Darlene Powell has always wanted to live in Arizona.
The retired Rikers Island correctional officer and now speech language pathologist from New York City did her research and found a new rental home would suit her well in her pursuit for the desert Southwest.
In fact, it seems to be suiting many people well.
Single-family homes are not just for homeowners anymore. Because of financial restraints and pandemic worries, single-family home rentals have become a more attractive option these days, experts say.
Enter the build-to-rent model — entire communities of single-family rentals under one professionally managed community with lots of amenities. Like an apartment complex, but instead of apartments, homes built specifically to be rented.
Ms. Powell chose the build-to-rent 222-home Christopher Todd Community on Happy Valley Road in north Peoria just west of Loop 303. The development opened in June and is the first of this model type in Peoria.
Ms. Powell decided to rent a Christopher Todd home to minimize the exuberant amount of work and pressure it would take in maintaining not only the interior of the home but the exterior.
“Knowing that I can call management with any issues that arises gives me peace of mind,” she said. “I have always owned my home and I know what it takes to maintain a property. This allows me to relax. Not only emotionally, but financially.”
The Christopher Todd model is becoming more popular. In July, the developer put another build-to-rent community on the market in Goodyear, near Interstate 10 and Estrella Parkway.
The developer now has eight build-to-rent projects on the market in the Valley, with four more metro-area communities in the immediate pipeline.
Experts say this model is no longer a trend, but here to stay as a legitimate option for residents and investors.
Economist Elliott Pollack said the build-to-rent model is now a product type that is as real as single-family and multifamily housing.
The single-family home rental market is huge — in 2000 it represented 11% of the rental market and now it is 22% — and built-to-rent makes up part of this, he said.
“People want the amenities. They need the security. They need a small yard. It’s for those people who can’t or won’t be in a single-family home but they have two kids and a dog and they need something that is going to be more single family-ish, and I think it’s a terrific market. It will give people an alternative to [traditional] single-family homes,” he said. “We’ve danced around the edges of this for years and it’s now turned into a market segment that is real and here to stay.”
Rentals have taken up a bigger portion of the market in recent years. After the real estate market crashed in 2009, investors bought distressed homes and turned them into rentals. Build-to-rents are different — smaller homes that go from about 600 to 1,200 square feet, purposely built in planned communities to serve renters who may or may not have the money for a down payment on a single-family home.
Often the new products are smart homes equipped with high speed internet, doorbell camera, keyless door entry and climate/entertainment control via smart phone or tablet.
Renters range from downsizing baby boomers who don’t want to worry about maintaining a home to millennials who don’t want to be tied down to a home or mortgage, but like the independence and technology.
Myers Research Chief Economist Ali Wolf said the model serves a purpose, especially during the pandemic.
“Some people don’t want to be touching the elevator button or being nervous about who else they are around,” Ms. Wolf said. “You get the space. You are able to get the yard. You are able to get the office you may need that you wouldn’t otherwise get if you were in a 600-square-foot normal institutional multifamily space.”
Homebuilders Avilla and Christopher Todd Communities are the dominant players in the Phoenix metro build-to-rent industry.
Christopher Todd Communities spokeswoman Martha Moyer Wagoner said the builder has West Valley communities in Peoria, Surprise and Goodyear.
She said nearly 2,500 Christopher Todd homes are completed, under construction or in the pipeline in the Valley, with nearly 1,500 units already under lease.
“In the case of Christopher Todd Communities, all of our communities are smart-gated and include amenities such as a resort pool/spa and ramada, event lawn, serenity park, and some of the larger ones include a fitness center and we have one in Goodyear that also has a dog park,” Ms. Moyer Wagoner said. “All of our homes are one- and two-bedroom, single-story with private back yards and doggy doors. The residents like the fact that no one is above or below them, like they experienced in traditional apartments. That privacy — the ability to have your own space, especially now — is important.”
To keep up with demand, last year Christopher Todd Communities formed an exclusive partnership with Scottsdale-based national builder Taylor Morrison.
Taylor Morrison Division President Brad Schoenberg said they are in the early days of the partnership, but two projects have already broken ground in the Valley — one on Ellsworth Road near University Drive in Mesa and one near 95th Avenue and McDowell Road in Phoenix. A third is planned for Cotton Lane, on the southeast corner of Loop 303 and Interstate 10 in Goodyear.
On a national level, Taylor Morrison is in land acquisition mode for the Christopher Todd Communities expansion in several states where they are building, including North Carolina, Texas and Florida.
People are flocking to this type of living environment, so its been a great opportunity for Taylor Morrison, Mr. Schoenberg said.
“We are the builder in this relationship. We have the knowledge of how to get the trades in there, how to buy the land and how to plan and get it through the entitlement process,” he said. “Christopher Todd has taken a tremendous model of taking 10- to 13-acre sites and putting in 150 to 175 single detached, one- and two-bedroom units with amenities. It’s been a home run.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.