A decade ago, when the U.S. housing market collapsed and millions of homes went into foreclosure, a new class of real estate investors was born. Large-scale, institutional firms began buying up tens of thousands of properties. They rehabbed them and put them up for rent.
Some said it was a short-term play; they'd sell the homes once property values recovered. And some did, but a decade later the firms that made the biggest bets are not only still in play, but expanding, and continuing to reap the rewards of a new rental boom.
At the start, there were several players. Names like American Residential Properties, Colony American Homes, Starwood, Waypoint and Silver Bay. Now, after mass consolidation in the last few years, only the last two remain: American Homes 4 Rent and Invitation Homes. They are single-family rental REITs, and, along with Canada's Tricon Capital, which bought Silver Bay, they own and operate about 200,000 single-family rental homes across the nation.
"The single-family rental market is very healthy right now. The demand versus supply balance and the operating outlook for revenue growth over these coming years is more favorable versus most property types," said John Pawlowski, an analyst at Green Street Advisors. "The operating backdrop for them is quite sound, and they're better at what they do today versus the early days of this sector, they're better operators, they have more refined systems."