Editor’s note- this is part five of a ten-part series on the various asset types of DST offerings.

Part 5: Senior Housing Asset Classification

By Al DiNicola, AIF®
May 25, 2022
DST & 1031 Tax Deferred Specialist

NAMCOA® – Naples Asset Management Company®, LLC

Securities offered through MSC-BD, LLC

Laying the Groundwork

The types, styles, and range of senior housing and services being offered today continues to expand. Unfortunately, the end is in sight of what has been known as the Greatest Generation. The Greatest Generation commonly refers to those Americans who were born in the 1900s through the 1920s. The Silent Generation is mostly a demographic sector of people who were born between mid-1920 and mid-1940s. This generation is referred to as the “silent generation” as the prevailing feelings were that speaking out or participating in activism is dangerous, and that they should focus on careers. This generation experienced the Great Depression and in spite of that many grew into successful prosperous life experiences. You may have heard the phrase “the Lucky Few” as another description of the silent generation. The Todays’ seniors (including part of the Lucky Few) are living longer and want more active lives than the previous generation.  Matching their lifestyle preferences becomes the key to successful developments.

The investors of today are somewhat confused or at lease wanting more details regarding senior housing on what was a niche real estate asset class that is becoming more in demand. This sector is now falling outside of the multifamily asset class where it was a subset. Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) sponsors are actively engaging and acquiring Senior Housing Assets. There is a wide spectrum of offerings of options for seniors that go outside the independent 55 Plus age restricted communities. This is a commercial real estate asset class that provides a much needed and sought-after alternative.  Hopefully we can provide some insight into the differences between ever growing aspect of Senior Housing.

Senior Housing Depth and Breath

Senior housing is more than the traditional “nursing homes”. Investors of commercial real estate are asking questions on the economics of the asset class as well as the options. As compared to 20 years ago, the options for seniors who are more active and healthier continue to expand. There is still a need for extended care for seniors who cannot take care of their daily needs. Some of those seniors need constant monitoring and care on a 24-hour basis.

The breath of offerings of senior housing selections starts with age-restricted single family and multifamily (with a variety of additional options) all the way to servicing the needs for intense care in nursing homes and hospitals.

55 and older age-restricted single family and multifamily properties have been around for a long time.  Of late the activities have increase along with the demands by many baby boomers seeking to extend their time beyond their prime.  The selection of home may include rentals as well as purchase options such as Apartments, townhomes, villas, and single-family homes. Very few 55 plus communities are included in the REIT structure or Delaware Statutory Trust (DST) offerings. Many of these are offered on a for sale bases. Investments into senior housing rely on rental income as a source of revenue. There may be some additional fees that add to the total income for the investor.

Moving up the senior housing list would be independent living facilities. While there may be some similarities to age-restricted housing, independent living facilities tend to cover more programming and amenities, such as restaurant-style dining.  Assisted-living facilities are one step up, providing additional service with daily living activities, such as eating and bathing. Assisted living facilities are regulated and must be licensed to provide medical care.

People with memory-loss conditions require special care.  The integration with assisted as well as independent living with memory care may offer an easy transition for some seniors. Memory care may also be on a standalone basis. Skilled nursing facilities are the most intensive classification of senior housing. These facilities are licensed and similar to traditional nursing homes.

There was good reason to classify senior housing as a separate asset class from multifamily. The senior housing sector is a heavily regulated business. The operator’s experience is critical. Investors need to understand this is an operating intensive asset.  As with all investments identifying the details and underlying economic issues may affect the performance and profitability of any investments.

The Key to success is the Operator’s Experience.

As a real estate asset class senior housing is an intense operating business as well as a local business. DST sponsors totally understand this fact. Prior to an investor becoming interested in investing capital into an offering the critical question is the experience on the operator running the facility as well as the business. DST sponsors may seek out existing facilities where a different management team can boost operations as well as returns.  This will set the table for a successful investment. All real estate contains risk but having an experienced operator helps to stifle or manage the risks.

The demand for an experience quality operator who understands all of the facets of the highly regulated industry is extremely high. There are a variety of compliance issues to adhere to for keeping the business open.

Staff and Labor, the Key Element

The largest line item in the operational budget is labor. Operators who can recruit, train, and retain staff will increase not only the bottom line but the experience of the residents.  The residents are the customers, and their living experience and relationship experience is vital to a successful operation. True appreciation for the staff may only occur when you personally experience a family member living each day in a senior facility. It is expected that the environment (interior and exterior) will be a caring environment that is inviting and warm. The quality of the environment will help to minimize vacancies. There will be policies and procedures in place for the wellbeing of the residents and employees. Systems need to be in place, monitored for compliance and feedback obtained.

All asset classes require operations for success.  When compared to other commercial real estate asset classes the operator risk to senior housing is magnified.  DST sponsors will have operators with deep experience in a position to move into a facility if necessary. This is truly the only way for the senior housing asset to perform to its full potential.

