What can you do when you are literally priced out of housing? How can real estate agents and investors do more to help the situation?
While the new real estate rebound has been great for real estate investors, Realtors, and homeowners that were stuck underwater, it has also created new challenges. While it may not be noticed by those at the top, rolling in handsome revenues from house sales and rents, or homeowners that are now feeling flush with equity, many others are finding they are virtually being squeezed out of housing altogether.
Job growth hasn’t been keeping pace, and neither have wages. Rocketing rents, low vacancy rates, and winded credit is making finding housing very difficult for a large percentage of the population. So what can those facing this situation do, and how can professionals help?
Factors Causing the New Housing Crunch
There are a variety of factors creating this new housing ‘crunch,’ including:
Higher home prices
Low rental vacancy rates
Damaged credit ratings
High property taxes
Lack of savings
Toughening rental application processes and landlord demands
Existing homeowners face rising costs that have led to a new round of mortgage delinquencies and defaults. Unfortunately, renting is now far more expensive than owning a home in many parts of the country. When lease renewals come up, or owners are pushed out of homeownership, they find many challenges in trying to find new rentals. Even when they find available units, the institutionalization, and caution of new landlords can mean expensive application fees, and high move-in costs.
Options can be limited even further as communities try to exclude all but the most attractive residents. In many cases, pets are okay and trump individuals. Many units remain empty, as children with families,are shut out. Sadly, as in recent cases in San Diego, CA and in New York, some receiving credits for affordable housing are being sued for discrimination against families and the lower income earners they are supposed to be helping.
What if You Can’t Even Rent a Home Anymore?
While buying is cheap, many just can’t get the credit from banks to buy. Even those with great incomes may be prevented from renting due to old incidents which landed them with misdemeanors, in bankruptcy, or low credit scores, which are sometimes hampered due ot student loans. What options are available to these individuals and parents with kids?
Extended stay hotels
Owner financed homes (with no down payment)
Building their own tiny houses
Occupying distressed homes as short term rentals
All of these can still be expensive. The only hope of a brighter future and getting ahead is building their way back, step by step. However, this does take determination, sacrifice, financial discipline, and a plan. Four ways to get back on track:
Documenting a paper trail of timely housing payments (cancelled checks, or online payments)
Fixing credit with assistance of an attorney, and paying down debt
Forced savings solutions
Finding additional income in freelancing or real estate investment
Taking advantage of down payment assistance programs
Of course it is still hard to do it alone, especially with rents, home prices, interest rates and inflation all heading up, faster than wages.
How Can Real Estate Investors and Professionals Help?
Real estate is a highly lucrative career. Investors and workers shouldn’t feel guilty about being well compensated for an incredibly needed and valuable service.
For those that care, there are actually many ways to help those in need of housing. In addition to distressed homeowners, there are many great buyers and prospective renters out there. Even among those shot down due to poor application processes, which use simple metrics to evaluate applicants, there are many great would be tenants.
For many this is simply a case of being willing to give people a chance, and looking at the whole picture, not just the digits. If someone has criminal history that is simply a one off misdemeanor which doesn’t suggest they will damage your property, this is far different than serial felons, or others. Some cities now even make it illegal to conduct criminal background checks. The same goes for credit. A 700 credit score may not be warranted when looking at the whole credit report. It could be the result of a bankruptcy which was just cleared. In contrast someone with a 480 credit score may have little liabilities, and could just be suffering from having been using cash instead of borrowing. Look at their recent history too. Perhaps they took a hit in the larger crash, but have shown responsibility otherwise.
For those still uncomfortable with these tenants, what about asking for first, last and security, rather than just one month to move in? Or how about a month-to-month lease arrangement which can make it easier to evict if they fall behind? Or if move-in money is the challenge for an otherwise good tenant, how about breaking last and security money into payments? This may actually net real estate investors and landlords higher returns and more net cash flow.
If you are willing to give people a chance then advertise when you are willing to be flexible, or prospective renters will assume you are not, and may just breeze right by your ads. Then there is always investing in affordable housing, building it, or focusing on creating jobs.
The rewards in referrals, loyalty, and property condition, as well as net rents can be sizable.