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Port City sees first build-for-rent development with The Cottage at Riverlights

Build to rent community will soon be available to help housing demand
Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 6:51 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It’s no secret the Cape Fear region as a whole continues to grow at break-neck speed. New construction continues to pop up, and the housing market can’t seem to keep up with the demand.

On Wednesday, Riverlights announced construction was underway on Wilmington’s first build-for-rent neighborhood, The Cottages at Riverlights.

The community will be made up of 279 single-family homes with amenities like fenced-in backyards, in-unit washers and dryers, and optional enclosed garages. The Cottages will offer a mix of one, two and three-bedroom cottages, as well as studio lofts and two-story carriage units.

The build-for-rent concept is a trend that’s just making its way to the southeast. Industry experts say 64,000 build-for-rent units went up in 2020, and despite the pandemic’s building supply issues, an additional 80,000 more are planned for this year.

“In essence, build-for-rent is like a horizontal apartment community, it’s a trend that’s happening all over the country right now,” said Riverlights’ Vice President for Operations Nick Cassala. “We anticipate The Cottages at Riverlights will be home to young professionals, buyers awaiting a home under construction, empty nesters and families looking for an independent home for relatives.”

It’s a concept announced in a time of great need, as experts see record high demand for homes.

“There’s a lot of people that are moving here and it’s just super low inventory,” explained real estate agent Danielle Gillespie.

Gillespie says it’s not uncommon for her clients to have no option but to move in with family, seek out short-term vacation rentals or stay in hotels before they can settle into a new home. The market for rentals is so fast paced, it’s not uncommon for companies to already have multiple applicants in line waiting to move in before a rental house is ever officially listed.

“There’s a niche market that is in demand that is not currently being supported, which is those longer short-term rentals, so three-, six- and nine-month rentals. There are some apartment complexes that do offer them and they’re extremely high premiums. I mean it could be double the rent of what you normally pay for a 12-month lease,” added Gillespie.

The lack of housing inventory is a trend she believes could be around as long as we see record low interest rates and people moving to our area in search of the slower paced lifestyle at the beach.

While Riverlights was the first to announce the build-for-rent concept in the Port City, they know they’re unlikely to be the last.

“I think there’s gonna be more in this market before too much longer,” said Cassala.

Construction on the infrastructure for the 21-acre Cottages at Riverlights neighborhood is already underway. The first homes will be delivered in late 2022, and the development is expected to be completed in spring of 2023.

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