What do renters really want in an apartment? Apartment Guide did a survey of apartment hunters to find out.

After some North Texans sell their homes, a significant portion of them rent in the interim before finding their next one. Couple that with the Pew Research Center study alleging that the population of apartment dwellers is growing by leaps, with a 5 percent increase in the last decade — the highest in 50 years. In fact, 65 percent of households headed by Americans 35 and younger are renting, an increase of 8 percent over the previous reporting period.

With so many more Americans renting, Apartment Guide wanted to find out what they really want from their apartment and apartment search.

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Erin Seeds with her boyfriend, Eric, and their two dogs, Snoop and Bowie.

As more and more Millennials are priced out of what would be considered typical “starter home” ranges, long-term renting has become customary for an entire generation. But finding a great apartment with everything you want and need — and at a suitable price — is the modern day trial of Job. 

That’s part of the reason why Erin Seeds launched Apartment Fit. Though she was born and raised in Dallas, Seeds moved off after graduating high school. When she came back, all she wanted was to find a reasonably priced apartment for her and her two dogs. 

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There’s a serious shortage of affordable rentals in Dallas, but some data shows that prices are dropping. That’s good news considering that wages, when compared to housing costs, are creating a gap in affordability that is causing a whole swath of renters to become “cost burdened.”

“Dallas, specifically, ranks No. 47 when it comes to cost burdened renters, with 47 percent of the local renters spending at least 30 percent of their income on rent,” said Sam Radbil of Abodo. “Outside of Dallas, when looking at the data on a national level, the study revealed that almost half of the top 20 cities with the most cost burdened renters are located in California.”

Abodo’s numbers show that Dallas rents dropped .2 percent in October from the previous month, but are up 5.3 percent year-over-year. However, according to RentCafe, Plano is actually quite affordable, with only 25 percent of a renter’s annual income going toward rent. Irving is also quite affordable.

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According to Apartment List, affordable rentals are increasingly found outside the Dallas city limits.

In Dallas, though, the market has seen an influx of luxury rentals for those who eschew homeownership in favor of low-maintenance, non-committal leasing. This has meant that fewer affordable units have been built, pushing residents outside of the city, creating longer commutes, and overall increasing transportation costs for those who can least afford it. You can see the results in Apartment List‘s recent breakdown of median two-bedroom rental costs.

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With high occupancy rates and increasing rents, it's a good time to be a landlord.

Looks like developers are working hard to keep up with demand as new apartment high- and mid-rises are going up across the region.

StreetLights Residential, a boutique development company, is building its first high-rise dubbed The Taylor, set to open in 2014. The uptown apartment building, which has rents in the $1,000-and-up range, is just one of the many rental properties planned, in construction, or opening soon.

And according to a study from Axiometrics, average rents are on the rise, too. For Dallas, occupancy is tight at a little more than 94 percent, and average rents are at $879, which is a 12.7 percent increase over 2009. To get a taste of the upscale rental market, check out the Oak Lawn area: rents have increased 19 percent since 2009, with average rents at more than $1,500.

So, are we becoming a nation of renters? And, is that a bad thing?

As Candy mentioned, restrictive lending practices and tight-fisted banks despite historically low interest rates. So, more mortgage restrictions means fewer homeowners means more renters, right?

This story from MarketWatch says increased rental occupancy and prices can really be traced to the slow recovery from the recession and high unemployment:

The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 8.2%, and incomes have stagnated. Fewer Americans can afford to buy a home or qualify for a mortgage, especially given tighter lending standards. As a result, home ownership declined again. It fell to 65.4% from 66% in the fourth quarter, putting it at the lowest level since 1996.

Well, what do you think? Is it a renter’s market? And is that a bad thing in our economy?

Is Dallas getting to be a city of more renters than home-owners? And why is it harder to find homes to rent than to buy? A friend,  a high-profile Dallas photographer, emailed me this very question. When it comes to finding real estate, there are more sites than stars out there where you can search for real estate. Of course, it didn’t use to be this way. Once upon a time before the Internet, the real estate market was a totally different puppy. You relied on Realtors to check out giant MLS books of listings, all updated weekly. There’s the key: the Realtors guarded the information, they controlled it. 

Then the world changed.

Now you have Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Movoto, Active Rain, HotPads, hundreds of sites out there not to mention brokers and individual agents’ sites so you can shop for a home to buy in multiple places.

But when it comes to leasing, where are the rental sites? For some reason, they just don’t seem as thorough.

My suspicion is that because buying and selling homes is more lucrative for Realtors, many don’t want to mess with rentals. In California, for example, most Realtors will not even touch a rental transaction.

What really gave a kick in the pants to getting real estate listings on line, and what “gently urged” most Realtors to share listing information by a  virtual office Web site, was a 2008 settlement between the Justice Department and the National Association of Realtors. DOJ forced brokerages to share listing data with their rivals, including Internet-based firms that offer rebates or other discounts to buyers willing to do most of the legwork to find a home. DOJ was concerned that agents had a monopoly on sales information. DOJ is also the reason why you are required to register when you are searching on agents’ websites — that was part of the settlement. Of course, that is also capture for the agents.

In most parts of the country, and here in Dallas, brokers share information about properties through the MLS (multiple listing service). It’s a database of property sales histories operated by a group (or groups) on behalf of its members. In Texas, of course, we do not have to disclose sales prices. New York City remains an MLS hold-out: though Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx each have a multiple listing service, many agents in New York City are not members. Rather, they participate in the Real Estate Board of New York, called R.L.S. To rent, you contract with a leasing broker who’s fee is usually one month’s rent, which is pretty standard and also negotiable.

But back to our Dallas family of four seeking a nice house to lease in the Richardson School District: does anyone have a three bedroom, two and a half bath, beautiful home with a leafy back yard and room for kiddos to grow up?