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County in midst of apartment boom

Workers clear land at the Manchester Village Apartments on Thursday. The number of apartments in York County is expected to increase by more than 30 percent in the next few years.
Workers clear land at the Manchester Village Apartments on Thursday. The number of apartments in York County is expected to increase by more than 30 percent in the next few years.

Apartment hunters in York County can expect more choices and better deals as new apartment communities pop up across the area.

The number of apartments in York County is expected to increase by more than 30 percent over the next few years, said Engle Addington, a multifamily real estate analyst for Charlotte-based real estate research firm Real Data.

Already this summer, Whisper Creek Apartments opened on Herlong Avenue in Rock Hill, and other units are nearing completion near Manchester Village, across from the Rock Hill Galleria, on Main Street near downtown and near the intersection of Gold Hill Road and S.C. 160 near Tega Cay. Since the beginning of the year, 39 multifamily building permits have been issued to developers, according to the Catawba Regional Council of Governments.

According to Real Data statistics, 856 apartment units are under construction in York County. More than 1,000 more have been proposed, and 316 units were completed this summer, according to Real Data. Those numbers put York County second in the Charlotte region, behind Cabarrus County, N.C., in projected apartment growth, according to Real Data.

More vacancy = better deals

Addington said the rising number of apartments would likely spell good deals for apartment hunters as dueling apartment complexes compete to fill empty units, a welcome sign in a county where more than 40 percent of residents rent housing.

"Higher vacancies usually equal better deals for renters," Addington said, noting markets with 10 percent or more of their apartments vacant will begin to offer significant discounts. York County's vacancy rate is about 8 percent, she said.

But don't expect the new apartments to sit empty for long.

"People moving into the Charlotte area are migrating south," Addington said. "So I don't think (the new developments) will flood the market in the long run."

York County a 'hot spot'

Susan Passmore, director of property management for the Blue Ridge Companies, developer of two new communities in York County, agrees. She believes the influx of apartment homes is a result of growth in the Charlotte region, meaning most new units will be filled as fast as they're built. Passmore said Blue Ridge's Millcrest Park development at Gold Hill Road and S.C. 160 is leasing apartments faster than they can be built.

"York County is becoming a real hot spot," Passmore said. "We're seeing a huge response from people relocating to Charlotte but wanting to live in Rock Hill or Fort Mill for the schools."

Blue Ridge Companies is adding more than 400 apartments in York County between Millcrest Park, near Tega Cay, and Legacy at Manchester Village, off Dave Lyle Boulevard in Rock Hill.

"Both of those communities offer exactly what people are looking for," Passmore said. "They want to be close to Charlotte, but they want a hometown atmosphere."

Matt Thomasson, owner of Rock Hill-based Thomasson Management Corp., oversees about 600 existing apartments in Rock Hill. He said the increase in apartment construction also can be attributed to a weak housing market. Thomasson said the number of new leases is on the rise, a welcome sign after low interest rates at the beginning of the decade helped many renters buy new homes.

"Now that the housing market has slowed, we're seeing a lot of those tenants come back," he said. "We're recovering from a market that has been bad since the end of 2001."

As many residents choose apartments over houses, Thomasson believes his three older apartment communities will remain profitable despite the wave of new communities. He said apartment hunters may see brief price wars as new developments make their initial splash, but expects the market to balance out if growth continues.

"There's always a need for older apartments," Thomasson said. "In a growing market like this and a slow housing market, I think we can keep up."

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