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'It was very frustrating': Columbia home buyers competing with hedge funds, cash buyers

According to Redfin, investors bought 20% of homes that sold in the first quarter. However, that number is slowing.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Zach Driver and his husband spent four months looking for a home in Columbia to grow their family. 

"It was very frustrating. I mean, we put in two offers on two different properties $30,000 plus dollars over asking and did not get the house," said Driver. 

The couple closed on a house late May, but only after coming in with an aggressive offer. 

"We had to offer significantly over asking with an as is offer and very short due diligence," said Driver.

Buyers like Driver aren't alone. Realtor Jeanette Womble tells News 19 today's real estate market is a seller's market. Many of her clients are competing against a pile of cash and sometimes investment firms.

“Their offers are always cash," said Womble. "They do a very short due diligence, they always buy as is and they typically close in about 2 weeks."

According to Redfin, investors bought 20% of homes that sold in the first quarter. Fast growing states like South Carolina are prime pickings for the firms.

Executive director of the National Rental Home Council David Howard said there is a high degree of correlation between the demand for rental housing and things like population growth, employment growth.

"Demand for single family rental housing is growing and it's growing because people are moving to those markets," said Howard.

Womble said she has seen the most demand for rental properties in Irmo, Lexington and parts of Columbia.  

"They’re buying a lot of homes in very good school districts and they’re turning around after closing and they’re offering these properties for rent," said Womble.

She notices the companies often hike up rent anywhere from 10% to 20%.  

Sylvan Homes currently has 46 properties in the Columbia area listed for rent, Conrex has 12 properties, while Progress Residential has one listed. 

While it may seem like more and more buyers are competing with large investment companies, Howard said they remain a small fraction of the country's home buyers. 

"Of those 23 million single family rental homes in the country, about 300,000 are owned by what we consider large or corporate backed owners of single family rental homes," said Howard. 

Howard also tells News 19 investment home buying is not squeezing out buyers and inflating rent prices. 

"Our data also shows that residents in single family rental homes tend to stay there for less than two and a half years," said Howard. "And the main reason they leave is because they're purchasing a home."

Howard said single family rental home companies are going to cities and expanding to meet the demand for single family rental housing. He added other types of housing is also growing. 

"You have growth in new home construction, you have growth in apartment construction, so really housing across the board is growing," said Howard.

According to Redfin's recent report, the 10 U.S. markets where investors had the largest market share, including Atlanta and Phoenix, all saw investor purchases decline. 

However, Womble has a few tips for those looking to buy a home. 

"When a house goes on the market that you try to go out within the hour or two hours and view it right away," said Womble. 

She also suggests coming in with a cash offer and offering as-is with no due diligence period.    

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