Renting is the new owning

PHILADELPHIA. New York City-based developer Geoff Flournoy initially expected to convert an empty warehouse at Front and Church streets into luxury condominiums when his BRP Development Corp. purchased it two years ago.

Oh, how so much has changed in the housing market. Flournoy will now welcome Mayor Michael Nutter and Gov. Ed Rendell into his luxury apartment building — called The Old City Mercantile — during the grand opening tomorrow.

The trendy “condo conversion” model that for a few years offered ownership opportunities in downtown highrises where once only apartments existed has given way to renting once again. From Carl Dranoff’s 777 South Broad luxury apartments opening next month to the Mercantile, renting is once again considered a good option.

“[Condo sales] have slowed down over the last couple years because of the tightening credit market,” Flournoy said. “But there are always cycle and that will eventually come back around.”

Temple University real estate expert Forrest Huffman said renting has been a good bet as potential buyers waited for sales to bottom out since the historic buying run screeched to a halt in 2008.

But he also says 2010 may bring the end of falling property values, making it a good time to buy when combined with all the government tax credits.

“My guess is the economy turns around, jobs pick up and that’s when people start getting back into the housing market,” Huffman said. “You want to be in just before then.”

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