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To buy or not to buy

Most college students aren’t thinking about the prospect of real estate. Most either live on campus or lease an apartment off campus. But for some, instead of searching for real estate, the real estate is coming to them – whether they like it or not.

The growing real estate market in the Tampa Bay area has slowly inched toward the USF community. Single-family and townhouse-style neighborhoods have been springing up in Temple Terrace and New Tampa for some time. According to Florida-Relocation.com, more than 1,000 people move to Florida every day, and along with each new face comes the problem of housing the additional residents.

To that end, new construction seems to pop up every day; but it hasn’t affected the student population of USF until now.

Many of the apartment complexes around the USF and New Tampa areas are being converted into condominiums for sale. Students who now reside within these apartments have a choice: either buy the apartment or move out when their lease is up.

Equestrian Park, the Villas at Cross Creek and Stone Creek Pointe are a few of the many complexes being converted from rentals into condos. Stone Creek Pointe Condominiums, formerly Cypress Pointe, is one of the converted complexes closest to campus.

Stone Creek Pointe is less than a mile from the University and is inhabited by a primarily student population. Students who inhabit the apartments at the present time are not being forced out of the apartment, but they do not have the option of signing a lease extension.

“I was a little disappointed because I would have liked to renew my lease,” said Nyssa Hanger, a resident at Stone Creek Pointe.

Hanger weighed the possibility of purchasing the condo but changed her mind. Her parents would have had to assist in purchasing the condo.

Residents were informed in early January the apartments were under new management and that rumors of the eventual conversion were near.

“A resident can give notice at any time without any penalties,” said Kim Collinsworth, assistant manager at Stone Creek Pointe. “It’s not like they have to give full 30-day notice. The rent will not go up at all. The longest the residents can stay is (until) Oct. 2.”

Rent at the former apartment complex ranged from approximately $500 to $800 a month. For a student to split a two-bedroom apartment, he or she would be looking at anywhere from $350 to $400 in rent each month.

The condos at Stone Creek Pointe are now selling from approximately $109,000 to $142,000. The same student looking to purchase a two-bedroom condo is looking at a mortgage payment of approximately $830 a month if the price is $142,000 and the interest rate is at 6 percent, which is relatively low. Add to that a property association fee for maintenance and upkeep of the neighborhood that ranges from $238 to $241 a month, and the monthly payment rises to $1,071 a month. Splitting that cost would raise a roommate’s rent to more than $500 a month before utilities.

“I felt that (the condos) were a little overpriced,” said Trish Prang, a management information systems student who previously lived in the Villas at Cross Creek. “I don’t think they were worth what they were selling them for, but it’s definitely the market that is causing them to raise the prices because they can.”

Prang eventually purchased property, but did not purchase a condo at the Villas at Cross Creek.

There are obvious benefits, however, to owning a condo or any real estate property for that matter. Real estate and mortgage payments accrue equity for resale value as well as establish a good credit report as long as bills are paid on time. There are also a variety of housing programs through the Federal Housing Administration specifically tailored to help students purchase a home, such as the Kiddie Condo program.

The Kiddie Condo program allows parents to help young adults purchase a first home. Because of the income constraints associated with purchasing a home, most students do not make enough to be able to afford one.

“A lot of the students who don’t have the proper income cannot afford to purchase the condo and need help from their parents,” said Jackie Morris, sales associate at Stone Creek Pointe.

“Fortunately there are programs like the Kiddie Condo program, which helps students purchase a condo with the help of their parents.”

Condominium conversion is a growing trend that is occurring because of the obvious supply-and-demand issues due to massive growth to the Tampa Bay area. It is likely that Stone Creek Pointe will not be the last of the apartment complexes to convert to condominiums.