The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) handles the NMHC 50 survey process and remains solely responsible for any errors. To compile the NMHC 50 lists, NMHC gathers names of owners, managers, developers, general contractors/builders and syndicators from as wide a range of sources as possible and contacts staff from each firm that completes the survey online. Over the years, improved outreach and increased publicity associated with the rankings have resulted in more firms responding to the survey.
For the purposes of this survey, investment fund managers are treated as owners only if they retain substantial equity in the apartment property or if they maintain effective responsibility and decision making over the investment property. When firms function strictly as advisers rather than investors, they are not regarded as owners. In the past, tax credit syndicators and franchisers were regarded as owners if they retained a fiduciary responsibility. Recognizing that, we began a separate list for syndicators in 2017.
The rankings are unable to distinguish between partial and full ownership. Some firms own sizable apartment properties through joint ventures in which their share could range anywhere from 1 percent to 99 percent. Others are primarily the sole owners of their apartments. In principle, it would be desirable to account for partial ownership—treating 50 percent ownership of 100 apartments as equivalent to full ownership of 50 units, for example. In practice, it is not feasible to make such distinctions.
The survey excludes condominiums, cooperatives, hotel rooms, nursing homes, hospital rooms, mobile homes, ADUs, and single-family rental houses or communities. Rental housing for seniors (age-restricted apartments) is included, although assisted living and congregate care facilities are not. Both student housing and military housing are included (measured by units, not beds). Finally, since industry concentration is measured by comparing the top 50 owners and managers against the nation’s entire apartment stock, only U.S. apartments are included.
At times, a firm may debut on the NMHC 50 at a high level. Generally, this means the firm is responding to the survey for the first time, rather than an indication of an outsized portfolio gain—although that, too, happens on occasion. Nonetheless, despite many improvements and everyone’s best efforts, the process remains imperfect because it relies on both accurate reporting and surveying of the complete universe, both of which can be fraught with problems.
There are two caveats in comparing the lists over time. First, beginning in 2017 syndicators are no longer considered owners and have their own list, so that the 2017 list is not meaningfully comparable to those of previous years. This wasn’t the first time the definition of ownership has changed: in 2006 we refined the definition to eliminate those investment fund managers with neither substantial equity nor effective control over the investment property. (Note: Neither of these changes affected the management list.) Second, occasionally firms that have previously been among the top 50 owners or managers have not responded to the NMHC survey. When that occurs, companies appear on the list that otherwise might not have been large enough. These adjustments affect the total number of apartments owned by the top 50 firms, as well as other measures of concentration such as the mean and median portfolio size. For these reasons, year-to-year comparisons must be made with great care.
What counts as units*?
- Units that are in the United States only
- Unit counts, not bed counts
*Note: This definition of "units" applies to ALL NMHC 50 categories.
What is Ownership?
Owners include: Owners (partial or full) of multifamily (defined as five or more units) rental properties, including student housing, independent living and age-restricted housing. In the case of partnerships, joint ventures and investment funds, the owner is the entity – typically the managing general partner – that exercises effective control over the asset, such as when the asset gets sold.
Owners do NOT include:
- Syndicators - firms that purchase tax credits in order to serve as a general partner with a minority interest
- Investment fund managers that do not exercise effective control over the units
- Pension fund advisors that do not exercise effective control over the units
- General partners for investors who serve as limited partners
- Owners of condominiums, cooperatives, hotel rooms, nursing homes, hospital rooms, mobile homes, ADUs, units in buildings with 2-4 units, and single-family rental houses or communities
What is Property Management?
This is a survey of property management, not asset or investment management. Only multifamily (defined as five or more units) rental units (including student housing, independent living and age-restricted housing) for which the company handles property management tasks – leasing, maintenance, landscaping, etc. – should be included here.
Managers do NOT include:
- Firms with control over asset / investment decisions only
- Condominium or cooperative units, nursing homes, hotel rooms, hospital rooms, mobile homes, ADUs, units in buildings with 2-4 units, or single-family rental houses or communities
Who is a Syndicator?
A Syndicator is a company that buys or syndicates tax credits to serve as a general partner with a minority ownership interest.
Syndicators do NOT include:
- Limited partners
- Syndicators of hotels, nursing homes, hospitals, mobile homes, ADUs, units in buildings with 2-4 units, and single-family rental houses or communities
Who is a Developer?
A Developer is the firm responsible for the entire process related to the development of a new multifamily (defined as five or more units) rental community (including student housing, independent living and age-restricted housing). The developer controls everything from preliminary planning to obtaining financing to preparing the community for delivery to the market, and typically is responsible for selection of the builder. Units are started for the developer's own account, and upon completion of units, the developer will be the owner of the units. This includes developers who may sell their property after the units have been leased.
Who is a General Contractor/Builder?
An Apartment General Contractor/Builder is a company that is responsible for the physical construction of a new multifamily (defined as five or more units) rental community (including student housing, independent living and age-restricted housing).