Could Augusta Be Underbuilt?
Aug 10, 2018
The 293-unit Grand Oaks at Crane Creek apartment complex in Augusta, GA.
Augusta may not bring to mind bustling downtowns or real estate titans, but there does seem to be a surprising lack of building. The Augusta metro currently only has 2.9 percent of its apartment stock under construction, despite employment growth nearing 3.5 percent this year and little reason to think that this job growth could taper off soon. The metro will soon be welcoming the opening of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, which will be adding up to 400 new employees annually over the next 20 years. As with most government projects, these direct hires will be followed by a slew of contractors setting up shop nearby. The average wage for these new Cyber Command positions is expected to be well into the six figures annually. So why are developers sleeping on Augusta? The first answer could be that rents in the metro are simply too affordable to justify much new construction; average asking rents in the metro are just $836 per unit. However, Augusta has an inverted vacancy schedule, whereby vacancy drops as prices increase. To wit, vacancy at the 4-Star level is roughly half that of the 2-Star level, while prices are nearly double. The average 4-Star property in the metro rents for $1,160 per month. Further, the Grand Oaks at Crane Creek delivered 293 units in 2016 and is currently just 3 percent vacant with the highest rents in the metro for institutional product-nearly $1,500 for a two-bedroom apartment. Perhaps its Augusta’s vacancy rate, now around 7.5 percent. Already below historical averages, the vacancy rate has dropped more than 200 basis points since late 2016. Again, the more comparable rate for new builds is even tighter, with vacancy around 4.5 percent, for institutional 4-Star units within 10 miles of downtown Augusta. This cohort has even seen rent growth hit 10 percent since that 2016 nadir. With most metros choking on an oversupply of luxury apartment units, Augusta could offer fertile territory for developers willing to look beyond gateway cities. Already the second largest economy in Georgia, Augusta also has the fastest employment growth in the state. And once those new, young tech hires start work at the Cyber Command, income growth should accelerate as well. Finally, much of downtown Augusta lies in an Economic Opportunity Zone, which could allow investors to defer federal capital gains taxes indefinitely. So where are the apartments? CoStar Market Insights provides a snapshot of recent real estate trends. The CoStar Market Analytics team monitors commercial and multifamily real estate across 390 metro areas, with a granular understanding of the projects, players and economic trends that move these markets. Copyright © 2014 CoStar Realty Information, Inc. All rights reserved. Portions of service protected by U.S. Patent Nos. 6,871,140, 7,076,452, 7,174,301, and 7, 254,559.