TAMPA, Fla — According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of Florida leads the nation with 1.68 million vacant houses. However, just because they are not occupied, doesn't mean they're not owned.
“When you say 1.6 million vacant homes, that means to me there is someone controlling the market artificially," Tampa Bay area real estate agent Louie Talacay said.
Talacay explained to ABC Action News that outside investors hold quite a share in the Florida housing market.
“We have people coming in here inflating our market for the purpose of holding on to it and then making out as if it were a literal stock and then selling it off because they have the leverage and they have the equity right now to be able to do that," he said.
According to realty company Redfin, investors snatched up a record 18% of homes nationwide at the end of 2021. Tampa ranked ninth among all U.S. cities in homes owned by investors. Jacksonville, Miami, and Orlando also ranked in the top 10.
“They’re being smart and they’re trying to hold them and build up their margin and then letting go of certain inventory that they think has met their matches or has met their certain criteria for selling off," Talacay said.
It also appears investors are planting their roots in the heart of Tampa Bay. Data from Redfin shows investors tie up nearly one-third of homes in West Tampa, Channelside, and Ybor. Just west of Downtown St. Petersburg, investors hold on to 35% of houses.
“I honestly think it’s very unfair for many homebuyers," Talacay said.
“I definitely do not want to get into this situation again where it’s just completely stressful and your stomach is in knots all the time," Jen Simmons said.
Simmons is frantically trying to move to Tampa Bay from her home in New Jersey. The veterinary clinician alternates weekend flights to Tampa with her partner, Davette, to look at dozens of homes.
“I’ve already vowed that when we move down there that this is the last time that we are moving," she said.
On the surface, it appears there is a sea of empty homes for Simmons and her family to move into, but in reality, they are fighting tooth and nail to win out on just one.
“It's stressful not knowing where you’re actually going to end up," Simmons said.
Since searching for a new home in the current market can be a daunting task, Talacay provides some tips for potential homebuyers:
- Act fast, put offers down on as many homes as you could see yourself living in
- Prioritize cash payment and plan to bid above the asking price
- Most importantly, do not get discouraged; stay diligent and you'll eventually find the house for you