Weak Housing Leads to More Renters–and Rental Opportunities

Tampa–The ongoing housing slump has created a number of renters, but in cities such as Tampa–where rent dropped 0.6 percent from the third to the fourth quarter–the rental market isn’t showing the results, The Wall Street Journalreported Tuesday.Potential buyers in many cases are renting because they either can’t get a mortgage under the current restrictions or because they’re waiting to see if home prices drop lower. The situation is making the rental market more lucrative–but not necessarily for landlords, who are seeing competition from unsold properties on the market that are being rented out.In the fourth quarter of 2007, home vacancies increased in 29 markets–including Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Memphis, Orange County, Calif. and Orlando, according to New York real estate research firm Reis Inc. Dallas-based housing analyst Ron Witten estimates that, in excess of 350,000 vacant rental properties, 760,000 vacant condos and homes are for sale across the country. Thousands of single-family homes also are hitting the market, but renters prefer condos’ easy upkeep to more time-intensive houses, the Journal said.The influx of properties has affected rents across the country. While rents rose in the fourth quarter in 38 markets, including Chicago, Boston and St. Louis, the increase was less than the national vacancy growth rate of 0.9 percent, according to the Journal. In some markets in Florida, average rents have declined since the third quarter. In the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, average monthly effective rent–which includes free rent and other incentives–was $784 at the end of the fourth quarter.