In Fort Worth’s Fairmont neighborhood, short-term rentals are pushing out traditional renters.

Sarah Avakian In 2022, she found out she was losing the Fairmont house she had called home for two months for the past five years.

She knew this day was coming—the landlord told her he was looking for a buyer months ago. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when she got official news in late February: the house was sold and she had until June to move out.

What Avakian didn’t envision was the house’s new life as an Airbnb. When the new owner, Alexandria Salvo, came to measure, she mistakenly stated that she was interested in renting the place out for a short period of time.

“She was asking me how I liked the area and asking me questions about it,” Avakian said. “And I’m like, ‘I’m a girl. You’re driving me away,’ like, of course, I love it here. This is why I live here,” he said.

As the revitalization of the Fairmont and Magnolia Strip continues to gain steam, the once-neglected neighborhood has become a tourist destination. Avakian’s situation — and Salvo’s investment — are not unique.

“We’ve had a lot of demographic change and a lot of ownership change in the last 10 years,” said Michael McDermott, director of historic preservation for the Fairmont Neighborhood Association. “Sometimes it’s not easy. You meet people, and they quickly drift away. Some people who were there will be gone forever. And there are new people moving into the Fairmont all the time.

Scanning the net posts on Fairmont’s Facebook page describing similar situations where long-term renters lost homes to investors looking to start short-term rentals. A quick search for rental properties on Airbnb will turn up tons of listings that feature local restaurants, shops, and general culture as selling points.

“That’s right at the hospitals, that’s right at Magnolia Street,” Salvo said. “I feel the place is very beautiful here.”

While Fort Worth has considered updating its ordinance to allow short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods, conflicts between long-term renters and investors have become apparent.

“Short-term rentals reduce the amount of housing available to homebuyers and traditional renters,” resident Daniel Hayes testified at the July 26 public engagement meeting.

at 1605 S. Henderson St. The existing home has been vacant since it was purchased in March. Avakian walks past the house she once called home, looking for signs of renovating the property. Salvo said she originally bought the house with the intention of renting it out on Airbnb, but began considering other options.

“The exit strategy is up in the air because of what’s going on with the economy right now,” she said. “I’m not sure what the market will look like. Because of all the plans and permitting and everything, we haven’t been able to break ground on the property yet.

Salvo lives in Dallas, and when she started researching Fort Worth property, there were two areas that caught her interest: on Magnolia Avenue and near the Fort Worth Zoo. When she learned that Avakian’s landlord was interested in selling the property, she opened up about the opportunity to buy it in the Fairmont neighborhood.

“We plan to add about 800 square feet,” Salvo said. “It’s going to be a three bedroom, two and a half bath house with an office and yes, that’s what I’m planning.”

Tenants have difficulty finding new housing.

Over the next several months, Avakian races to find a new home in the neighborhood she grew to love.

“I don’t think I can live here anymore. That was actually my first thought,” she recalls.

Avakian, a teacher and community organizer, couldn’t see herself living anywhere else in Fort Worth. After hundreds of hours of searching with no luck, she finally found a 6 hour old listing for an apartment in Fairmont and jumped at the chance.

“I was very lucky with the timing and everything,” she said. “And I know a lot of people aren’t as lucky to get around here.”

One in two homes sold in Tarrant County last year went to an investor, company or corporation.

Tarran County ranks third nationally for the share of homes purchased by investors at 52%, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors.

“That’s what preparing your home for sale is all about,” says Realtor Shelby Kimball of Kimball Real Estate. “Whether you own for personal use or rent to tenants, you want to get the most bang for your buck when you finally sell.”

In big red letters, WE BUY HOUSES, ANY CONDITION, a white sign with a phone number stuck in the grass on a street corner.

Emily Wolff

/

Fort Worth Report

A sign at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Myrtle Street in Fairmont advertises a phone number to call for homeowners interested in selling their property.

Ohio-based real estate investment firm Realfa committed to spending up to $1.5 billion last year to buy homes and offer them for short-term rentals. The company plans to target areas where homes can be bought in bulk, taking advantage of the federal moratorium.

“Corporate buyers have unfortunately taken away from those (affordable) homes,” Kimball said. “We’ve seen a lot of them at full value or more, and unlike individuals who take out loans, they have a lot of funds to raise, so it’s in cash. So he eats a lot. And it concerns us as realtors, because we need housing.

