ST. PETERSBURG — In yet another sign that the United States is becoming a nation of renters, a Texas company has bought 77 single-family rental homes in St. Petersburg.
Amherst Residential LLC paid a total of $7.06 million this week for the houses, mostly between Fifth Avenue S and 30th Avenue S. The area is seeing more interest from investors as downtown St. Petersburg experiences a boom in high-end apartments and other parts of Pinellas County are getting unaffordable for lower-income renters.
Dan Huntington, the agent who brokered the sale, said he had heard that Amherst was looking for houses in Pinellas as it expands its portfolio. Since 2012, the company has acquired more than 25,000 houses nationwide and is stepping up its investment in high-growth areas such as Tampa Bay.
"I know the owner (of the houses) was looking to sell so I contacted Amherst and started negotiating,'' Huntington said Friday. "It probably took us seven or eight months.''
The owner had gradually acquired the houses, some in foreclosure sales.
"He's older, and it's just time to retire,'' Huntingon said.
The houses have between two and four bedrooms, and currently rent for between about $900 and $1,400 a month. Many of the tenants receive some type of government help with the rent.
In 1965, roughly 63 percent of Americans owned a home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Home ownership peaked in 2004 at 69 percent, then fell back to 63 percent in 2015 as many people lost their homes to foreclosure. As of April, the ownership rate had risen to just over 64 percent.
During the foreclosure crisis, huge real estate investment trusts like Invitation Homes and Starwood Waypoint snapped up an estimated 8,000 homes in the Tampa Bay area to use as rentals. Invitation and Starwood merged in 2017, and the combined company continues to rent out hundreds of houses, especially in unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County.
Huntington, an agent with St. Petersburg-based Bridgewater Commercial Real Estate, said he's noticed that younger people are less interested in home ownership than baby boomers like himself were.
"Our dream was always to own a house and a lot of people nowadays that's not part of their dream,'' he said. "They lease their cars and they rent their houses.''
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.