Myrtle Beach area tops U.S. rental vacancy list

sjones@thesunnews.comApril 22, 2013 

— The Myrtle Beach metropolitan statistical area had the nation’s highest rental vacancy in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a fact that didn’t surprise Grand Strand real estate insiders.

The Census Bureau defines a vacancy as a residence where tenants plan to stay for two or fewer months, a statistical benchmark that would mean the multitude of vacation rental properties would set the area up for a high vacancy rate, which the Census said was 40.3 percent in 2011, the most recent data available.

“As the Grand Strand has a high inventory of condos available for rent on a transient basis, it makes sense that the area has a higher rental vacancy rate as compared to other markets,” said Todd Woodard, owner of SiteTech Systems, which tracks the area’s housing market.

“It’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges,” said Laura Crowther, CEO of the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the Myrtle Beach MSA had 32,656 renter-occupied units in 2011. They made up 29.1 percent of the area’s 112,358 occupied housing units.

Of the 30,348 rental units that were occupied when the Census Bureau did its survey, nearly 11,000 rented for between $750 and $999 per month with almost 7,000 asking $500 and $749 and more than 6,000 having rents of $1,000 to $1,499. Most renters pay more than 35 percent of their income for their monthly tab, the survey found.

But vacation rental units are a different animal entirely, with rents of $1,000 a week or more not uncommon.

The survey found that the area had 21,870 units in complexes with more than 20 units each.

Crowther noted that not separating the long-term rental market from the vacation rental market will skew the data and set the Myrtle Beach MSA apart from more typical housing markets.

While the short-term rental market has a high vacancy rate as defined by Census Bureau terms, the long-term rental market is totally different, said Woodard and Crowther.

Woodard noted that the area’s long-term rental market is so good that many owners of housing whose value is no longer as high as their total mortgage are successfully turning their properties into rental units.

Crowther said the Realtors association includes long-term rentals in its multiple listing service, but the category isn’t widely used.

However, she said, “If you get out there and get looking around, it could be hard to find a long-term rental.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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