Avakian is paying more than double the rent on her new apartment. She pays $500 a month for a two-bedroom Henderson home, splitting the $1,000 rent with her brother. She now pays $1,150 a month.

“That’s the lowest price I’ve ever had,” she said. “So I don’t know what to say about this, but that’s how housing is now.”

McDermott has lived in the area for the past 40 years. While he laments rising housing costs and the squeeze long-term renters feel, he doesn’t believe short-term rentals are a problem.

“I understand the importance of rent and affordable housing,” he said. “Our rents in Fairmont are not affordable at all. Not for people who need affordable housing.

McDermott owns a short-term rental property in Fairmont in a garage apartment. In the decade since he moved into the area, he’s seen a shift from primarily long-term rentals to single-family homes and short-term rentals.

“We’ve got friends who’ve been around and they’ve turned these horrible little 1980s duplexes into horrible, crappy long-term rentals and turned them into beautiful little Airbnbs,” he said.

Many people who buy short-term rentals in Fairmont renovate and add value to previously run-down properties, he said. When Salvo finishes her planned renovations for the Henderson home, she estimates it will cost more than $500,000.

“So I went to Roundtop, that big antique show, and I bought a bunch of stuff because I originally wanted to do this short-term rental,” she said. “And it’s going to be Airbnb, like a cowboys and Indians theme or an illegal hideout. And now I’m like, I’ve got all this stuff in my stash. Am I even going to use it?”

Christine Vojt, a resident of the nearby Ryan Place neighborhood since 2008, said she moved to the area because she realized it was a natural habitat. Short-term rentals mean people move in and out of the neighborhood without contributing to the community in a meaningful way, she said, and she prefers long-term renters as a neighbor.

“Long-term tenants bring things to the community,” she said. “They’re polite and involved… we know long-term tenants. We have broken down cars and if you don’t know anyone, that can continue.”

Investor-Owned or Investor-Owned?

The city has proposed revising its short-term rental regulations to treat owner-occupied and investor-owned short-term rentals differently. One option is to allow owner-occupied rentals to be listed as bed and breakfasts. Another would actually allow it in certain neighborhoods or citywide, with a cap on a percentage of each block.

The proposed regulations on investor-owned short-term rentals are strict. One proposal under consideration would allow investors to operate Airbnbs and the like only in multi-family districts, and another would require a conditional-use permit, such as a bed and breakfast.

Matthew Townsend and his wife run one of the Airbnbs owned by Pheromone. The couple rented their Fairmount home on Airbnb while traveling out of town. In the year In 2021, they built a garage apartment unit in their backyard that caters to Airbnb stays of 30 days or more.

“We focused on long-term stays because we’re easy as a host,” he said. “And I think it’s great for the area because it provides a place for someone who wants a place to stay for a long time.”

Townsend said he has provided housing to students in the past, as well as to people looking for a new home in Fort Worth who need a place to stay during their search. Rising housing costs mean there’s a need for stopover options like long-term Airbnb, he said.

“I think the housing prices on the South Side are a reflection of the great businesses we have, especially here on the South Side,” he said. “This is a reflection of the many works and investments the city has made. But I don’t know if it’s permanent. And obviously we need a place for teachers and firefighters and police people and all the people who don’t make well into six figures to live.

McDermott agrees that owner-occupied and investor short-term rentals are different beasts. The city is proposing a ban on new investor-owned short-term rentals, and doing more research on the impact of each type before rushing to make a permanent policy change.

He said, “Go ahead and sign them up, it’s good.” “Charge a fee… charge them like a hotel tax, that’s fine. The passengers must pay, collect and deliver the money.

Avakian, a Fairmont tenant, isn’t completely against short-term rentals. She uses them when she travels, and says she appreciates the convenience that comes with it. The number limit allowed in the area, however, is necessary to ensure the availability of long-term housing.

“I know it’s profitable to have Airbnb because you make more money,” she said. “Your profit margin is much higher if you’re doing long-term rentals, but you have to consider that people need places to live… I know you want to make more money, but we need places to live. “

Do you have a tip? Email Emily Wolf at emily.wolf@fortworthreport.org. You can follow Emily on Twitter @_wolfemily.

Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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