Should You Be Afraid of Your Shadow Market?

Should You Be Afraid of Your Shadow Market?

The “shadow market” actually refers to the inventory of unsold condos and houses competing with apartments to be filled by renters. Historically, the shadow market has always been an imprecise variable in the apartment sector, because of the difficulty in quantifying it. However, now that the shadow market has been incorporated into the government stimulus program — with approximately 250,000 homes languishing on the agencies’ books — there are signs that apartment owners are growing a little apprehensive. Many of the stimulus program’s details need to be worked out, but the impact on national vacancy rates is actually expected to be minimal. However, it remains true that real estate is a local business. And in this hardest of hit markets, still suffering from a glut of distressed for-sale housing, the program will certainly be  concerning for the multifamily industry.

According to some commentators, apartment properties may be affected to some extent by greater availability of other types of buildings. If all of a sudden, the inventory of for-rent single-family homes goes way up, that’s going to be competitive pressure for apartments in a number of markets. The stimulus program may possibly make life more difficult for apartment owners in markets already suffering from an overbuilt single-family sector. However, the highest concentration of distressed for-sale housing is often found in markets that are performing poorly in the rental arena. Therefore, in most cases the demographics of single-family home rentals make them less of a threat to the professionally managed apartment market.

Property types that include units with 3 or more bedrooms are more directly affected by the changes mentioned, because replacement of multifamily with single-family rentals is less prevalent than generally assumed. This is because the core audience for apartments is single-person households, while the core audience for single-family homes is families with children.


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