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Southwest Florida apartments fullest in state

Colin Brechbill - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Foreclosure crisis leads to surplus of renters in the Fort Myers-Naples area, a trend unlikely to slow anytime soon.

At 94.2 percent, the occupancy rate for apartments/condo conversions in the Fort Myers/Naples area is the highest in the state, according to a report by ALN Apartment Data.

Carrollton, Texas-based ALN, which tracks apartment/condo conversions complex data in six Southern states, said Fort Myers-Naples occupancy rose from 91.9 percent from February 2011 to February 2012.

In the same period, the average monthly rent increased from $779 to $794, according to ALN.

Authorities said the high occupancy reflects the plight of people losing their houses to foreclosure — plus some who have simply soured on home ownership.

“It’s not surprising because it’s representative of the worst market for foreclosures,” said Fort Myers-based commercial real estate broker Mark Alexander of Sperry Van Ness. “It’s driving people into apartments.”

The trend’s unlikely to turn around anytime soon, he said. “There are so many people with a sour taste in their mouths for home owning because they lost so much. People just prefer to rent right now, maybe for awhile.”

The high occupancy rate likely will spark a revival of the long-dormant apartment complex construction market in Southwest Florida, said commercial real estate agent Jonathan Richards of CRE Consultants.

Jack McCabe, a Deerfield Beach-based real estate consultant who tracks home markets on both coasts of Florida, said high apartment occupancy is symptomatic of a change in the way people around the country view home ownership.

At the beginning of 2007, the national rate of homeownership was 70 percent with 30 percent renting, he said. “That ratio is now down to 64/36 and I expect that trendline to continue. We may see renters take up as much as 45 percent of residences in coming years.”

No apartment complexes or conversions have been built in Lee County for the past 10 year, Richards said – after that the only multi-family construction was for condominiums.

That won’t last much longer, he said. “I think things are lining up to where you’re going to see construction come out of the ground.”

McCabe said that apartment complexes continue to increase in popularity, that itself will spark an eventual flip back to an increase in home ownership. “There’ll come a time when rental rates get so high that it becomes more attractive to buy a house.”

Credit to:  http://www.news-press.com

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