Many people want to live in a new-construction, detached home, but the traditional way to achieve that – owning your own house and lot – may not be achievable or desirable for all. Part one of this series covered two options: owning the interior only of a detached structure, either a traditional detached townhome, or one in a planned community with neo-urban touches. Here the series concludes with a third option: renting the entire structure rather than owning any part of it.
The Third Option: New-Construction Rental Developments
Scattered around the metro is a third option: new-construction rental housing developments, where you rent the whole place rather than buying the interior. Two examples are Mills Creek in Maple Grove and Beacon Ridge in Plymouth. There have been two Star Tribune articles about them, one in Fall 2019 and another in Fall 2020. I was intrigued when I read them and decided to explore further.
Here are two photos of Mills Creek:
Personally, I would have made the garage door white and had brown be an accent color for part of the houses, perhaps the gables. With people demanding multiple car garages attached to their house, it’s hard to find a good way to do it aesthetically (I’ve heard the term “snub house” for these) but making the garage door stand out compounds the problem.
Like most new detached residential developments, they’re built in the neo-eclectic style, but closer together and without some of the more expensive touches like stone accents on the front. There are only a couple of different models in the whole development, but then again, in a lot of owner-occupied developments you can see a lot of repeats too.
Moving to the Beacon Ridge example, the exterior finishes are dramatically different, but the built form is largely the same:
Who’s Living in these Developments?
So, who’s living in these developments? Mainly renters by choice. At rents up to $4000 a month, we’re well into the territory where you could afford a house, especially an older one in the inner ring suburbs. Beyond that, it seems a wide variety of people choose them – basically anyone that wants some of the advantages of renting without having to put up with a shared wall. From the first Star Tribune article:
People are busy, everyone works and no one has time to take care of things,” said Malinda Potter, the leasing manager at Mills Creek. “They don’t want to plow snow, or take care of the yard or fix things if they break.”
Everyone can agree that there are certain benefits to living in a single-family home,” said Freddy Ellis, a managing partner and co-founder of Watermark. “At the same time there are certain benefits to living in a rental community.”
When Ellis first started mulling the concept about five years ago, his target market was millennials saddled with student loans and other debt and retired baby boomers who are done with maintenance but don’t want to live in the city. “We couldn’t have been more right and we couldn’t have been more wrong,” he said. “We have every demographic you can imagine.”
The second Star Tribune article suggests certain demographics are more common than others, though:
- Empty Nesters: You can simply leave for your Florida house for the winter without worrying about anything. Buying a townhouse still leaves interior maintenance.
- Professionals that are reluctant to buy a house to put down roots for fear of being transferred next month.
- Millennials “testing out the suburbs”. As the article puts it, “They’ve done the North Loop thing and the Uptown thing. They are starting to have kids and want extra space… They want their own four walls”. It’s easy to just not renew the lease and move back to the North Loop if they change their mind about having kids or decide the suburban lifestyle isn’t for them.
- People in the skilled trades who work all day doing their trade and have no appetite for doing more when they get home.
Work definitely takes the fun out of activities. I love driving and traveling, but I have a feeling it would get old fast driving a semi-truck 10 hours a day, so I’ve pointedly not taken a job in that field (instead I work in the finance industry). Tinkering with my house (provided it’s not snaking out a clogged drain) is fun to a degree, but if I did it all day, I’d not want to do more.
Ellis mentioned there are benefits of living in a community. Having your own pool is so time-consuming and expensive that few do so in our climate; a few months of use doesn’t justify the liability, expense and work. Yet kids love pools and even as an adult I can appreciate the bliss of sunning myself on the deck on a 90-degree day and then jumping into the cool refreshing water. Using a public pool often involves a trip outside your immediate neighborhood, but here you can just walk down the street to a pool that you don’t have to worry about maintaining.
Why not Rent an Older House Farther in?
Why not just rent one of the many houses in the inner ring suburbs? Crime is higher, the houses older and more dated and there are no community amenities like the aforementioned neighborhood pool. If you want an “open” floorplan with high-end finishes in a rental, you’re not going to find it in Bloomington. I’ve also observed that investors tend to buy larger properties in older neighborhoods, where there’s less demand from people wanting to homestead them, but landlords can charge more rent.
Consider this anecdotal comparison from my personal experience. The house kitty-corner from me in Bloomington was bought by a Chicagoland investment company after several months on the market in a neighborhood where more affordable houses sell within a week, usually with multiple offers above asking price. It’s on a corner lot with a collector street, meaning lots of passing traffic, unlike the three options I’ve detailed in these posts, which slow down and keep through traffic away from your house with the traditional suburbia cul-de-sac and curves design. The Bloomington house has four or five bedrooms and is worth $340,000 in a neighborhood of houses that average $250,000, so someone would probably not save much by renting it instead of opting for the lower end of the scale in a new development.
On the plus side, though, in Bloomington there’s lots of mature trees. That particular house has extensive professional landscaping done by Bachmann’s as opposed to the typical rocks, a few bushes and a small Autumn Blaze Maple in the middle of the front yard in new rental developments. And it’s five minutes away from the freeway exit and within walking distance of a grocery store and pharmacy. We’ve always had lots of housing choices in the metro. Adding some more is good thing.