Foreclosures, however, are now few and far between. Distressed properties — foreclosures and short sales ) — make up just 2% of home sales today, down from a high of 49% in March 2009, according to the National Association of Realtors. The regular existing home market is very pricey, so investors are now turning to a new strategy: Buy new. And suddenly, the so-called build-to-rent market is exploding.
In 2017, 37,000 homes were built as rentals, according to the National Association of Home Builders. That grew to 43,000 last year, or just under 5% of total single-family housing starts. But that is just homes built and held by builders for rent and doesn't include those sold directly to investors, so the numbers are likely larger and growing more quickly.
The only operating expense for landlords is the landscaping. In addition, the rents for single family are growing fast at 4.5% annually now compared with 3% rent growth for multifamily apartments, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. There is also much less turnover in single-family rentals, and the rental market is much less volatile than the home sales market.
"It's viewed as an ancillary income stream. We see this as more and more renters may prefer to raise a family or live in a single-family home versus an apartment complex or community or building. And so it is part of our Apartment Living group," Toll Brothers CEO Douglas Yearley said on the company's second quarter earnings conference call last month.