‘Bookend’ generations living small

Micro homes, tiny homes, humble homes, small homes. Whatever the moniker, they are a sign of the times, of young and old wanting new affordable living spaces.

Arizona is at the forefront of new small homes in the rental arena. The concept was pioneered here. Millennials and baby boomers are moving into them almost as fast as they are built.

Two Phoenix-based companies are leading the charge: NexMetro and Christopher Todd communities. Both are piling on successes, making huge investments in Arizona, and moving to expand, expand, expand.

Todd Wood, the CEO of Christopher Todd Communities, just announced plans to invest $3 billion in construction of his communities in Arizona by 2030. He plans to expand nationwide with 100,000 rental homes from coast to coast.

NexMetro, who pioneered the small-homes-for-rent concept here in Arizona, just had its first three sales of assets in Chander and Goodyear totaling $98 million. Currently, it has $700 million in construction projects in metropolitan Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, and Orlando, and is intent on spreading across the Sunbelt.

Both companies offer rental homes in gated communities that range from about 650 to 1,100 square feet and have up to three bedrooms. Leases start at about $1,100 a month. Zoned as multi-family because of the for-lease status, they have all the niceties of a luxury apartment like high ceilings, high-end finishes, and a handyman on call. Mix in doggy doors, private backyards and garages, and voila! They lease quickly.

They appeal to the “bookend generations,” said Martha Moyer Wagoner, company spokeswoman for Christopher Todd.

“Almost half our leases are millennials, and baby boomers are on the other end,” she said, adding that residents want flexibility, and convenience, or are wary from the 2008 recession. “We are becoming a renter nation. The whole idea of the American dream of homeownership is fading for a lot of people.”

Arizona has one of the fastest growing rental markets right now. As the CEOs of these companies charge forward to claim it, they are putting Arizona on the map. Here’s a roundup of both:

Christopher Todd Communities

CEO Todd Wood started building Christopher Todd communities two years ago. Wood is known for starting Alpine Valley Bakery after moving his family to Mesa from Salt Lake in the 1990s. A mom-and-pop shop, Wood grew it into an empire. Three years ago, he sold it for $120 million.

The first Christopher Todd community is in Surprise. It was 50 percent preleased before it opened and reached 100 percent occupancy within months, Moyer Wagoner said. Four other communities are under construction in the metro area. The biggest, Stadium, has more than 300 homes near the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

All are “smart” homes. There’s Wifi inside and out, keyless entry, a doorbell camera, lighting and thermostat control with a virtual assistant, door sensors and a motion sensor with alarm, a self-monitored alarm system, and more. All have high ceilings, custom finishes, doggy doors, and private backyards. Each community has a pool, spa and fire pit.

NexMetro Communities

NexMetro pioneered the small-home-for-rent trend in Arizona. The concept has its roots in Tucson, where a group of serial entrepreneurs developed the Avilla Homes prototype, starting in 2011 building rental home “neighborhoods” to appeal to consumers stung by the recession.

A few years later, NexMetro was officially created to bring the Avilla Homes concept to multiple markets. Today, it has 4,000 homes. The homes have private backyards, 10-foot-high ceilings and luxury finishes, and community pool and spa.

“NexMetro has seen tremendous success in identifying an unfulfilled niche in housing with our hybrid leased new-home option for consumers who are renters by choice,” said CEO and cofounder, Ken Abrahams. “This is truly a hybrid housing option that combines the best of both worlds for people who want to live in a new home, but don’t want the burden of maintenance and constraints of a mortgage.

Victoria Harker

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