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Unable or loath to buy, millennials spur apartment trend

FILE PHOTO/BRIAN PEDERSEN/ STRATA Flats (right) has 162 apartments and eight in a smaller building (left) in downtown Allentown. The complex opened in 2015, in part to meet the demand of millennials seeking to live in a city.

Recently, Realtor Bob Papageorgiou of Emerald Realty Group in Bethlehem has seen a marked economic shift in construction and renovation of apartment buildings in and around the Lehigh Valley.

Recently, Realtor Bob Papageorgiou of Emerald Realty Group in Bethlehem has seen a marked economic shift in construction and renovation of apartment buildings in and around the Lehigh Valley.

“Millennials are driving it. They feel that home ownership is for the older generation,” Papageorgiou said. “They want their free time; they do not want to worry about home maintenance or yardwork.”

Papageorgiou and others in the industry say they understand why many millennials – those between 20 and 34 – delay buying a home. Student debt, lack of credit, low wages, limited options and taste all are factors affecting the younger set’s decision to stay out of the housing game.

They say that as millennials gravitate from home ownership, they are creating a new housing trend by increasing the demand for apartment buildings.

Papageorgiou said he and colleagues at Emerald Realty are working with clients who are buying dilapidated apartment complexes, gutting them and creating buildings that will appeal to a generation of people who want to be mobile and are looking for a location within walking distance of retail, food and entertainment venues.

“It is happening in every area of the Lehigh Valley, especially in Easton. There is a lot of organic growth there,” he said.

According to the most recent housing report by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh and Northampton counties approved plans for 1,300 residences last year. Of those, 570 were apartment units, which makes up 43.8 percent of all residential approvals.

The study cites the significance of apartment buildings since the financial crisis. Rental demand is on the rise and apartment vacancies are low.

The document states that apartment development has experienced “robust growth” since 2012 and will continue to “drive growth in new residential construction in the coming years.”

Bill Sands, a broker and Realtor at Sands & Co. Real Estate in Wyomissing, said he makes it his business to observe and stay educated about millennials, since they are the future real estate buyer. He said there are not enough millennials buying homes because they cannot afford it and because of low inventory. So, they remain at home or move into an apartment.

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