Number of homeowners in Shelby County drops 17,000 since 2010

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New records show there are 17,000 fewer homeowners in Shelby County since 2010. Why? Many point to Wall Street investors buying up houses that would normally go to people trying to buy into the American Dream of owning their own home.

Joyce Flowers said she’s being forced out of her own home.

Meanwhile, Dimitrius James said it’s hard to compete with investment companies who are buying up properties from average citizens.

“We got turned down every time. It was hard. Investors were out here buying up all the property,” James said.

RELATED: FOX13 Investigates modern day redlining

It’s a tale of two families who blame big companies for stealing their American Dream.

Tijuana Wallace is a realtor with Keller Williams. She explained why investment companies have an upper hand in buying properties.

“They buy in package deals. Sometimes they buy multiple properties or it could be one property, ten properties, a hundred properties,” Wallace said.

It’s a trend that’s been seen across the region, big investors paying cash for properties with no contingencies and no inspections.

“I made about eight offers on a house and it was really hard trying to find a home,” James said.

Wallace said one of her clients made offers on eight homes. Four of them were bought up by out-of-state investors with deep pockets, Wallace said.

“It has really created a sense of hopelessness for a lot of people,” Wallace said.

FOX13 pulled the numbers. Records from the Shelby County Property Assessor show Wall Street investors snapped up more than 3,100 houses in 2019.

By the end of 2020, companies like Cerberus and Progress Residential gobbled up nearly 3,400 more. That’s more than 3,000 homes gone that would normally go to first-time buyers ranging in price from $68,000 to $210,000.

RELATED: FOX13 uncovers undervalued homes in Black neighborhoods

While the trend is slowing, experts say the damage is done.

“They fix them up and they rent them out for a very high price in rent. So, in essence, making it unaffordable,” Wallace said.

In November of 2022, 40% of houses in Shelby County were rental properties, according to the Shelby County Property Assessor.

“It’s a housing crisis, people losing their homes, can’t afford their rent,” said Property Assessor Melvin Burgess.

Joyce Flowers said investors bought the home she was renting and three months later she got a 14-days notice that her rent was going from $900 to $1,650 a month.

“They have never seen the place. They have never sent anyone out to inspect,” Flowers said.

Flowers is a senior and a veteran on a fixed income. She was told she’d have to re-qualify and pay new deposits if she wanted to stay.

“I have to be out by the first of December,” she said.

Dimitrius James’ family finally found a home. They watched it being built, hoping their dream was finally coming true.

Seven days before closing, her husband died. The children lost their father and the family lost that home.

“I felt in my heart this was supposed to be my house. Yeah, It’s hard,” James said.

Now, they’re stuck renting with no guarantees beyond this year. As for Flowers?

“I’ve always had dreams of living happily ever after in my own home with peace and quiet. That’s all I ever wanted,” she said.

FOX13 found there is nothing illegal about buying up tens or hundreds of houses and raising the rent. Tennessee state laws have no restrictions on these outside investors.

But, Tennessee State Representative Antonio Parkinson said he is working on legislation that would allow a city or county to put a moratorium on outside buyers when the percentage of rentals reaches a certain point.

And, Shelby County Property Assessor Melvin Burgess is encouraging neighbors to form Homeowner Associations so they can limit the number of rentals in their neighborhood.