Where Are We in the Current Market Cycle?

This blog post is for any hotel real estate folks that may read this blog.


I am often asked where I believe we are in the current market cycle. If we were in a boxing match, I believe we just heard the bell ring to start the last round. If we were at a baseball game, I believe we are in the bottom of the eighth inning. If we were slalom water skiing, we just cleared the 2nd buoy at 43’ off. Note; only a water skier will understand that last one.

So to answer the question, in my opinion, we are close to the next market cycle change.

Last week, I heard hotel debt being quoted as an interest only loan. It took me back to January 2007. That was the last time I remember anyone seriously pitching an interest only loan as the way to make a deal underwrite. If an interest only loan is the way you make your deal pencil, my suggestion is to put your hands in the air and back away slowly.

Let’s cover a little history. There were 11 recessions from 1948 to 2010. They all varied in length, severity and duration. During that 62-year period and covering 11 recessions, it took on average 10 months for the market to fall to its low point. It took on average 57 months for the market to reach stability. If that is correct, on average it took six times longer for recovery than for the recession.

When 911 happened, I remember we had 10 to 15 hotels under contract and within a couple of weeks we had zero under contract. That cycle was very different from any past downturn. The market had already begun to fall sharply in the 1st quarter of 2001 with RevPAR off double digits in most of the top 10 markets. By summer 2001, things were in steep decline and concern was everywhere. When 911 happened in September, the bottom fell out of all economic measuring data and the decline was instant. The decline was so steep and deep, it actually bottomed out the economy much quicker than expected which allowed for a shorter recover time. In most cycles a slow decline manifests itself in an even slower recovery. During 911, the decline was almost instant and looking back in retrospect, that quick decline allowed the market to bounce back somewhat quicker than expected.

Let’s look at the last economic cycle as an example. The fall began in October 2007 when the CMBS hotel debt market faltered. Make no mistake, the catalyst that started the last hotel real estate recession was the failure of the secondary debt market and that began in October 2007.

During the ALIS conference in January 2008, we began to see the raw data pointing to a down cycle. The opinions at the time were that the cycle would be short, shallow and quick. No one saw it lasting very long and certainly no one thought it would be that deep. By March 2008, slight concern was replaced by real concern. By May, concern was replaced with denial. By July, denial was replaced with anxiety, and then in September, anxiety was replaced with real fear.

In September 2008, the hotel real estate market fell over the ledge and didn’t begin to stabilize until March 2010. It was an 18-month freefall in RevPAR, EBITDA, NOI and real estate value.

So here we sit in the 3rd quarter of 2015 watching LTV’s rise, DCR’s fall, yields constricting, PPR’s escalating, replacement values exceeded, interest only loans and today’s values based on unpredictable IRR rather than actual return. Couple all these factors with the growing risk in the current securitized hotel debt pools along with the plethora of older securitized hotel debt coming to term over the next 12 months, and it should give all of us some pause. So, yes, I am concerned that we are nearing a cycle change.

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