The youth are fueling Sam Zell’s outdoor home rental business

Equity Lifestyles Property REIT reported strong end-of-year earnings

Jan.January 28, 2020 03:30 PM
Sam Zell (Credit: Studio Scrivo, iStock)

Sam Zell (Credit: Studio Scrivo, iStock)

Younger generations are boosting the bottom line for Sam Zell’s #vanlife business.

To date, baby boomers have been the core customer base for Equity Lifestyle Properties, Zell’s Chicago-based real estate investment trust for RV parks, mobile and manufactured multifamily homes. But that’s changing.

“Over the past five years, there has been a steady increase in Gen X and Millennial campers,” Equity Lifestyle Properties president and CEO Marguerite Nader said Tuesday during the company’s fourth quarter 2019 earnings call. “The popularity of the outdoor lifestyle, an increase in younger RV buyers, and new unique accommodations in our properties, including renting a tiny house or cabin, should continue to contribute to growing demand for our offering.”

The company wrapped up 2019 with more than $1 billion in total revenue, a 5.1 percent increase from the previous year’s $986.7 million. Throughout the year, net income for common stockholders increased by $66.5 million, or 35 cents per common share, to $279.1 million. That compared to $212.6 million for the same period in 2018. Zell’s real estate investment trust began the year trading around $50 a share, but ended at $70 a share and beat Wall Street’s estimates in the fourth quarter.

The firm’s RV resorts, including the nationwide Thousand Trails portfolio, saw a 6 percent overall growth and income in 2019. It’s a positive sign for Zell’s overall portfolio, since many economists believe a slow RV market is a predictor of an economic downturn.

During the fourth quarter of 2019, total revenue at Equity Lifestyle increased to $258.6 million, compared to $243.5 million for the same period in 2018. Net income for common stockholders increased by $4.8 million, or 2 cents per common share, to $55 million, compared to $50.2 million for the same period in 2018.

Operating costs and real estate taxes ticked up $2 million higher than anticipated, largely from real estate taxes in Florida, which sends tax bills for the full year in the fourth quarter.

In August 2018, the stock price for Equity Lifestyle hit $95, outpacing Zell’s apartment and office management REITs, including Equity Residential.

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