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When There’s No $ for the Rent

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By Phil Sarata

RISMEDIA, February 20, 2009-(MCT)-The national housing loan crunch that has hurt homebuyers with poor credit is also adversely affecting renters. But local real estate agents and developers say the demand for rental units remains strong.

Ken Middleton of Coldwell Banker Middleton & Associates says the same housing challenges that have been apparent since the takeover of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac by the federal government are also being dealt with by those who rent.

“The layoffs, less hours and cutbacks in pay are affecting tenants’ ability to pay rent,” Middleton said. “We are seeing some challenges there and the number of evictions will go up as well.

“Even though it ebbs and flows, there is always a great demand for rentals, which have always been fairly steady here.”

“We do not have a large number of large apartment complexes in this area,” he said. “We still have fewer rental units than we need. Locally, the newest development trend is not for traditional apartment complexes but for quads, or four-plexes, that can be concentrated in a smaller area. The occupancy rates here are consistently high.”

According to the most recent U.S. Census housing statistics, there are 8,689 rental units in Orangeburg County. Calhoun County has an estimated 1,038 available units while Bamberg County checks in with 1,548 renter-occupied units.

Jeannine Kees, Century 21 The Moore Group vice president and broker-in-charge, says when people rent more during a soft economy, the result is fewer available rental units.

“Sales of houses are off approximately 40 percent in this market,” Kees said. “That is also forcing more people to seriously consider renting. We have quite a few homes that people want to put up for lease now simply because they can’t sell the homes.

“It seems to me that Orangeburg has been a good market for rentals and the demand is growing, especially since this is a university town. Despite some challenges the economy is presenting, we still have reason for optimism due to the steady industrial growth, like Jafza, we’re seeing in the area.”

The Moore Company Rentals Property Manager Allison Strider, who also oversees properties in Bamberg and Calhoun counties, says people are not moving as much because of concerns over the economy and jobs.

“There is a busy and slow season to residential rental property, too,” Strider said. “However, last year at this time we had about three or four fewer properties to manage than we do now. We have grown and added homes to our rental portfolio but the credit issues that are causing people problems with buying a house are also causing some problems in renting.

“In order to rent, people still have to meet certain credit guidelines and have an adequate credit score. The product we can offer also differs from time to time depending on our inventory and demand, too.”

Ben Davis, owner of Carolina Appraisal Group, says that there is not a lot of new rental development on the horizon at the present time.

“I’m in the process of building 40 rental units with a partner, but there is little other major development along those lines that I can determine,” Davis said. “Building in the rental market is sort of reflecting the lack of credit that’s available.

“The local rental market is now gravitating to homes that are being leased by the owners. It’s having a domino effect with the prices of standard apartments and other rental units either decreasing slightly or stagnating.”

N&H Enterprises Regional Manager Denise Holley says the demand for upscale or luxury apartments in Orangeburg has been steadily increasing at the company’s Willington Lakes Apartment Homes complex since it opened in May 2002.

“Phase II construction on 96 new units will begin soon,” Holley said. “It is anticipated that building will be finished on these two-bedroom, two-bath apartments this summer, bringing the total number to 216 apartments. This phase will also include some one-bedroom units.

“The upward trend is exciting for us. The marketing study initially showed the need for two- and three-bedroom apartments, but after listening to prospective renters and additional research we realized there is a market here for one-bedroom apartments.”

Copyright © 2009, The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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