The newest financial frustration in Connecticut’s red-hot housing market is not only a struggle for people looking to buy. Would-be renters find themselves running into big obstacles – and big price tags – all around the state.
“I started looking for anything; anything, anything, anything,” said Cathy Blumenfeld. She said her search for “anything” quickly became a search for a rental property just about anywhere in Connecticut.
“I went to all the borders,” Blumenfeld said. “I searched, and I searched, and I searched and there was nothing!”
It is no longer just homebuyers dealing with extreme competition, lower inventory and higher prices.
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Blumenfeld said touring potential rental properties started feeling like it was an audition.
“We had to make ourselves look good,” said Blumenfeld. “I would dress up before I went to see a property and think about what not to say and what to say and make myself more appealing as a tenant. And I’ve been a great tenant.”
The pandemic and the resulting tighter housing market has raised the bar drastically for renters.
“Landlords are looking for the highest credit score, the highest income, some are even asking for two months security deposit,” said Ariel Brinson, a realtor with S Young Realty & Associates in Manchester.
Brinson said several of her clients have been looking for months for a place to rent and that they are still coming up short.
“Every application that they’ve filled out there’s about twenty other applicants for that one rental property,” said Brinson. “If they’re interested in a rental, we need to be on it within 24 hours. It’s not a market where you can wait to view properties.”
NBC Connecticut Investigates analyzed new data from SmartMLS, a group that represents nearly 20,000 real estate professionals across the state. Rental market data from June 2020 was compared with June of 2021.
In the city of Hartford there were 83 active rentals available in June of last year. Only 60 active rentals were available in June of this year. The average monthly lease in the capital city was $1,181 in June 2020 and $1,255 this June.
“When you rent, you have a budget. And this went right over people’s budgets. This was really tough,” said Kim-Marie Mullin, principal owner at Hudson + Sound Brokerage. Mullin said bidding wars among would-be tenants are becoming much more common in Connecticut.
“We would have the credit check done, the application would be done, and we would think this would be a slam dunk and then we would find out we were outbid – on a rental.”
In West Haven, where Mullin lives, the average monthly lease did not change drastically year-to-year, but the inventory of available rental units went from 62 in June of 2020 to 28 in June of 2021; a decrease of nearly 55%.
“I’ve had people having to go and stay with relatives, having to get hotel rooms,” said Mullin. “My people were priced out of a lot of properties and it caused a lot of distress in their lives because they got very, very desperate.”
Real estate experts have a few recommendations for prospective tenants who are not having success in finding rental properties.
First, they suggest looking outside the top choice community. The wider the search, the better the chances of finding a property. Secondly, would-be renters should be flexible and fast. If they like the property and can afford it, act quickly. Finally, housing professionals recommend you reevaluate your rental budget. They suggest starting your search at a lower price point, might allow for more financial flexibility to offer more than the asking price, if needed.
Blumenfeld did eventually find a rental property in Stamford. She said that she did end up paying more than she had planned; which came as no surprise.
“I know I’m not the only one because those prices are the same prices for everyone,” Blumenfeld.