housing market

Demand for Rentals and Build-to-Rent Housing Grows in Texas, Developers Say

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Buyers looking to purchase homes in North Texas are finding high prices and too few homes on the market to choose from. Real estate agents, developers, and researchers say the hot housing market is pushing more people to rent and they're seeing more renters who don't want to live in apartments and who would rather live in the suburbs.

Salon owner Erin Majors shared the struggles she and her family faced, trying to navigate the housing market.

"Oh, let's put it nicely. It was extremely stressful," she said. "I was regretting selling my home, actually, because I wasn't expecting, you know, how competitive the market currently is."

"Either it was too small and overpriced. Obstacles everywhere," said Majors.

She and her husband sold their home in Aubrey last year and after eight months of searching for another home big enough for their family of nine, Majors said they chose to pivot.

"We went from wanting to buy to, 'I don't want to buy right now,' you know, in this current market. So we went back to the drawing board and started to entertain renting," Majors said.

"It's a convenience factor," said developer Thomas Woliver.

Real estate developer Thomas Woliver said he's seeing more families like Majors'.

"Renting right now is becoming by choice more than by necessity," he said.

Woliver is the Chair of the Community Development Council for the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research group filled with real estate and land use experts. He said the growing demand for rentals inspired a section in his new project in McKinney, Painted Tree.

Three miles from downtown McKinney, Painted Tree is a 1,000-acre master plan community centered around nature. It will be a mix of apartments, townhomes, single-family homes for sale and a newer concept gaining traction across the country, new single-family homes that are not for sale, but built to lease, often called "Build to Rent (BTR)" communities.

"Whether you could be an empty nester and you just don't want to deal with, you know, pipes breaking and or the freeze coming or the shingles blowing off, and it's all taken care of. And you still have your yard, you can still have your grill, you can still have your pet. And I think ... that is something new that you can't find in a traditional multifamily apartment today," Woliver said.

The Dallas Business Journal reported DFW ranked 3rd in the nation in build-to-rent projects, with more than 4,200 single-family homes in BTR communities, according to a data analysis from research site Rent Cafe.

According to its website, developer Wan Bridge has a BTR project in the works in Forney. NexMetro, with its tagline, 'Rents like an apartment, lives like a home,' has offerings in Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, McKinney, Justin and Celina.

"I don't think it's a trend, I think it's here to stay," said Woliver.

And while Woliver is seeing more people choose to rent, there are many others who are unable to compete with investors and the rapidly rising home prices. He said rental homes allow more people to live in communities where they want to live without needing to qualify for a traditional mortgage.

"I do think it's part of the solution, you know, to affordable housing," Woliver said. "Rental sometimes has a negative connotation over the years. And I think this new line of option for someone to come in, I think may change and hopefully change the dynamics or the stigma of renting sometimes, particularly in the suburban communities."

In Painted Tree, Woliver said they're hoping to appeal to people who, in part due to the pandemic, are now looking for more space, privacy, and high-end amenities, without the obligation to handle maintenance. He also said this model appeals to people moving from other countries or states for jobs and prefers the convenience of testing out a community before committing to a mortgage.

"Our hope is you could be one of our rental homes, either options and then love the community so much. And then maybe that's a gateway for you to buy a home permanently," said Woliver.

Majors said choosing to rent gave her a way out of the nightmare housing market and into a stable home that fits her family and her budget, all while keeping her on the path back to homeownership. She has the option to buy the home she's renting through Home Partners.

Several trade groups, including the National Apartment Association, expect the single-family BTR market to continue growing in popularity among renters and investors.

Home Partners allowed her to choose a home, they paid for it in cash and rented it back to her, which gave Majors a much-needed advantage in the competitive market. She has the exclusive right to buy the home she's renting within three years.

"We have to get creative. I mean, you can't get so caught up in just owning a home or being a homeowner that you're down about making a home or building a home for yourself. Ultimately, it's making sure our families are comfortable making sure we can succeed, get up, go to work every day, be in good spirits. And whatever option that is for you. I say move on that option.

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