The Buzz: Tall Towers, Freddie Mac, and…Fish-Farming Tenants?

Welcome to The Buzz! Here are some stories the rental housing folks are following this week:

Breaking: Seattle is home of the country’s eighth tallest building.

It’s good to know we’re not completely lost in the shuffle–our Columbia Center, which stretches to heights of 936.5 feet, is taller than the tallest buildings in Dallas, Charlotte, San Francisco, and Oklahoma City. We know it’s not the most exciting news you’ll hear this week, but hey, it’s always nice to beat San Francisco at something!

Philadelphia, Houston and L.A. all measured up taller than Seattle, with New York (of course) winning with both the Empire State Building and the incomplete One World Trade Center, which is scheduled to be 1,776 feet tall when complete. Check out the slideshow over at the Seattle PI.

Freddie Mac gives us the June numbers on vacancy & new renters.

Freddie Mac has now released the US Economic and Housing Market Outlook for June. We’ll actually have a full breakdown of Freddie Mac’s report out in the coming week, but for now suffice it to say that vacancy rates have dropped two percentage points in the past two years, an additional 1.5 million households converted to rental housing since March 2011, and multifamily property values are up about 25% since their lowpoint in 2010. Check out the summary from National Mortgage Professional here.

Is it time to add a “no fish-farming” clause to your lease agreements?

The common “back-yard” (living room?) tilapia

When we saw this on our Twitter Feed, we almost didn’t believe it. Leaking water, strange smells, odd noises at night…we don’t know what this New York City landlord expected to find when he responded to complaints about one of his units, but he probably didn’t expect what he found: the tenant was farming fish–yes, raising Tilapia–in his apartment.

It turns out the tenant has a non-profit that actually “encourages city-dwellers to grow tilapia and other fish in their apartments.” The landlord is suing, while the tenant says he isn’t bothered–there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Check out the whole article at

Builders, meet renters.

Multifamily housing construction has ramped up recently, of course–demand for rental housing units is high and just keeps getting higher, and builders were bound to notice sometime. But builders are doing something else as well: some developers are starting to build single family homes–as rentals. As Diana Olick of CNBC puts it, “single family rental demand is soaring, as are rents, and investors are rushing to cash in; if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

High-end homes built specifically as rentals are emerging as people find they are again financially solvent, but they’re not crazy about the idea of turning around and getting another mortgage. “It’s basically offering the product they want, with the financing vehicle that works for them,” Joe Petersen of Insight Real Estate explains. Check out the full article at

That’s it for now! We’ll see you next week. In the mean time, we’re left wondering…what other kinds of urban farming projects could a landlord be surprised by? The possibilities may be more extensive than we had imagined.


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