Focus on the optimisation of the portfolio
The Fund's primary focus is on the optimisation of its portfolio. Last year, the Fund managed to make five 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. In addition, all of these acquisitions were in the Holland Metropole region (G4 cities and Eindhoven), which the Fund believes offers the best chance to future-proof and enhance the quality of its portfolio. From a quality, return and timing perspective the Fund made no divestments in 2021.
The Fund also optimised its portfolio through investments in its standing portfolio. These included investments in the sustainability of the Fund’s 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 the Fund’s 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 Bouwinvest the insight it needs 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 the Fund focuses 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 2021, the Fund bought both family homes and apartments. Due to the Fund’s 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
Although 2021 was another year dominated by Covid-19, it had little impact on the Dutch housing market in general. Bouwinvest did see, however, that it did slow down deal-making processes, so it took longer to reach final agreements. This was mainly due to rising construction costs and the shortage of skilled workers. Acquisitions eventually totalled around € 153 million in 2021, below the Fund’s original target of € 225 million. The Fund acquired a total of 342 apartments and 90 family homes, 252 of which were in the affordable segment (58%). All of the properties the Fund 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 and the top-up commitments from existing shareholders. All of the properties the Fund acquired in 2021 were located in the Holland Metropole region.
The Shareholders' Committee has approved two related party transactions: the purchase of the 30 family homes in Tudorpark, Hoofddorp, and the purchase of 54 apartments in Rijswijk. These transactions were regarded as a related-party transaction, as Bouwinvest Development B.V. sold a ground position in Stadshagen, Zwolle, to a development company and in return the development company sold (yet to be developed) residential units in Hoofddorp and Rijswijk to the Fund.
On the investment side, we realised € 285 million instead of the planned € 416 million. This was a result of the delay in some new acquisitions and a delay in the process of the municipality of Amsterdam to supply the Fund with proposals for the buy-off of the land lease in Amsterdam. This also resulted in a delay in capital calls for new commitment holders.
Properties added to the portfolio in 2021
In 2021, the Fund added a total of 299 apartments and 75 houses to its portfolio. See below for a list of the new properties in the portfolio.
No. of residential units
Little C-A1 The Burton
Little C-A3 The Clark
Little C-A4 The Hammond
Properties added to the pipeline in 2021
In the 2021-2023 Fund Plan, the Fund included a three-year disposal estimate of € 450 million. 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. For reasons of timing and because returns are expected to be more positive, the Fund decided to postpone any divestments. For this reason, the Fuind made no divestments in 2021.
Despite the addition of new properties to the portfolio in 2021, and because the Fund did not make any divestments, the weighted average age of the portfolio increased slightly compared with year-end 2020 (18.2 years in 2021 versus 17.3 years in 2020).
With a pipeline of around € 567 million and a divestment plan of around € 175 million per year for the coming years, the weighted average age of the portfolio is expected to decline 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 its 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 Bouwinvest’s marketing and asset management teams. Bouwinvest has therefore divided the tenant population of the Fund’s 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 Bouwinvest mapped out for the Fund’s target groups, the rental process for all new-build projects is now fully digitalised and the customer journey is further simplified and now fully transparent, both for Bouwinvest and for its (potential) tenants.
The Fund is 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 the Fund had on offer and the Fund’s fully automated letting process, all of its new properties were fully let shortly after completion.
The Fund did notice an increasing pressure on the occupancy rate of homes in the higher rental segment in 2021. This was partly due to the fact that many expats returned to their home countries. Thanks to new and extensive marketing campaigns and as a result of the slow but steady return of expats back to the Netherlands, the Fund saw a pick-up in rentals in this segment in the second half of 2021. The Fund ended the year with a very satisfying overall financial occupancy rate of 97.8%.
Financial occupancy rate
The Fund has a clear core region strategy, with a specific focus on the Holland Metropole region - the urban and suburban regions of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven – and to a somewhat lesser extent the cities of Zwolle, Arnhem and Nijmegen. The Fund invests 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 its core regions. In 2021, the Fund once again focused on investing in 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, the Fund will continue to focus on acquisitions in this region, as it offers the best opportunities to optimise its 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 2021. 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 the Fund made in 2021, 99.6% of the portfolio value was located in these core regions, while 92.4% 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 86.2%.