By DON FENLEY
The undisputed highest concentration of single-family rentals in the Tri-Cities region is in Bristol, Va.’s 24201 zip code. Current data list 4,550 rentals. That’s better than half (66.7%) of all the households in that zip code. And all but 115 are occupied, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
Currently, almost one-in-three households in the region’s 40 zip codes are classified as non-owner-occupied investment properties. In all, there are 62,361 of them. And the current occupancy count shows all but 1,605 are occupied. That means the occupancy rate is 97.2%. It continues to be one of the highest rental occupancy rates in E. Tenn. according to reports from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) that the Tri-Cities Apartment Association.
Bristol’s 37620 has the second-highest number of rentals (3,903). That’s 28.1% of the housing in that zip code. All but 191 are rented.
Elizabethton’s 37643 has 3,481 rentals, which accounts for 30% of the zip code’s households, and only 45 are vacant.
The latest count shows almost 15% of all single-family and condo rentals have out-of-state owners.
Residential rentals have always been a favored investment for mom-and-pop investors. But the current market has attracted more out-of-state and institutional investors. Institutional investor sales are those made to non-lending entities that purchased at least 10 properties in a calendar year. During the last quarter, they accounted for almost 5% of all residential sales in the Kingsport-Bristol metro area. There were not enough Johnson City metro area sales to be included in the analysis. Kingsport-Bristol saw more investor activity because it had a large inventory of lower-priced homes that attracted investors and wholesalers.
While the overall occupancy rate gives the Tri-Cities region the distinction of being the second best rental market in E. Tenn. for landlords, there are exceptions. Kingsport’s 37665 is a prime example. There are 710 investment properties and 92 were vacant at the latest count giving that zip code the region’s highest vacancy rate – 12.96%. Second highest in the current report goes to 37745 in Greeneville with a 8% vacancy rate.
The region’s high occupancy rates and increasing demand by those who are not ready – or can’t – take the plunge into home ownership has made rentals a booming industry this year. While plans for new single and multi-family rentals are ongoing there are some signs that rents have peaked and are beginning to come down. That is expected to continue as more inventory comes on the market.