by: Ethan Newman
Are you aware medical office buildings (MOBs) are arguably the safest asset to invest in? Since the pandemic, vacancy rates skyrocketed for traditional offices. The Sage Group reported office space vacancy rates in 2022 in downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach, California were 18% and 26% respectively (1). Despite MOBs being a subset of traditional offices, the demand for medical office space stayed resilient throughout the pandemic even with the rise of telemedicine (2). The Connected Real Estate Magazine shared how 2022 vacancy rates for MOBs nationally were only 8% (3). With MOBs outperforming traditional offices, what has contributed to MOBs becoming a reliable investment?
Because of the rise of the aging United States population, the demand for medical office space is increasing. Although there is strong demand, supply is relatively low for MOBs mainly due to construction obstacles that have in turn made existing healthcare properties more valuable.
One of the reasons for this noticeable demand for medical office space has to do with the aging population in the United States. U.S. data census estimates one in five Americans will be 65 and older by 2030 and one in four Americans will be 65 and up by 2060. Because of the aging population, medical-related office visits are becoming more frequent which leads to practices demanding more space. For example, RPC reported that the average amount of current office space per person is around 5.3 square feet, but this number is estimated to increase to 11.2 square feet per person in order to accommodate the higher aging population (4).
Although there is an increased demand for MOBs, new supply is lagging. The San Diego Business Journal claimed supply of MOBs in 2022 does not meet demand (5). Alliance reported that the average price per square foot for MOBs is $498 where retail is $245/per square foot and normal offices are $315/per square foot. Because MOBs are costly and require complex construction standards compared to other assets, there is less activity in the construction pipeline which results in a lower supply. To put this in perspective, there is only 1% of the amount of space under construction for MOBs compared to the existing stock available (6).
Due to the recent pandemic and the realization that there is a significant shortage, MOBs have become a very desirable investment. From the second quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2022, the average price per square foot of MOBs increased by 20%. As a result, the limited supply makes existing properties more and more valuable (7). With property values increasing, the average cap rate for MOBs dropped to an all-time low of 5.5% in 2022. Aside from rapidly increasing values, investing in MOBs allows capital providers to diversify their overall portfolios by tailoring their tenant mix in each MOB that they own. This can be done because of the variety of medical tenants in need of the same type of space.
The escalating demand for MOBs presents a momentous prospect for investors seeking steady cash flow and low-risk investment opportunities. As medical practices continue to expand and require more space, the construction of new buildings is anticipated to persist. Capital providers nationwide have expressed keen interest in financing the development and acquisition of such assets, and Lever Capital Partners collaborates closely with these entities, which actively disburse senior and mezzanine debt, preferred equity, and joint venture equity for the acquisition, development, and recapitalization of medical office assets across the country. By optimizing our clients’ capital structures, we enable them to concentrate on operations, construction, and asset management, while ensuring that the capital we procure establishes each project for success, regardless of the prevailing market conditions.