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2023 is off to an “exciting start” for CareTrust REIT, with new investments, a “robust” acquisition pipeline and new operators rounding out its portfolio, executives said Thursday.

“Overall, we are pleased with the progress made to date toward our priorities for the year — returning to acquisitions, sourcing more off-market deals, expanding our operator bench, and de-risking the portfolio through active asset management work — all while maintaining a favorable leverage profile that provides tremendous flexibility in a challenging market,” President and CEO Dave Sedgwick said during a first quarter earnings. “The flow of deals crossing our desk picked up in Q4 and has continued year to date.”

Since the end of the first quarter, the San Clemente, CA-based real estate investment trust closed on three acquisitions for $47 million. Earlier this month, CareTrust closed on two transactions, including a two-property memory care portfolio in the Chicago area. The communities will be operated by Chapters Living, a new operator relationship for CareTrust. 

The company also sold a smaller senior living community on May 1 for $3 million and has three facilities under contract to sell, with another two facilities on the market.

Sedgwick said the REIT made progress in transitioning two Wisconsin assisted living communities from Noble Senior Services to The Pennant Group, which is working to turn them around.

The REIT’s investment pipeline is between $150 million and $200 million, consisting mostly of skilled nursing acquisitions.

Through December, approximately 70% of all properties across the portfolio reported occupancy of 90% or higher of pre-pandemic levels. As of March, occupancy increased by 70 basis points to 77.3% for senior living and by 120 basis points to 75.3% for skilled nursing. Approximately 300 basis points remain for full occupancy recovery to pre-pandemic levels for the entire portfolio.

“The existing portfolio is, overall, in very good shape,” the CEO said.