• Hedge fund buys up thousands of homes in central Florida


    CENTRAL FLORIDA - The country's largest private real estate owner, Blackstone Group, is pouring millions of dollars into the central Florida real estate market.

    Some are concerned the company is squeezing out the average home owner and turning too many single family homes into rentals.

    The property appraiser's website shows one company owns nearly 500 homes in Orange County, more than 400 in Osceola County and around 200 in Volusia and Seminole counties.

    Shirley Clark has lived in the Rose Hills grove neighborhood off Addie Avenue in Orange County for 16 years. She is concerned that lately she's seen owner-occupied homes turn into rentals.

    "I'd hate to see them all be rentals. Then you don't know your neighbors," Clark said.

    It's a trend that's happening around the country fueled by big investors.

    The biggest is Blackstone, a hedge fund that through Invitation Homes has bought up 24,000 homes around the country in just one year. The homes are then rented out.

    Realtor Ray Lopez said there are now more buyers in the market than there is inventory to be sold.

    At first, the infusion of cash into the market was welcomed, but now there are worries that Blackstone could corner the market.

    "The bad side is now that we're at a low inventory. The investors are still here, and they're competing against people who want to just live in a home," Lopez said.

    Clark said homeowners take care of homes because they want to protect their property.

    "Rentals, they're transient,” Clark said.

    Invitation Homes said it is helping to fill the growing demand for single family home rentals.

    A spokesperson also said the company has more money to renovate homes than the traditional mom-and-pop investor.

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    Hedge fund buys up thousands of homes in central Florida