5 min read
Do I invest in a brand new hotel, or in an existing hotel? Real estate investors often find this decision difficult when first expanding their investment portfolio to include hotel assets. When deciding between hotel investment opportunities, knowing the distinctions between new and old hotel assets can serve you well. Combine that knowledge with information about the cost basis, time, quality, and potential disposition value of each deal, and you have the foundational tools you need to make smart investment decisions.
For starters – there are two types of investments available for hotel investors. Hotel investors can choose to invest in a new construction project. This is where a hotel developer takes the time to design and build a brand new hotel. On the flip side, hotel investors can choose to invest in an existing hotel, usually in the form of a renovation project. Renovations could include structural upgrades to a building, but may also involve a change of a hotel’s brand name. For example, a developer might want to take a pre-existing Country Inn & Suites and convert it to a Staybridge Suites.
The benefits of new construction hotels might seem apparent to many first time investors. After all, the hotel asset that you invest in will be brand new, often coming with the newest amenities. However, existing hotel renovation projects also have their fair share of benefits.
New Construction Hotel Investments
Investing in a new development project can be a risky but rewarding investment. It is truly a unique experience, being able to invest in a project that you can see from its designing stages, to the groundbreaking, and to the final construction phases.
Advantages to New Construction Investments
New construction developments have numerous benefits, including:
- Modern Design: Everything is new! The guest experience and floorplans of today’s hotel prototypes are more efficient and modern than older hotels. Guests are satisfied and leave great travel reviews, encouraging additional business.
- Market Leaders: New construction hotels typically beat out the older competition in the area. These new assets often become market leaders in rate and occupancy in large part because business travelers don’t mind spending more money to stay in newer hotels.
- Lean Operating Margins: Operating margins in new hotels tend to be leaner than their older counterparts because the newer hotel is less susceptible to extensive maintenance and repairs.
- Higher Disposition: When selling a newer hotel after owning it for a few years, it is common to see offers that are higher than those that would be made for old hotels. REITS and institutional buyers demand the best performing assets and often pay the highest value to new or newer hotels.
Disadvantages to New Construction Investments
However, savvy real estate investors know that depending on the individual deal, new does not always mean better. New construction hotels have their own share of risks:
- Longer Process: The development process often takes 6-18 months of hard work with engineers, attorneys, and architects. Only after the development undergoes several rounds of approval does the project move forward to construction, which often takes another 16-24 months of time.
- Income Delay: New hotel assets are not taking in any income during that development and construction process.
- Building Codes & Zoning Laws: Government review can have a huge hand in restricting the hotel design. Different local governments vary greatly in what is allowed or not allowed in construction. With a brand new hotel, it can add on additional work and approval rounds with city officials, all which can lengthen the amount of time until opening day for that hotel.
- Difficult Construction Financing: Construction financing is generally more scarce expensive than existing hotel acquisition loans. There are plenty of lenders for existing hotels, but not as many for new-construction loans.
Existing Hotel Investments
When real estate investors decide to invest in the renovation of an existing hotel, they must compare the cost basis of acquiring the hotel to the cost benefit of changing flags or renovating the property into a different brand. In other words, how does the price of investing in the hotel compare with the potential return of the renovated property? This comparison is especially important if the existing hotel is located in an extremely busy market, center-city location, or in a market where vacant land is scarce.
Advantages to Existing Investments
Existing hotel investments offer many benefits that are distinct from new hotel assets, including:
- Clear Performance History: Investing in or purchasing an existing hotel with an operating history provides an accurate look at how the hotel is performing right now. This can give you a clear picture of what the return on your investment currently looks like before renovation.
- Reduced Development Costs: Due to rising costs of construction and scarcity of land in strong markets, the building a new hotel is easier said than done. With an existing hotel asset, you do not have to shell out for materials to build an entirely new building.
- Faster Income: Assuming that the hotel asset is cash flow positive, investors can recognize income 12-24 months sooner compared to new construction hotel investments. Again, hotel investors benefit from a shorter waiting period before the hotel operates.
- Shorter Development Period: Pre-existing hotel assets have already undergone the entitlement, design, and development process from its initial construction, so developers and investors can save valuable time.
- Assuming Financing: The acquisition cost for an existing hotel can be significantly below new construction replacement cost. Additionally, existing hotels often have financing that you can assume from the previous owner. It’s convenient not having to go searching or negotiating for a loan when you can readily assume a quality loan.
Disadvantages to Existing Investments
With older hotel buildings (and for real estate assets in general), maintenance and other disadvantages can lower the value of your investment. Investors must be careful to make sure that the price of acquiring a pre-existing hotel does not outweigh the cost of simply constructing a new hotel. Other downsides to existing hotel assets include:
- Outdated Infrastructure: Many older hotel buildings lack adequate electrical, plumbing, or mechanical systems to keep up with the demand of today’s travelers. Investors can often spend just as much money replacing these systems as they would installing brand new ones.
- Limited Branding Options: Older hotels may be limited on branding options, as some brands (particularly high performing ones) may have additional restrictions on which buildings they are willing to allow their branding on.
- Lower Disposition Value: Renovated or repositioned hotels will most likely sell for a substantially lower premium than newly constructed assets.
- Higher Maintenance Costs: Older, existing hotel assets will cost more to maintain than new construction hotels.
Both new and existing hotel assets come with their own set of pros and cons, and investors should take into account their financial goals when considering investment decisions. If investors seek to supplement their short-term cash flow, then the types of investments that work best for them will be different than if those investors were seeking to maximize their long-term gain. Beyond looking at the type of hotel investment, looking at other variables including “equity multiples” can provide valuable information.
Equityroots recently found value in partnering with Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), licensing two of their most iconic brands, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express in a dynamic dual-brand design. The development was able to identify Class-A vacant site in a market with barriers to entry, it was an easy decision to pursue new development given the circumstances. New development projects and investments often require a higher degree of patience compared to existing hotel acquisitions, but the added layer of patience is often rewarded during the exit strategy.
Equityroots.com is website owned and operated by Equityroots, Inc., a Delaware Corporation and real-estate developer specializing in select service and full service hotel development. For more information on hotel investments, visit us at www.equityroots.com or sign up for our monthly newsletter at the bottom of our homepage.
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