Here are the reasons why renting is so expensive right now

Rent.com named San Antonio as the largest city to make the top 10 list of most affordable cities to rent in. But with inflation, renters are struggling.

SAN ANTONIO — With no other option, renter Trey Brown said his only choice was to stay in his current west-side apartment.

“I’ve been on tours and tours,” he said. 

He still has not made a move, even after an eight-month search.

“The price is much higher, but square footage is much lower,” Brown said.

Even re-signing his lease came at a cost.

“When I renewed, my price went up $300,” Brown said.

Rent.com shows San Antonio renters are paying almost 20% more for an apartment compared to a year ago.  

“That’s a significant increase for a lot of people who are really struggling to make ends meet right now with inflation costs up, gas prices up, food costs up,” said Brian Carberry, the senior managing editor at Rent.com. “Really, everything is more expensive right now and rent is no exception.”

Driving up costs are a number of factors. Short supply is the biggest. Right now, 93% of the city’s rentals are full, so landlords can charge premium prices. Part of that is COVID supply chain issues made getting building materials difficult, so new units were not being built.

“We couldn’t get paint, just various different things that you don’t realize how much goes into building a property: lumber, glass, things like that,” said Celine Williams, interim executive director for the San Antonio Apartment Association. “Really, if there are delays in that, it’s going to delay the project and all of those different things go into building a new property or even renovating a property.”

The 2021 February winter storm damaged many rentals, making them unlivable.

“With the ice storm, a lot of properties had down units for multiple months,” said Lisa Pegues, regional manager with Apartments Now! rental locator. 

High mortgage rates also are stopping renters from buying homes, keeping them in apartments longer.

“I think people have been priced out of buying single-family homes, so sometimes you’ll have those that choose to rent for a period of time until they purchase a home,” said Williams. “Because housing prices have gone up so much, interest rates have gone up so much, you have people that are choosing to rent longer than what they intended.”

“Mortgage rates are still a little bit high,” Carberry said. “So we’re not really seeing that shift yet from renters looking to buy again. But as the housing market cools off and prices come down, I do think you’re going to start to see the rental market kind of follow suit. I still think that we’re a few months away from truly seeing the impact of that.”

Then there is inflation. Property taxes rose along with the price of many other items and services like landscaping and pest control. Salaries for property employees also increased. Those are costs landlords pass on to tenants. The San Antonio Apartment Association found property taxes, insurance plus repair and maintenance costs were the main drivers of price increases.

“Rents do have to go up in order to sustain and maintain the property and provide the residents the best service that we can,” said Williams.

But, San Antonio is still one of the most affordable cities to live in. 

Data shows a one-bedroom apartment will cost you on average about $1,000. That is fairly affordable compared to other Texas cities. Dallas is $1,200 and Austin is $1,500. Closer to home, Alamo Heights is $1,900 and New Braunfels is $1,100. Nationally, the price is $1,375. 

“Rents have increased in San Antonio just like they have all over the nation, but San Antonio has always been one of the most affordable cities in the nation and still remains one of the most affordable not only in the state, but throughout the United States,” Williams said.

It can be hard to get a discount on rent, but here are insider tips to get a deal:

Use an apartment locator. It is a free service.

“Don’t waste your time driving around because all you will do is waste gas and time,” Pegues said. “Everybody can tell you that they’re full, nothing is available, or the prices are not going to be what you’re looking for.”

Move now. 

Summer is the busy season for rentals. Rent dips a bit during the off-season in fall and winter.

“We’ve seen some properties that their prices have gone down like $5, $10, $15, but, hey, it’s a little bit,” Pegues said.

“Usually we will see kind of stabilization during the winter months,” Williams said. “Usually in the summer is when people are moving and trying to relocate before school starts, but when school starts and the holidays come, people are usually not wanting to move during that time, so the demand is a little bit lower. You’ll see the price go down.”

Look for new properties offering move-in specials.

“There are new properties a lot of times that will do concessions like new move-in concessions,” Williams said. “If you see a brand new property that was just built or maybe renovated, a lot of times they have several apartments that are available. They may do a lease special or a move-in concession or various different things to try to help get occupancy up quickly. There are deals to be had because the winter months are usually our slowest months.”

Cancel your gym membership if the property has one to save.

“Properties have fitness centers and pools and all types of amenities,” Williams said. “So look at amenities when you’re looking at properties. If you’re paying for a gym membership and that’s included in your rent, then maybe you can cancel your gym membership because you have a property that has an awesome gym”

Find a roommate to split the rent.

“This can really help shave the cost of your rent, but also those monthly bills you’re paying,” said Andrea Woroch, a smart saving expert.

Negotiate your lease renewal rate at your current rental. 

Landlords want to keep good tenants.

“Talk to your property manager,” Williams said. “A lot of times there may be something that a property can do. There may be a special that they know of or a unit that became available if you’re wanting to downsize. … It costs us more money to turn a unit. We don’t want to lose tenants.”

Pay your rent several months in advance.

“Ask for a lower amount because the landlord may be more willing to give you a discount if they secure your payment in advance,” Woroch said.

Sign a two-year lease.

See if the landlord will give you the same rent price for both years.

“If you can do that and you can convince your landlord to lock in on today’s rate for next year, you’re going to save money a year from now,” Carberry said.

Pegues said currently more apartments do have units available because tenants who moved to San Antonio during the pandemic will need to return to the office in January 2023. Some companies are paying to break their leases so tenants can move back near their homes office.

Brown said he is not giving up on finding the perfect place or price.

“As far as the search, I look all the time,” he said.

His apartment may not be the ideal home, but right now he is happy to have it.

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