The largest senior housing operators — those with 25 or more properties — experienced the greatest drops in occupancy during the pandemic, according to a National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care analysis released Thursday.

It used NIC MAP data powered by NIC MAP Vision.

The findings showed that occupancy fell 5.8% last year for single-property operators and 8.2% for operators with 25 properties or more within the NIC MAP primary markets. Among small, medium and large operators — those with anywhere between two and 24 properties — occupancy rates dipped between 5.8% and 6.3%.

New supply, as well as pandemic-related changes in the rates of move-ins and move-outs, contributed to this disparity, according to NIC. Between the first and fourth quarters of last year, single-property operators experienced negative inventory growth, whereas very large operators had the largest inventory growth of the five operator categories for the NIC MAP primary markets, analyst authors said.

“The inventory decline for single-property operators could be due to a few factors, including that some properties may have been purchased from single-property owner/operators to become owned and operated by larger chains, or there may have been property closures or closures of units or wings at properties that remained open,” they wrote. “The additional units coming online during this period put added pressure on occupancy for very large operators in a way that the single property operators did not experience.”

Another explanation for the larger drop in occupancy among very large operators also might be that some larger operators focus more broadly on revenue per occupied unit, or REVPOR, and therefore, managing more to asking and actual rates than occupancy levels, NIC added.

The authors also noted properties that were operated by single-property operators last year often had more flexibility to allow move-ins based on local coronavirus positivity rates, whereas properties operated by larger chains may have had more uniform, organization-wide policies and procedures in place either controlling or restricting move-ins regardless of the level of coronavirus positivity rate by region or locale.