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Luxury rentals an easy sell


Sunday, April 17th, 2001

By Christine Dunn, Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE –– Even on the affluent East Side, renting an apartment can mean living with a dated kitchen, aged bathroom, worn floors and dingy walls.

But a number of landlords offer more for renters with the cash for something special.

Since the housing downturn began, many apartment units that had been renovated to be sold as luxury condos have reentered the marketplace as high-end rentals.

And for those who want even less commitment than a one-year lease, there are short-term luxury rentals.

Although demand for rentals has surged since the foreclosure crisis reduced mortgage availability, the luxury rental market caters to those who are able to buy, but are choosing to stay on the sidelines and rent.

At 441 Angell St. in trendy Wayland Square, Geo Properties reports fetching up to $4,500 a month for elegant, newly renovated, short-term rentals that are completely furnished, down to flatware, gourmet coffee makers and linens. Managing broker Rita Steele said she even puts food for the first meal or two into the kitchen for new arrivals.

Steele said she got the idea to rent the Angell Street condos from a client. She was showing a unit for sale to someone who was moving to Providence from Europe, and the client asked if she could rent the condo temporarily.

The Residences, a luxury condo tower connected to the Westin Hotel in downtown Providence, has resumed leasing a limited number of condos as rentals, according to Ralph V. Izzi Jr., spokesman for the developer, the Procaccianti Group of Cranston. That includes a small number of “fully furnished corporate residences” that come with housekeeping services and private parking.

The Westminster Lofts, a cluster of four historic downtown buildings that have been redeveloped as apartment rental properties, also offer a small number of fully furnished loft apartments, according to leasing agent Iris Ferguson.

She said the furnished lofts are available at the Peerless Building only; and just 6 of the 97 lofts at the Peerless come furnished, with monthly rents that start at $2,300, for units that would rent for $1,500 to $1,700 unfurnished.

Ferguson said the furnished lofts can be rented for as short a time as one month, but tenants can sign up for a yearlong lease if they wish.

Even developers of affordable housing report that it is easier to rent apartments than sell homes in the current market, but people at all income levels are questioning whether it makes more sense to buy or rent a home in what remains a fragile market.

A temporary job assignment in Mansfield, Mass., brought Sheila Dean, who owns a house in Missouri, to Providence.

Dean said her company is paying the rent at her temporary apartment in another Geo Properties building at 453 Angell St.

Dean, who works for a medical device manufacturer, Covidien, as a trainer, said she could have made the move to the East Coast permanent if she chose, but the state of the real estate market led her to opt for a temporary placement instead. She will be living in Providence until August.

“The market is not good to sell my house,” she said.

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