The Demand Components

Understanding the aging trends and local demographics may at first thought of as an easy task.  If an area has a high concentration of aging adults the initial conclusion may be this would be an ideal place to develop and invest in senior housing.  There are more aspects to pinpointing the demand. One key element may be where the key decision makers for the aging adult lives. There is a point in many families where decisions need to be made for the seniors by the adult children. These decisions go beyond financial and include the living accommodations.  Aging in place is a goal many seniors have, meaning staying in their homes as long as possible.  However, there comes a point in time where this becomes overwhelming.  The aging parents may or will move into a senior living facility. There are two age groups to consider:  the aging parents or seniors (over 70) and the age of the adult children (50-65) when evaluating potential demand for senior housing.

Scope of the Demographics

Many initial studies will utilize the typically drive time or mile(s) of radius from a potential facility. The demographic profiles within a three (3) to twelve (12) mile radius should provide an initial indication of need. Urban areas may be shorter than suburban.  There are a list of questions DST sponsors (and ultimately investors) will ask or want clarification.

  • What is the need or potential number of seniors who would be potential users?
  • What are the income statistics (Median household income) for seniors living independently?
  • What are the demographics on the adult children of the seniors (median income and other key elements)?
  • Do the Local housing values indicate a good sign of affordability or wealth?

As with any product offering there needs to be an evaluation of the numbers of households earning above a particular income level (for example $100,000). The other component would be the future of this demographic meaning is this group increasing or declining within the geographical local area.

What are the Sources of Income?

Understanding who the residents (or tenants) of the facilities is very important to understand. Recent statistics show the median income for seniors over 75 years of age is 54,058 per year. The median net worth is $254,800 (average is $977,600). Each senior housing complex may have a variety of services besides rental payments (some may exceed $10,000 per month). As the need for care increases with memory care cost may increase. While there is a need for many types and styles of senior housing facilities most DST offerings seek out primarily private pay.  Having said that many facilities have state requirements to include submarket rents (Medicaid).

Suffice to say that collecting Social Security benefits (most seniors will receive), this will not cover the full costs of senior housing.  There needs to be other sources of income. The analysis and due diligence process DST sponsors engage in becomes the key decision factor.   Seniors who have retirement accounts, pensions, savings accounts, stocks, and bonds create a financial foundation. In addition, the sale of the senior’s resident (and other real estate), vehicles may create additional income. There may also be long term care insurance policies providing support.  As a last parachute may be the adult children’s’ financial assistance.

When looking at offering statements and financial models DST sponsors are very interested in the percentage of rental payments coming from private pay vs. Medicaid residents.  Can the private-pay residents’ current and future income cover the rental payments and other services provided by the facility? Bottom line for DST sponsors (and ultimately investors) can the target market who would move into the facility create a sustainable income stream.

There is always Market Competition

There have been tremendous advances for a movement called “aging in place”.  Aging seniors want to stay in their own home (aka age in place) in their familiar location community and close to friends.  Moving hundreds of miles away may not be the preferred option.  When attempting to acquire or develop a new facility, or any product, looking at the competition in your submarket is a key point to understand.  DST sponsors will look at competitors’ occupancy rates, mix of living units (studios, 1 bed, etc.), mix of care units (independent living, assisted living, memory care), comparable rents, and other elements.


Senior housing has been elevated into a more mainstream product type and no longer listed as a specialty asset under multifamily product. Senior housing is attracting attention from DST sponsors and institutional investors. The interest in senior housing should continue with Americans living longer. DST sponsors believe that there will be an increase in interest in senior housing. First steps for DST sponsors is to understand the business and economics of senior housing. Similar to all asset classes there is a complete underwriting and third-party reporting on the DST senior housing offerings.


DSTs are not for all investors. The acquisition of a DST is for accredited investors only. Contact your investment adviser for additional details on how a DST may be a solution to your 1031 Exchange and suited for your investment future. For more information on how to properly set up an IRC 1031Tax Deferred Exchange or if you are an accredited investor and would like additional information on a DST contact Al DiNicola at 239-691-8098 or email adinicola@namcoa.com.

This is not an offer to purchase or solicitation to purchase any security, as such be made only through an offering memorandum or prospectus. Investing in securities, real estate, or any investment, whether public or private, involves risk, including but not limited to the potential of losing some or all of your investment dollars when you invest in securities. You should review any planned financial transactions that may have tax or legal implications with your personal tax or legal advisor. NAMCOA, LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor, regulated by SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). Our corporate office is located at 999 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 200, Naples Florida 34108. Securities Offered through MSC-BD, LLC, Member of FINRA/SIPC. 410 Peachtree Parkway Suite 4245, Cumming, GA 30041. MSC-BD, LLC and NAMCOA are independently owned and are not affiliated.

Thank you.

NAMCOA® – Naples Asset Management Company®, LLC