The first real estate investment trust backed by marinas is being put together be developers, managers, and marketing specialists.
The trust could help seacoast bankers dispose of some of their most troublesome assets, foreclosed marinas.
"As long as banks are realistic about yield, we believe there is a market," said Norman E. Powell, a partner at Grant Thornton.
The accounting firm is consulting in formation of the trust, which is tentatively being called the Maritime Realty Trust. The trust is being orgnized by a group headed by Collins Development Corp.
Trusts Seen as New Wave
In establishing a realty trust, the group has chosen a financing structure from the past. But many real estate experts see the trusts as the wave of the future, now that equity investors have fled the market.
The group will buy as many as 20 properties, including a handful of bank properties, by mid-August. It intends to bring the trust to market, raising up to $70 million, early next year.
But the group also will have to establish precedents to succedal a crucial one being that slip fees qualify as rental income.
Qualifying marinas for inclusion in a realty trust will be "very complicated to do, but it's doable," said Thomas E. Robinson, director of realty trust advisory services for Coopers & Lybrand.
Mr. Powell said the Marina Trust organizers would "dot every i and cross every t twice" by securing a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service before proceeding with the offering.
Collins Development initially hoped to offer comprehensive management services to banks saddled with marinas that were foreclosed as part of the collapse of the recreational boating industry.
But the group found greater demand for contracts to dispose of the properties than for management advice, said Arthur Collins, president of the Greenwich, Conn., firm.
With the customary equity financing for a niche business such as marinas especially hard to come by, it is difficult to meet that demand, he said.
Structured as partnerships, realty trusts pay no corporate income taxes provided 95% of net income is distributed to investors. They provide a relatively inexpensive way to securitize real estate into professionally managed portfolios and sell it in public offerings.
Although the trusts still suffer from the stigma of widespread collapses in the 19670s, many experts are optimistic the funds will be more selective this time and not flood the market with new construction that would drive values further down.
|The REIT is ideally suited to the needs of the marketplace,' Mr. Robinson and Frederick T. Caven Jr., wrote in Coopers & Lybrand's recent handbook, "REITs: the Future is Now."
Last year, 15 existing trusts raised $786 million in equity capital and one of them, New Plan Realty Trust, achieved a market capitalization of $ 1 billioin. In November, Kimco Realty Corp. completed the first initial public offering by a realty trust since 1988, raising $128 million.
Mr. Collins said low interest rates make the potential returns of a realty trust to investors "more handsome than they otherwise might be." In addition he said the trusts enjor the advantage of liquidity over real estate limited partnership.
Banks have been swamped by bad loans to marinas, especially along the Easter Seaboard. With the economy on the mend, marinas coul become attractive investments, though few expect the boating industry to rise to the extravangant levels of the middle 1980s.
But getting bank marinas shipshape for investment may take some doing. Indeed, the organizers have set criteria that will exclude many bank-owned properties.
To attract investors, Mr. Powell said, the trust would have to yield 8.5% to 9% after the expenses of administration, meaning an average yield of about 11 % on the properties is requried.
J. Anne Coulter, partner in Coulter & Delaney, a Norwich, Conn., marketing firm that also is among the organizers, said a yield of at least 10% is required for a marina to be considered
To meet that test, she said, many banks would have to take additional losses on their marinas or take steps to improve operating income.
Another requirement is that at least 95% of income be derived from slip rentals.
Income Sources Restricted
Under the tax laws, a real estate investment trust must derive 75% of its income from passive rental income and only 5% may come from such "bad" sources as gasoline sales and the like, said Mr. Robinson.
Mom and pop operations need to apply either. Only marinas with at least 1 50 slips - properties worth about $3 million - are being considered.
In addition, the group insists on income and expense records for at least the last three years. "We're looking for facilities that are largely completed and up and running,' said Peter Tucker. president of another participant in the group, Bayfront Associates. Annapolis, Md.