Building single-family rental home neighborhoods seems like a great idea—until you run the math.

Almost 12 percent of all households in the country now rent a single-family home. Certainly, a portion of these renters will pay a rental premium for a new home. However, there is a snag.

While the rental demand remains strong, our home building and rental clients who have run the analysis have concluded that building for-sale homes usually creates the most profits. Thus, most new home neighborhoods will continue to be for sale rather than for rent.




There are exceptions, however, particularly when the priority is to generate cash quickly. Those exceptions include the following four:

Weak for-sale demand

For-rent communities make sense in areas where for-sale demand is weak. When a for-sale community might take years to sell out, a for-rent community can return cash sooner.

Helping retail feasibility

A master developer may need to attract more residents quickly to help its new retail center thrive. Rental homes generally lease up very quickly and can bring needed customers to an area to help support a retail development.

Additional segmentation

The developer might also choose to increase cash flow by selling a for-rent parcel to someone who won’t build homes that compete with the for-sale homes in the community. This strategy generates cash and brings future homebuyers to the community.

Significant relocation area

Often, relocating households prefer to rent for a while before buying. They want to learn more about the area, and might even want to wait for more certainty in their job situation.

In summary, build-for-rent can make sense in some instances, but build-for-sale will continue to dominate the single-family home construction landscape.

About the Author

John Burns is CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, founded in 2001. The company provides independent research and consulting services related to the U.S. housing industry. Its team of research analysts and consultants collects data in offices across the country.



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