Mike McKeen

EPC's McKeen sees stability in KC multifamily market

By Marcia Charney | MWM Contributing Writer

Stable. Steady. Cautious. Opportunity.

Those are the words Mike McKeen is using these days to describe the state of Kansas City’s apartment market. The principal and president of EPC Real Estate Group, LLC spoke to a record-breaking crowd of more than 150 brokers and real estate professionals at the April meeting of the Kansas City chapter of CCIM

Areas that will continue to succeed in the multifamily market will have “charm, character and are walkable, with jobs in good proximity,” McKeen said, noting that strong players currently include Lenexa City Center, downtown Overland Park, Olathe, Mission; and downtown Kansas City, Missouri, which leads the area in multifamily development. 

The living preferences of Millennials are driving the market. Some of EPC’s current products are Millennial-based, including Avenue 80 in downtown Overland Park, where Millennials comprise 70 percent of the tenant base. Empty nesters, who no longer want to maintain their homes and are seeking to live life a little differently, are another growing tenant segment.  

McKeen discussed how e-commerce is changing multifamily development. With the explosion of package delivery, developers are installing electronic parcel delivery systems, which allow tenants to retrieve packages by entering a security code. McKeen said that without these delivery systems, the buildings would need a massive storage room for delivered packages and staff to monitor receipt and storage.

McKeen said that developers now have to consider for the first time the amenities and unit size that Generation Z wants. He stated that studio apartments are the “quickest thing to fly off our lists right now because they hit a certain price point of affordability but they also cater to that lifestyle of people who spend most of their time playing video games.” McKeen added that the amenity most requested by Gen Z is blackout shades for better game screen visibility. 

McKeen discussed the challenges currently facing multifamily developers which include a decline in the number of skilled craftsmen; the threat of tariffs, causing suppliers to raise prices to offset the impact of possible future tariffs on costs; future tax treatment; the passage of city ordinances which impact the use of development incentives; aging infrastructure; low supply and high demand, particularly for precast concrete products; and rising operating costs.

McKeen also recognized new opportunities for multifamily developers such as the creation of new inventory to meet the demands of Millennials and empty nesters, affordable housing, and opportunity zones. In addition, new product types like micro-units, which range in size from 350 to 500 square feet, are in high demand with rising rents.  

Noting that “site selection is everything now,” McKeen said the average occupancy of multifamily properties in the Kansas City area has remained steady, staying between 93 and 95 percent.  

 

Panelists tackle trends and timely topics at sold-out MWM 2017 Multi-Family Summit

More than 170 guests attended MWM's 2017 Multi-Family Summit on Oct. 12 for breakfast, premium networking and a panel discussion moderated by Hunt Midwest's Brenner Holland

Here's a snapshot of panelist insights: 

“We are in a vibrant stage in my 25-year career. One of the leading indicators is the number of calls I get from lenders about sites from developers outside Kansas City, so that tells us that folks are either pooping out in some other markets and trying to come here, or they’re moving from different food groups into multi-family." -Jim Thomas, Cityscape Residential

“I think what has happened in Denver is similar to what has happened to California, where the prices have gotten astronomical and it’s unaffordable for virtually anybody at any income level... Quite honestly, I see Kansas City as the next Denver as people keep looking for more affordable places to live and work. We are certainly very well priced in the market for exceptional value.” -Aaron Rumple, Yaeger Architecture

“Boomers want larger units and more bonus space or an extra den area. Storage is very important to them. Millennials, on the other hand, are more concerned about walkability. They value space a little less and they place more value on amenities and the social aspect of amenities spaces in technology.” -Justin Duff, VanTrust Real Estate

“The amenity stuff keeps getting better and better, particularly with pools and clubhouses. On the technology side, we’re adding USB outlets inside the units and trying to accommodate what’s going to be standard technology as it grows. We’ve built penthouse units for a couple of projects. Those are the first to go, and usually the Boomers get them." -Aaron Neighbors, Neighbors Construction

“The new stuff is always going to fill up, and the reason is that those offer the best property and best amenities. It’s where people want to live. So we are building in places where the jobs are going, and then it’s not a question of ‘Will the new stuff fill up?’ It’s a matter of, ‘At what number will it fill up? Will you meet the pro forma, and will you hit your rents?' " -Aaron Mesmer, Block Real Estate Services

“Paramount to any development is having the best site selection-- access to highways, jobs and amenities-- because when people move into an apartment anymore, there are so many good options out there, you really have to have that ‘wow’ factor. So you need to be able to have people move into something where there’s a sense of place and they have to feel that they have 'arrived' somewhere.” -Mike McKeen, EPC Properties

“I think Kansas City-- the municipality-- really wants to expand opportunities for economic diversity. A lot of projects that we are seeing in the Historic Northeast area are all mixed-income products, so you are divvying up affordable versus market rate and really bringing more diversity into the neighborhood.” -Rachel Treanor, 4Sight Construction Group

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