Rental search in a tight market

Finding a rental (infographic from

Some housing experts are excited about the recent one-half of one percent uptick in the homeownership rate, saying it’s at a three year high. But the Census’ most recent release of the Quarterly Residential Vacancies (Fourth Quarter 2017) and Homeownership described the move as “not statistically different” from the previous quarter or year ( Essentially, the homeownership rate remains historically low. This dovetails with the Census’ most recent renter moving data indicating that the percentage of renters who moved in 2017 was the lowest since 1988. So, it should not be a surprise that rents are on the rise, and it’s becoming even more difficult to find a rental.

How can you find a rental in a tight market?

Before you go off and sign a lease, you should create your own “rental guide.” First, make a housing budget of how much you can afford for rent and utilities. Then make a list of “must haves” for your new home. Think about the size, location, local amenities, commuter routes and public transportation, and anything else you deem important. This guide will help you stay focused on your needs, and help you decide on a rental that makes sense.

home ownershipOnce you begin looking for a rental, you may realize that finding a rental that “checks all the boxes” may be difficult. You may find that rent per square foot varies depending on the neighborhood, age of the building, and the amenities. This may force you to prioritize your needs. For example, you may find that a small condo near a metro station is the same rent as a three-bedroom single family home that has a longer commute. Or there may be a new apartment available with luxury amenities with a higher rent than the older apartment building with sparse amenities.

The internet is the medium of choice these days to look for a rental. There are numerous websites using state of the art applications to advertise rental listings. They also include vast amounts of information on each listing to help your search. There are a number of specialty sites focusing on niche rentals (such as apartments, luxury, etc.) that tout their exclusive listings. However, there are sites that are more comprehensive that include a mix MLS and private listings. And let’s forget there are online classifieds too.

Many renters search for their new home without an agent, and that’s ok. But consider that an experienced licensed real estate agent can help negotiate your lease, possibly getting better terms. While most agents will work rentals and sales, there are real estate agencies that specialize in rentals. Consider contacting legitimate property managers or rental management companies and ask about their upcoming rental listings.

If a rental listing sounds too good to be true, then be suspicious of a scam. To protect yourself from scammers, it can be helpful to understand how they operate. The Federal Trade Commission ( offers insight on how rental scams work, and how to report scams.  Scams are typically from hijacked ads or phantom rentals.  The FBI ( and also offer tips on protecting yourself from rental scams.

Some basic cautions from the FBI:

-Only deal with landlords or renters who are local;
-Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service;
-Beware of e-mail correspondence from the “landlord” that’s written in poor or broken English;
-Research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower;
-Don’t give out personal information, like social security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

Regardless whether you go it alone or with a real estate agent, practice due diligence. Real estate scams have been part of the rental scene for decades. Scams have become more prevalent with the increased reliance on the internet for home searches. And in a tight housing market, it’s no coincidence that real estate scams are on the rise.

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Copyright© Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Housing shortage concerns; supply and demand

by Dan Krell © 2012

New HomesExactly two years ago, I wrote about the possibility of a housing shortage. In February 2010, Montgomery County’s housing inventory of homes for sale hit a two year low and was almost cut in half from the previous year; most likely due to a respite in the foreclosure tsunami. However, home inventories remained relatively low through 2011; as some looked forward to a renewed seller’s market, if not a balanced market.

So here we are in February 2012, and home inventory in the county is just about where it was in 2006- which is the consensus peak of the housing market. You might think that because home inventories are at a five year low, it might be a good time to jump into the market and list your home for sale.

Not so fast. Consider that the average time it took to sell a home during the peak of the market was no more than two months; much sooner in many cases. However, the current average time on the market is almost 30% longer today than what it was at the peak; much longer in many cases. Additionally, even though home inventory is similar to the peak market, the number of units sold compared to that time is about half; and keep in mind the average home sale price continues to fall.

For a home owner thinking of selling their home, it’s still a precarious market regardless of the reduced inventories. Although eager home buyers lament the limited choice of homes for sale, they are still demanding and selective. For home owners preparing their home to sell, the market is still about price and condition; make your home look its best. Keep in mind that about one-third of the home buyers in the market are first-time home buyers looking for their “perfect” home.

As I concluded two years ago, it’s not so much of housing shortage, but rather a market seeking equilibrium. Clearly, a market shift has taken place- but where?

As the number of single family homes listed for sale declines, the number of single family home listed for rent increases- as does the average rent. Supply and demand; another option for home sellers may be renting their home.

Homes for saleThe up side of leasing your home is that you can move on and have cash flow from the rental. To assist in determining an appropriate monthly rent, your Realtor® can provide neighborhood rental data. You should also consult with your accountant to make sure that leasing your home is an option; considerations in calculating rent may include (but is not limited to): tax implications, your mortgage payment, HOA/condo fees, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance.

Of course, solving one issue opens the door for others; there are disadvantages to renting your home as well. Other considerations might include (but not limited to) daily rental management, what to do if the tenant does not pay, and cost of repairs after the tenant vacates. Also, if you plan to rent your home to buy another home, don’t commit mortgage fraud; your lender may require extensive documentation on the rental – including an established rental history.

