Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Developers seize on Philadelphia where inventory is tight

Natalie Kostelni Reporter Philadelphia Business Journal
While there’s an increasing weariness that the multifamily rental market in Philadelphia is becoming overbuilt, developers such as David Perlman are finding a lack of inventory has made their bets on new for-sale projects less of a risk.

Perlman is moving forward with a new 43-unit residential development at 600 N. 5th St. in Northern Liberties and he’s confident the townhouses will sell. “We just completed 25 units across the street,” he said. “That took us two years to sell and that’s about a fair pace.”

Real estate agents have been bemoaning about the lack of inventory throughout the city and suburbs. In Philadelphia, the first quarter proved to be unusually strong despite what is typically viewed as a slow time of year because of the weather.

“Home sales volume in the first quarter was also both exceptionally and unusually strong,” according to a report by Drexel Unviersity’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. The report later said that the activity was “exceptional because it was the strongest first quarter since 2007 and unusual because home sales activity typically declines from the fourth to the first quarter, due to the holidays and winter weathe … A likely driver of this seasonally uncharacteristic price appreciation is the very low level of current inventories.” Nationally, inventory has become an issue as well. Single-family housing starts rose to 835,000 in April, which is half a previous peak of 1.72 million in 2005.

“We’ve hit a point where there is so little inventory real estate agents are throwing out ridiculous numbers and getting them,” said Ori Feibush of OCF Realty, which builds houses in several Philadelphia neighborhoods including Point Breeze, Graduate Hospital and Old City. “You have two-and-a-half months of inventory, which is an incredibly unhealthy supply. I foresee that will continue.”

There are several factors influencing the lack of supply. A nearly 10-year focus on the multifamily rental market, what can be a lengthy approval process and an increased desire to live in Philadelphia have contributed to limiting how much new housing has hit the market. There are also signs that millennials, who have all but shunned buying a house over renting, are starting to come into the market to buy.

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