As many Americans are unwilling to buy houses in the current downtrending housing market, rental prices are inching up.
The vacancy rate for U.S. apartments slipped in the first quarter to 6.2 percent from 8 percent a year earlier and 6.6 percent in the previous quarter, according to Reis Inc.’s quarterly report released in April. This was the steepest fall since 1999, when the commercial real estate research firm began tracking rental vacancies.
Fewer choices mean higher prices. Effective rents (what tenants actually pay) rose in 75 of the 82 markets Reis tracks, to an average $991 a month from $986 last quarter and $967 a year earlier.
So take your time and be strategic before signing a new rental lease. Vicky Trevino, the assistant manager of Lincoln Property Residential, shares useful tips you should know before you start house hunting.
1. Use rental websites
Trevino says when you’re looking for an apartment it’s best to visit rental websites first.
Websites are especially useful because they all have clickable price ranges so you don’t have to look at apartments that go beyond your budget.
Once you find what you want, go offline and start making phone calls. “Look at the area that you want and call the management companies that you’re interested in. Ask them if they have any sister buildings in the area, or they’re offering any specials,” Trevino suggests.
2. Get help from a broker
It’s always helpful to have someone who knows the market better than you.
“Brokers are very important because they might have a listing that’s not advertised somewhere else,” Trevino said. And the best part is that “you get one-on-one special treatment and you don’t have to pay them because the building pays the commission.”
3. Use social-networking websites
Social networking websites can save you money. Check whether you can find the buildings you’re interested in on either Facebook or Twitter. Trevino says she occasionally lists specials on those sites when the apartment building she manages is not 100 percent occupied.
4. Bargain for the deal
Trevino advises that if you’re undecided between two or three places, start negotiating. Say “this place is offering this. Will you match that?”
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but she says it’s worth a try.