant population of the portfolio into six specific customer segments. These segments differ significantly and are based on lifestyle, housing ambition and housing preferences.
Furthermore, the Fund devotes a great deal of time and energy to online lead generation. Potential tenants are increasingly turning to the internet as their (first) search engine for rental homes. On the basis of the customer journeys we mapped out for our target groups, we invested in the optimisation of the rental process and our online presence via the continued development of websites using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Marketing Automation and a CRM system. We have now fully digitalised the customer journey for all new-build projects, simplifying the entire process and making it fully transparent, both for us and for our (potential) tenants.
We are convinced that this approach, combined with high-quality housing products in the best locations, is the main reason that virtually all new properties added to the portfolio were fully let before completion. Even amidst the Covid-19 crisis, thanks to the quality of the properties we had on offer, plus online viewings and our fully automated letting process, all our new properties were fully let shortly after completion. For instance, our Rachmaninoff complex in Utrecht was fully let within two months of its delivery in April of last year, at the height of the initial Covid-19 restrictions. We ended the year with a very satisfying overall financial occupancy rate of 98.4%.
Financial occupancy rate
The Fund has a clear core region strategy, with a specific focus on the Holland Metropole region - the urban regions of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven – and to a somewhat lesser extent the cities of Zwolle, Arnhem and Nijmegen. We invest in Dutch rental properties located in areas with the strongest social, demographic, economic and real estate market prospects. These local housing markets offer the best medium to long-term investment foundation for the mid-market housing and liberalised rental sectors. Almost 100% of the Fund's investments are currently in these defined core regions.
Holland Metropole region
Due to the structural lag in the supply of new-build properties, combined with the persistent high demand for homes in both the private and institutional markets, the pressure on the housing market is actually increasing and spreading to peripheral municipalities close to the larger cities. This is why the Fund has chosen to concentrate its acquisition efforts in certain focus areas within our core regions. In 2020, the Fund once again increased its focus on the Holland Metropole region. This is where the pressure on the housing market is the most pronounced due to economic and demographic developments. It is also the region where the Fund sees the best investment opportunities. In the future, we will be focusing on acquisitions in this region, as it offers the best opportunities to optimise our portfolio and add long-term value to the Fund. At the same time, assets in these regions and focus areas need to be close to excellent infrastructure and located within vibrant areas that meet the needs of current and future tenants. This is especially true for increasingly popular (suburban) locations serving the larger cities.
The Bouwinvest Research & Strategic Advisory department (R&SA) periodically determines the core regions for the Residential Fund, and the most recent update took place in 2019. These updates are based on objective data and are conducted in close cooperation with the Fund's management. The Fund uses the core region model for both tactical and strategic purposes. On a tactical level, the model forms a guideline for acquisitions and divestments. This model is also an important input parameter in the risk-return form: the higher a municipality scores as a core region, the lower the risk and investment hurdle. The core region model also supports strategic decision making, and gives the Fund a clear focus.
The plan is to have at least 80% of the total value of the portfolio concentrated in residential real estate in these core regions. Due to revaluations, together with the acquisitions and divestments we made in 2020, 99.7% of the portfolio value was located in these core regions, while 93.4% of the portfolio was located in the Holland Metropole region.
As the entire investment pipeline is located in the Fund’s core regions, this percentage will increase slightly in the near future. In addition, the Fund has a guideline that a maximum of 90% can be invested in the Randstad conurbation. This now stands at 87.2%.