TAMPA, FL-Vacancies in the metro area are expected to fall by 10 basis points by yearend to 8.2%, as rising single-family home prices and strong entry-level job growth fuel renter demand, according to a new market study by Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co.

Also firming up the area’s multifamily market is a projected increase of 33,000 jobs by the end of the year, a 2.7% gain and the largest regional employment expansion in four years.

“Business costs and sales prices are lower [in the Tampa area] compared to other regions and help to attract national investors,” says Steven M. Ekovich, the firm’s Florida regional manager. “Increased buyer demand and available capital have helped to raise prices year-to-date, and the higher than normal sales volume is expected to continue through the final months of the year.”

A major national investor who has already committed to the area is New York-based Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. The world’s largest provider of technology infrastructure plans to invest $34 million in facilities and equipment in the city, Ekovich says. DTCC expects to employ 500 workers in its new Hillsborough County operations center.

The Royal Bank of Canada, also known as RBC Financial Group, is also expanding in the metropolitan region. Through RBC Centura Bank of Rocky Mount, NC, its personal and commercial banking operation in the US, RBC has merged with other financial operations in Florida and is targeting business customers, the Marcus & Millichap report notes.

“Firms such as DTCC and RBC Centura are attracted to low costs of doing business in Tampa, as measured by labor, taxes and utility costs,” Ekovich says. “In a recent location-based economic ranking of American cities, only Atlanta earned a higher mark than Tampa.”

Another factor that will boost Tampa Bay area’s apartment market is a less than record delivery this year of new product. “We expect that developers will bring more than 3,200 units on line in the Tampa metropolitan area this year,” the executive says. “Although this is a 6.7% gain from 2003, it is a small amount by local standards, as 6,000 or more new units annually was the norm until last year.”

Developers are building suburban garden-style multifamily complexes of 200 or more units in submarkets located to the north of St. Petersburg and to the west of Tampa. Developers are also “following the national trend toward urban living by engaging in condo conversion and building structures that house 50 or fewer units in central city areas.

“Fundamentals have bottomed in the Tampa metropolitan apartment market and improvements are at hand,” concludes Ekovich. “We expect effective rents to increase in 13 of the region’s 17 submarkets this year.” The broker also is confident that Tampa’s population growth, “spurred by one of the highest job-creation rates in the country, will help fill units, especially in developing lower-cost areas such as Pasco County and South Tampa.”

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