June 27, 2005


Single home buyers get creative in tight market

A story published today by the Orlando Sentinel reports that as home prices continue to escalate, many single people are pairing up with friends or family members to get their piece of the American dream of home ownership.

For example, consider Liliana Perdomo whose apartment lease was about to expire and so she had to make a decision.

Perdomo, a Seminole Community College student, wasn't confident she could buy a house by herself, but she didn't want to continue paying for a place she didn't own.

So Perdomo, 26, teamed up with her boyfriend, Alfredo Soriano, 29, a Rollins College student.

Within a month, the pair owned a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Apopka.

Perdomo and Soriano, both Sprint employees, had not lived together before. If they broke up, they decided, they would simply rent out their rooms.

As housing costs continue to rise in Central Florida -- median home prices in Orlando have more than doubled in the past five years -- individuals such as Perdomo and Soriano are considering alternative methods of homeownership. Some buyers are pairing up and pooling resources with friends or family members. Others are finding roommates.

Many Central Florida Realtors say that such tactics, while still unusual, are becoming more common, particularly among first-time buyers.

"It is becoming, in many cases, a financial necessity because of the sharp growth in home prices," said Greg Rokeh, past president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. "We're just coming to grips with realities that other parts of the country have been dealing with for decades."

The exact number of nonmarried homeowner pairs is unclear. But a 2004 National Association of Realtors survey categorized homeowners into five groups: married couple, unmarried couple, single male, single female and other.

Ellen Roche, vice president of research for the association, figures that the "other" category -- which accounts for 2 percent of responses -- is composed of pairs of siblings, other family members and friends.

Orlando's median home price hit $225,000 in May and has jumped more than $30,000 since the start of the year, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. One year ago, the median stood at $169,000.

"[There is] a tremendous gap between what people earn and what housing costs," said Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition. "People have to go to all kinds of lengths to find housing."

Making it work

Pairing up often is a temporary arrangement that prepares both parties to "branch off on their own," said Ganesh Sanichar, a real-estate agent at Keller-Williams Realty.

Stacey Mortensen and her sister bought a four-bedroom house in east Orlando. Mortensen, 46, enjoyed her sister's company but saw the arrangement primarily as an investment.

In November Mortensen, a real-estate agent with Sutton & Sutton Realty Inc., bought her sister out of the house.

Not all pairings end so well.

"It can work, I guess, but there's also some potential for disaster," said Dusty Sutton, broker and owner of Sutton & Sutton Realty.

Still, some homeowners find they have no choice but to pair up with co-owners or roommates.

Numerous apartment complexes are being converted into condos, resulting in "an alarming shortage of apartments," said Jackie Sanderson, president of Jackie Sanderson Real Estate Inc.

For some, "the only real option is to try to buy a small house and split the portions," Sanderson said.

Dan Gardner rents out two rooms in his east Orlando house.

Gardner, 22, and his wife Millie Kim, 26, bought the $170,000 house six months ago and decided to find roommates to help with their mortgage payments.

"I basically dumped all my money into this house," Gardner said.

A family thing

While some owners pair up so they can pay for any house, others do so to buy "more of a house," said Lydia Pisano, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

Last year, Amy and Rob Burgess were expecting a third child and outgrowing their College Park house.

So, pooling their resources, they built a house with Amy Burgess' parents. Now, they live together as a family of seven and share the mortgage.

Burgess, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband, director of development for CNL's retirement division, couldn't have afforded the house on their own.

The extended family loves the living arrangement.

So do Perdomo and Soriano, the Apopka couple who bought their $109,000 house together a year-and-a-half ago.

"It's a real home," says Perdomo.

Soriano said he originally saw the house as "more of an investment thing than a husband-and-wife thing."

But the couple liked living together so much that it did become a "husband and wife thing:" Perdomo and Soriano will celebrate their first wedding anniversary next month.