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Corporate buyers purchasing more single-family homes in Allegheny County, research finds

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Several large, national companies with growing real estate portfolios of single-family homes have been acquiring real estate in the Pittsburgh region and have quickly amassed large amounts of property in recent years, according to a recent report.

VineBrook,SFR3, and Segavepo, three nonlocal corporate owners, have acquired nearly 1,000 local parcels, mostly since 2019, according to researchers Sabina Deitrick and Chris Briem, of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research.

“These firms have quickly amassed some of the largest private sector real estate portfolios across Allegheny County and have nearly tripled their holdings in just the past recent years,” the researchers found.

Corporate ownership of real estate isn’t new, but this type of owner is, Deitrick said in an interview: a large, investor-backed firm that rents out huge numbers of single-family houses.

These corporate purchases in turn reduce the supply of single-family homes available for individuals, particularly would-be first-time home buyers, Deitrick and Briem note, or for smaller, “mom and pop” investors to buy. They pointed to research elsewhere that found large-scale corporate investor purchases decreased homeownership rates for single-family housing, particularly for Black homeowners.

“They're huge companies. They have lots of money. They'll do cash offers and they'll outbid others,” Deitrick said in an interview. “They're not at the high end. They're not buying up $800,000 houses. They're buying up in the mid-range: $165 to $250,000 dollar houses in markets like Penn Hills and Bethel Park, which could be for a lot of our residents in our area, a first time home buyer house.”

For renters living in the properties, Deitrick and Briem point to other studies that show large corporate landlords are more likely to file for evictions than smaller-scale rental operations, and that rent increases and service fees are part of the companies’ business model.

KDKA-TV has reported on problems for residents of Segavpo-owned homes.

A map of single family homes in Allegheny County earned by three large, corporate landlords.
Sabina Deitrick and Christopher Briem
Pitt's University Center for Social and Urban Research
Pitt researchers examined parcels owned by three large, corporate landlords who have acquired many homes in Allegheny County in recent years.

While such holdings are still a relatively small fraction of total single-family residential properties locally, the researchers noted their portfolios are “rapidly expanding and are concentrated in specific regional and municipal communities.” Among such areas with a high concentration of these properties locally is Penn Hills, the report found. The companies have acquired parcels in 75 of Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities, “concentrated in eastern parts of Allegheny County, the city of Pittsburgh, and nearby south suburban communities.”

“That a community’s housing market is part of a global network of financial investors hasn’t registered with many public officials or community stakeholders,” Deitrick and Briem noted.

The researchers’ analysis used data on property ownership and sales of single-family parcels from the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessments through October 1, 2023.

Deitrick and Briem recommend that Allegheny County officials and housing advocates: use data to learn more about where corporate investors are buying; expand protections against evictions; expand programs to maintain owner-occupancy of single-family homes such as home repair programs; and work to make judges and the courts aware of poorly maintained properties owned by institutional investors, among other suggestions.

Some local officials said they are attuned to challenges that corporate, out-of-town investors cause.

Amanda Settelmaier is executive director of the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments, which represents 20 municipalities in eastern Allegheny County.

She said such owners “[present] a David vs. Goliath challenge for basic safety enforcement. Tracking the web of LLC ownership and subsidiaries is resource-intensive, and many towns don’t have the staff to do it. … Local governments must work together to keep these big companies accountable and our residents safe.” Her organization created a software program called CodeNForce to help individual municipalities streamline code enforcement and track LLC ownership contact details.

Ed Nusser, director of housing strategy for Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, said county officials are working with state legislators to continue to fund the Whole Home Repairs program so current homeowners can afford to make repairs and stay in their homes, and pointed to the county’s All in Action Plan, which calls for a funding pool to create more affordable homes.

SFR3 and Segavepo either could not be reached or did not respond to requests for comment.

A representative for VineBrook disputed the number of homes and real estate parcels researchers said the company had locally.

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.