Condo Conversion Boom

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

October 6, 2005

Condo conversions are now one of the many affordable housing issues here in Charlottesville. While its more money in the investor's pocket, it is also more money for the displaced resident.

It is the biggest condominium conversion boom in two decades, some experts said. Condo developers are swarming to transform rental properties into condos. But what about the displaced renters?

Drilling and hammering are not just the sounds of construction; they're the sound of apartments being converted into condominiums. It is forcing residents to buy their own apartment or leave. That's making some residents think twice.

"I'm not really interested in making the commitment to live in this area for more than 2 years," said Leah Connor, a renter.

With the booming real estate market it's easy to see why investors are snapping up undervalued apartment complexes and turning them into sales of $160,000 a unit. But, is it going to help the renter?

"People realize that they can make a little better money by turning them into condos but on the flip side of that is that there's actually a market demand for teachers, police officers, who really can't afford a new single family home," said Harrison Rue, of the Thomas Jefferson Planning Commission.

Although some experts agree $160,000 is pretty steep for a working class salary to afford, some feel Condo conversions can be a good thing.

"These conversions I think are going to be a very successful way to get more people into home ownership," said Ray Caddell, of Century 21.

For those people like Leah Connor who would rather rent somewhere else, there are plenty of apartments left.

"We're actually a little over-built in terms of rental property. If you drive even around the university you'll see some vacancy signs even at this time of year which is actually in the past unheard of," said Caddell.

Affordable housing advocates say they are also warning people who may be thinking about buying an apartment that has been converted into a Condominium to have a thorough inspection done not only on the unit, but the entire building before closing that deal.

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