A lot of houses in Guilford County – and many other parts of the country – are being gobbled up by corporations that then rent those houses out.

The Guilford County Tax Department is conducting an investigation to find out exactly what’s happening and to determine the extent of the practice in the county.

Assistant Guilford County Tax Director Jim Roland said this isn’t an attempt to stop the purchases, but instead to learn what’s happening and how it could affect county property tax revenues in the future as well as to see what concerns may arise.

Roland said that Payton Guion, a reporter with The Charlotte Observer, had done some excellent work on the phenomena in Mecklenburg County, and had also spoken with the Guilford County Tax Department.  That was one thing that inspired the county to look further into the situation.  He said the News & Observer had done similar deep dives in Wake County.

Earlier this year, when Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis spoke to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, he expressed concern over the trend of corporate landlords buying up a large number of houses and renting them out.

According to Roland, the department is working with Guilford County Geographic Information Services (GIS) on the investigation.

“GIS is developing a database of the whole thing,” he said, adding that the resource will have “multiple layers” and allow tax officials to ascertain and monitor the practice in a myriad of ways such as by zip code, sale price, etc.

Roland said the department’s look into the matter hasn’t yet determined an exact total, but said that right now Tax Department officials believe that about 3,500 houses in the county have been bought by corporations for the purpose of renting those homes out.

Roland said the corporations swoop in and pay way over market value.

“It’s happening in my neighborhood,” Roland said, adding that a house near his was valued at about $200,000 and had sold for $308,000 to a corporate landlord.

He said the corporations in the housing market were paying “way above” what houses are worth on a traditional valuation.