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Investors buying thousands of Phoenix-area homes as rent prices spike




By Morgan Loew and Cody Lillich Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 7:40 PM MST





PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Institutional real estate investors have turned their attention to the Phoenix housing market. Tenants say the result is rising rent prices, but economists say they’re not so sure investors are to blame.

According to Redfin, more than 30 percent of the homes sold in the Phoenix market in the third quarter of last year were bought by investors. The average rent has risen by roughly 30 percent over the past year.

“People loved living here because it was affordable, versus California. But I think it’s getting to the point where it’s definitely more expensive than what people initially came here for,” said Cassandra Davis, who lives on a fixed military stipend while she attends school. “With that price increase, my stipend doesn’t increase, so my money runs out a little bit quicker,” said Davis.

AZ Family Investigates examined data from the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office, which contained information on every residential property in the county. We found hundreds of investors have bought tens of thousands of properties. The 700 largest investors own more than 71,000 residential properties.

Zipcodes with the highest concentrations of investor-owned homes include:

  • Mesa – 85209 with 3,251 investor properties

  • El Mirage – 85335 with 2,155 properties

  • Scottsdale – 85260 with 1,596 properties

  • Mesa – 85202 with 1,438 properties

  • Buckeye – 85326 with 1,223 properties

  • Phoenix – 85015 with 1,194 properties

The largest single owner of investor properties is a company called Invitation Homes, which began buying houses in the Phoenix market in 2012. As of this quarter, the company owns 8,744 homes here.


“In 2021, we invested more than $35 million in renovations and improvements to our homes in the Phoenix area and supported more than 120 local businesses. We employ 189 full-time associates in Phoenix, which is home to one of our two corporate offices as well as an office where a local team manages the homes we own in Phoenix,” stated a spokesperson for Invitation Homes.

Tenants who spoke to AZ Family investigates generally had positive comments about the company. However, they did say Invitation Homes had raised rents substantially at the end of each lease. One renter, Antonio Perez, said Invitation Homes raised his rent by nearly $600. That caused Perez to move out.


According to Redfin, more than 30 percent of the homes sold in the Phoenix market in the third quarter of last year were bought by investors.(Arizona's Family)

“Our rents are driven by the market, and we price our rents competitively in every market in which we operate. The market for single-family homes is experiencing record levels of demand and rising inflation, as reflected by higher home prices and the resulting increased rents. Residents have a number of choices, so we work had to make sure the rent we charge is in line with local market factors,” stated the spokesperson for Invitation Homes.

Economist Elliott Pollack believes there is more to the increase than just investors. He says the data show there is too much demand for housing and too little supply. “These guys are coming in because they saw this supply-demand situation. They bought the house in anticipation of higher rents,” said Pollack, who represents Home Arizona’s organization on real estate issues


Rents could hike another 20% as Valley deals with housing crunch

Pollack says the Valley saw an oversupply of housing units during the new century’s first decade. He said the second decade saw a substantial undersupply of new units in the second decade. According to Pollack, that, along with Arizona’s increasing population, is mainly responsible for today’s situation.

“Given how long it’s taking to get stuff through cities and given labor constraints and given supply chain constraints, it’s going to be a real stretch to get things back to normal any time soon,” said Pollack.

Pollack has spoken to state leaders about the issue, and this week, Governor Doug Ducey told AZ Family he is concerned about the current housing situation. “I have a real concern for affordable housing. I want cops, firefighters, teachers - I want to to see them be able to not only afford housing but afford housing where they work and close to where they work,” said Ducey.

“It wasn’t that long ago in 2008 and 2009 where I think many Arizonans thought they may never be able to sell their home and get any equity out of it. Now we’re the state with the fastest-growing, rising home prices in the country. That’s wonderful for people that are in a home and have equity, but there’s a resulting rise in rental rates and people that need to get into the market. So there are some things that we are going to be addressing at the legislative level around affordable housing,” said Ducey.

Scottsdale breaks top 10 for highest one-bedroom rent prices

But so far, there are few if any bills at the legislature that may help the situation get better. “The result is that you’ve got wealthy people who are getting even wealthier because they are buying all these units and pricing regular average Arizona citizens out of those homes,” said state Senator Martin Quezada.

He says the cost of housing is one of the most critical issues that state leaders are not addressing. “The membership here hasn’t realized how dramatically that rent has increased. And so I think it’s just a disconnect from the populations that we serve,” said Quezada.

COMPANY FACES CONGRESSIONAL SCRUTINY

Invitation Homes Inc is a nationwide company that buys up homes and turns them around to lease. The company is one of three that faced scrutiny by members of Congress over buying up homes.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the CEO of Invitation questioning whether their mass purchasing of homes across the country led to families being shut out of homeownership and rent hikes.

“Private equity firms and rich investors have been taking advantage of the housing shortage by purchasing large numbers of houses and raising rents for families, all to pad their bottom line. With record investor activity in the housing market, these firms need to answer for their business practices that shut Americans out of homeownership and strain their pocketbooks with rapidly rising rental costs. We can’t solve the housing affordability crisis and lower housing costs for consumers unless we crack down on predatory practices by Wall Street investors,” Sen. Warren said.

In response to Sen. Warren’s questions, Invitation Homes said their 80,000 properties represent an “insignificant percentage” of the total market.

In a statement to Arizona’s Family, Invitation said,

Invitation Homes said they operate in some of the most competitive housing markets in the country, and “our rents are driven by the market.”

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