by Dan Krell © 2012
If you’re looking for a rental, you’re not alone. In fact, according to an October 28th (2011) commentary from National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, there was an increase of 1.4 million renters in from the fall 2010 to the fall 2011; and as of the second quarter of 2011, there were about 38 million renters. As the economy and foreclosure crisis added to rental demand; Dr. Yun pointed out that the lack of multi-family construction (e.g., apartments) in the first decade of the new millennium also added to the falling vacancy rates (“Falling Rental Vacancies”; realtor.org).
Of course, as rental vacancies fall- rents increase. According to the National Association of Home Builders (nahb.org), the Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI) fell in the fourth quarter of 2011 indicating fewer rental vacancies. Additionally, the Multifamily Production Index (MPI), which measures builder and developer sentiment about current conditions in the multifamily market, is at its highest since 2005. Furthermore, the MPI component gauging developer sentiment for market-rate rentals is at an all time high!
But don’t worry too much. Consider that while some have described falling nationwide home ownership rates and rental vacancies, the U.S Census data indicates that home ownership rates for the Washington DC region has not significantly changed during 2011. Additionally, rental vacancies increased throughout 2011 to rebound from some of the lowest vacancy rates in about ten years (census.gov).
So what does all this mean for you, the renter? First consider your budget, and then decide on your needs and preferences for your rental home. Since size, location, and amenities are some of the factors that dictate rent, you might be able to lower your rental costs by deciding which factors are more important to you. For example, renting a studio apartment close to a metro stop may be less expensive than renting a four bedroom bungalow about the same distance to the metro stop. However, if you want the four bedroom home, the rent may be less expensive as the distance from the metro stop increases.
The internet age has made finding a rental easier than ever, many apartment guides and MLS rental listings are now at your fingertips. Some apartment guides even provide virtual tours of available floor plans and amenities. The internet has many rental tools as well; one such tool is the “rentometer” (renotmeter.com), which can help you determine if your rent is in line with other area rentals. While hunting for your rental online- be careful of internet scams; Craigslist posts some very good safety tips for online home searching (washingtondc.craigslist.org/about/scams).
You might even consider hiring a real estate agent to assist you in your search. While some agents only focus on MLS rental listings, others may assist you in negotiating a rental rate and terms with rentals found outside the MLS. It should also be noted that some rental management companies also specialize in executive rental placements.
Once you found a suitable rental, be prepared for the rental application- which may include a credit check. If you’ve had financial challenges, such as a job loss or foreclosure, don’t be afraid to explain your situation; as some landlords may be willing to work with you if they have a vacancy.
As the housing market struggles to gain a foothold, the rental market remains strong. Finding your perfect rental may take a little time and effort.
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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 March 19, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.