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Apartment-hunting appealing to many
Demand is high for rentals in the Fredericksburg region

 South Carolina-based Johnson Development Associates' latest apartment complex, near Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, won't be ready until June, but three units already are leased. There will be 260 units.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 3/24/2012

BY CATHY JETT

Johnson Development Associates won't finish its latest apartment complex, which is going up across from Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, until June 1.

But the South Carolina-based company, which built The Haven at Celebrate Virginia near Wegmans last summer, already has leased three units in the unfinished complex and fielded numerous inquiries about the remaining 257.

"We think the demand is very high in the Fredericksburg community," said Ben Graves, president of Johnson Development's multi-family division.

The company's first complex, for example, was 96 percent leased when the company sold it last December for $39.4 million to MAA, a real-estate investment trust based in Tennessee. It has been renamed Seasons at Celebrate Virginia.

"It was the fastest lease-up in all of Northern Virginia," said Graves, adding that Johnson Development plans to break ground for another apartment complex next to Seasons in two months.

Currently, occupancy rates for apartments within a 10-mile radius of the city of Fredericksburg range from 95 to 97 percent. Graves said his company thinks this area can sustain an additional 300 to 500 apartment units without saturating the market.

"Even with our new community, we didn't see a marked drop in our competitors' occupancy rates," he said.

Cobblestone Square, which also has Class A apartments, is hoping to have similar success, said property manager Jennifer Marsh. Since it began accepting applications last August, it has preleased or leased 139 of the 314 apartments that have been built or are under construction.

Her goal is to have the first three of the complex's planned six buildings 95 percent completed and leased by the end of October.

"We're seeing a lot of people moving in the warmer months, so we're heading up on the peak season," Marsh said.

Demand for rentals--including apartments, condos and houses--has been on the rise since the recession hit. Some, such as upwardly mobile 20-somethings, like the idea of having someone else take care of maintenance and landscaping. Plus, they don't have to worry about selling a house if they have to move to accept a job somewhere else.

"Owning a home is not so much the cornerstone of wealth as it has been in the past," Graves said.


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