February 13, 2021 | By Debo Ayeni — By all accounts, 2019 was a banner year for the senior housing industry. Driven by the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, favorable demographic trends, an abundance of cheap capital, unprecedented levels of private equity investment, and widespread optimism regarding its future, the industry either set, or came close to setting, numerous records during the year. According to the senior housing research firm Irving Levin Associates, independent living, assisted living, and memory care assets sold at a record average price of $244,200 per unit in 2019. A record 450 publicly announced transactions at a disclosed value of $16.8 billion also occurred during the year, and after including confidential deals, 600 transactions at $25 billion in value took place in 2019. Cap rates also set a record, falling to an average low of 7.4%. In addition, absorption rates ticked up as the industry had 6.2% units of total inventory in the construction pipeline at the end of 2019 versus 7% in 2018. Higher absorption led to occupancy gains and the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) reported that senior housing occupancy increased from 87.8% in 2018 to 87.9% in 2019. With access to cheap capital, significant interest from private equity firms, less supply entering the market and encouraging demographic trends, senior housing investors and operators entered 2020 with a great deal of enthusiasm.
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