"We've got clients, multiple, well over a couple billion dollars worth of capital looking to place in this space," said Michael Finch, executive vice president at SVN/SFRhub Advisors, a new Phoenix-based commercial brokerage firm focused on single family rental and build-to-rent investment portfolios. "They are looking to acquire 5-6,000 homes in the next two years."

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.

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"I think that these funds, these investor groups are looking at a cultural move away from your garden apartment with elevators, swimming pools, tennis courts and common areas," Ellenburg said. "Homeownership is looking less desirable to some, particularly in the affordable arena, and they have a chance, for very close to the same price, to rent a three-bedroom, two-bath or a four-bedroom, three-bath home and are able to call it their own."
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