Although a balanced housing market may include increased rental inventory; do your due diligence before you decide to rent your home, and make sure it’s right for you.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of February 20, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

People need a place to live: Rental properties are surging

by Dan Krell

People need a place to live. This is the mantra of many savvy real estate investors who are looking for fantastic buys on homes to use as rental properties. Real estate investors know that rental properties are looking better because markets are cyclical. Investors following the real estate market know that many people wanting to purchase a home prefer to rent during uncertain financial times.

The “MRIS Trends in Housing; Mid-Year 2008” (Metro Regional Information Systems Inc, appears to confirm what real estate investors know. The report states that potential home buyers prefer to rent while timing “their entry into the market.” Interestingly, vacancies for traditional apartment complexes rose to 3.6% (from 2.9%) in the last year, indicating that renters are choosing to rent single family homes and condos rather than a traditional apartment. The report points to home sellers converting their “homes for sale” to “homes for rent” for the increase in apartment vacancies.

The MRIS report also states that rents increased 3.1% in the last year. Unlike the rental market of several years ago, where renters were negotiating leases way below list price, real estate investors are expecting to rent housing at a premium.

How much should you pay for a rental property? Savvy real estate investors typically do not want to pay any more than 70% of retail value for their rental properties; however many set their price tolerance lower. Consulting with a Realtor can assist your analysis in how much to offer for any home.

Let’s face it, if you intend to buy at bargain prices, you will probably be purchasing the home “as-is.” Seasoned investors will account for the cost repairs to bring the home up to code in their purchase price. Consulting with a licensed contractor can assist you in determining what repairs and updates are necessary.

Buying a home at the right price is only part of the equation. When considering a rental property, investors look for a home in a prime location. For example, having a rental near a metro stop can sometimes rent faster and for more money than an equivalent rental in a secluded neighborhood.

Some investors might say that the goal of buying a rental property is to have the home “pay for itself.” This means that the rent you collect should cover the home’s mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance and other expenses. Consulting with a Realtor and a rental management company can assist your neighborhood rent analysis.

Make no mistake, real estate investing is risky. Success as a real estate investor is not assured. From dealing with bad tenants to carrying a vacant rental property, every investor has a horror story.

Whether you are a seasoned or novice investor, you should always do your home work and consult professionals (such as your attorney, accountant, Realtor, financial advisor) to assist you in deciding if buying a rental property is right for you. Additionally your professional network can assist in determining your risk level as well as assisting you in creating your real estate investment plan. If you decide to become a real estate investor, maintaining communication with your professional network can help you anticipate and possibly overcome any bumps in the road toward your goals.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of October 6, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.

Landlord tips for the investor

Landlord Tips
by Dan Krell

The real estate market in the Metro DC area has broken sales records for the last few years. Each year sales numbers and average home prices surpass the previous year by a wide margin. Besides the many homebuyers who are buying homes for their own families to inhabit, there are the devout few who are always on the lookout for a bargain home to turn into a rental property. With home sale prices rising seemingly as fast as a jet taking off the runway at Reagan National Airport, it may be a wonder how, or more appropriately why, investors buying homes for rental properties.

Serious investors are a remarkable breed. They come from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds. Although they have a diverse background, their one commonality is accumulating wealth. The goal for the average investor is to accumulate real estate and sit on it as the value appreciates. The payoff for the investor is when they sell off their assets and retire.

This over simplified and brief article is an overview of some difficulties that most real estate investors encounter. Some of the difficulties that many real estate investors encounter are tenants, maintenance of the property, and cash flow.

Finding good tenants to rent your properties is essential for success. A good tenant is described as one who pays in a timely manner and who will treat your home as if it was theirs. To find tenants, you can advertise in the local papers for tenants, subscribe to placement companies, or hire a professional management company to do all the work for you. The best tenants usually come by referral.

Making sure the prospective tenants have good references is essential. One way to do that is to ask them for a recent copy of their credit report, which would report any past delinquencies. Rental companies usually report delinquencies and non-payments to credit reporting companies like Equifax, Trans Union, and Experion. If they do not have a credit report, some investors accept references from past landlords.

Once your rental property is leased, it is important to keep it maintained. Good tenants will usually do the basic maintenance for you. If things go wrong, however, it will be up to you fix the problem. It never fails, the emergency calls will come in the middle of the night or while you’re on vacation. You will need to respond to the emergencies fairly quickly as you build your relationship with your tenants.

The most important issue with a rental property is cash flow. Cash flow is the perpetual incoming of cash so the mortgages and other real estate related expenses can be paid. Cash flow can be positive or negative. The goal with cash flow is to at least come out even, as most investors bank on the appreciation of the property itself for wealth building.

To help overcome the pitfalls of owning investment properties, some investors hire professional management companies. These companies can help find quality tenants, collect rents, and maintain the property. As the art of being a landlord is becoming legally complex, the management company and a good attorney can help you through the difficulties.

Anyone that is serious about beginning a career as a real estate investor should attend classes and find out more about the field to make an informed decision. As a real estate investor, you will find that there are many complex issues that require experience and support. However, once mastered, it can be very rewarding.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.
This column was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel 8/8/2005. Copyright Dan Krell 2005.