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Condo owners become landlords

St. Petersburg Unable to sell or sometimes keep up with payments, many now seek renters.

By CRISTINA SILVA, Times Staff Writer
Published November 11, 2007

Jessica Dwyer, an advertising account executive, packs up her condo before she moves to Miami on Saturday, Nov. 10 to start her new job. Dwyer, plans to rent the 2 bedroom/ 2 bathroom condo, for $1395, $550 below her monthly mortgage.
[Atoyia Deans | Times]

A growing number of condominium owners are putting their units up for rent in response to the area's sluggish real estate market.

Many who bought into the city's condo growth spurt three or four years ago said they wanted to flip their properties. Now they are facing the same challenges as other homeowners: Property values have dropped, and the uncertain market has chased away potential buyers.

"The resale market just isn't there," said Marta Przyborowski, a St. Petersburg-based broker. "People are weighing their options as far as what to do, and a lot of them are trying to rent their properties until the market recovers."

Jessica Dwyer, who is trying to rent out her unit at 1010 Central, said she is "stuck."

"So many people are finding themselves accidental landlords," she said. "You can't sell it."

Just two years ago many condominiums required owners to wait at least one year after closing before they could rent out their units. Now the same buildings are relaxing their rental agreements.

"Originally you had to sign up in advance to be allowed to rent your unit," said Paul Gibbs, a broker who oversees dozens of upscale rental properties in St. Petersburg. "But when push comes to shove, the developer said if people are going to walk from their unit deposit, we would rather let them rent them out."

The rush to rent also means that many of the new condos dotting downtown St. Petersburg's skyline are available to young professionals and empty-nesters who aren't ready to invest in property.

"There are definitely a lot people who are looking for a rental unit," said Przyborowski. "There is just this whole notion of what is going to happen with the taxes and other things. People still think prices are going to go down even more."

The tepid condo market reflects how quickly the hype and home envy surrounding downtown's condo boom has come crashing down. Many of the units for rent were construction projects that inspired awe as recently as a year ago.

Dwyer, 36, thought she was being smart when she invested in a two-bedroom unit at 1010 Central in 2005.

Since then, she has struggled to make her monthly mortgage payments and condo fees. She thought about getting a roommate but decided she really didn't want to live with a stranger.

Last month, she put her home up for rent and will wait for the market to bounce back before she tries to sell.

To entice renters, Dwyer is leaving her Pottery Barn curtains, rugs and bistro set in the unit.

Even if she rents it out for her asking price of $1,395 a month, she will have to chip in $550 to make her mortgage payment.

"It's hard," she said. "You can't rent it for what you owe for it. I'm just hoping down the road it works out."

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or

Fast Facts:

Part of the craze

The Orion

The 34-unit, seven-story building built in 2006 has balconies that span 1,000 square feet and a rooftop deck. Prices started in the mid $300,000s.

The Walker-Whitney Plaza on Fifth

The 56-unit, 14-story building built in 2007 has penthouse lofts and a rooftop deck. Prices started in the mid $200,000s.

The Sage

The 112-unit, 12-storybuilding has a pool and fitness center. Prices started in the $300,000s.

1010 Central

The 114-unit, five-story mixed- use building was a hit when it opened in 2005. Prices started at $220,000.


[Last modified November 11, 2007, 00:43:05]

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