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.
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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."