“[S]till room to profit on lower-price homes.”

From the Record:

Days are numbered for low-price haven in Englewood

Rents are so low at Forest Park Gardens, it really does feel like an enchanted forest.

Apartments in the 1960s-era cul-de-sac go for as low as $524 and top out at $868. Diana Robinson’s family pays $656 a month for their two-bedroom duplex, less than half of the average Bergen County rental.

But that will come to an end in a few years, when the units turn into condos or co-ops. Residents — some of whom have rented here for three decades — have already received letters informing them of the owner’s intent to sell the units in three years.

The shift makes Forest Park Gardens part of a growing number of rentals changing to condos or co-ops in recent years, especially in such up-and-coming areas as Englewood, Hoboken and Jersey City.

The number of rental-to-condominium conversion projects statewide went up by more than nine times between 2002 and 2006, according to the state Department of Community Affairs. In some cases, renters have been able to get an insiders’ rate to buy their own homes.

Even if the prices are low, though, some residents wonder if they’ll be able to buy at all. Many are senior citizens or on fixed incomes. First-time borrowers may have difficulty getting loans in the wake of the subprime mortgage collapse.

“My main concern is not knowing how much it’s going to be,” said Lenox Smith, a truck driver who has rented his apartment for 11 years. “I wouldn’t mind purchasing if it’s the right price, but if it’s not, where are we going to go?”

Neither owner David Anfang nor his lawyer would comment on the reason for selling the units after renting them for almost half a century.

But the property’s manager said the yearly rental increase isn’t enough to cover the costs of insurance, gas and other utilities. Rent increases in Englewood are capped at 4 percent unless the owner makes major improvements. And though the housing market has softened, there is still room to profit on lower-price homes.

“The condo projects that are successful are those projects that either have particular appeal — like on the waterfront in Hudson County — or those that are priced right,” said Michael Fasano, New Jersey regional manager of Marcus & Milichap, a real estate investment company.

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