Augusta home rental market reflects impact of housing crisis

Recent housing market produced more renters
Joe DiRenzo, the owner of DiRenzo Properties said people are willing to pay more than in the past for higher-quality rental houses.

 The housing crisis has changed the way Americans look at owning homes, but it has also had an effect on how they look at rentals.

Joe DiRenzo, the owner of DiRenzo Properties, has been renting out properties in Olde Towne for the past six years, and he said the rental market has taken a different tone since the financial crisis of 2008.

A fair amount of his renters have been directly affected by foreclosure, but an even larger amount are shy of home ownership and saving longer before buying a home, he said. This has translated to his average renter having a higher income than in past years and being willing to pay more rent in exchange for higher-quality property.

“If you offer good, clean, safe places, people are willing to pay for that now,” he said. “It’s ideal for a landlord.”

DiRenzo said the higher demand for rental properties has improved the quality of the Olde Towne neighborhood.

His renters are mostly medical students or young professionals, aware of their credit histories and financial reputations.

They are on the path to home ownership, he said, it is just taking them longer than it did their parents.

“They’re definitely nervous,” he said. “It’s just harder all around now.”

Kim Bragg, a broker for Bragg and Asso­ciates in Augusta, said the tough housing market seems to be affecting the supply of rental homes more than the demand. More distressed homeowners are going straight to foreclosure rather than trying to rent their homes out, she said.

“Especially for our military families, it used to be if they couldn’t sell their home after a few years they would start renting it out. Now they’re going straight to foreclosure,” she said.

Banks are so overwhelmed with the number of foreclosures that they are getting backed up, she said, and have less time to negotiate with homeowners.

“People are getting so frustrated they are just walking away,” she said.

Meybohm property management residential property manager Kay Rennison said that in her 20 years, she hasn’t seen so many rental properties and so many renters.

“There’s a higher demand for rental properties; there’s a higher demand for renters,” she said. “It’s a good time to be in property management if you know what you’re doing.”

The standard rate for property management in the Augusta area is 10 percent of each month’s rent. Meybohm has had a dedicated property-management department that has been operating for more than 20 years, she said, but they are seeing new challenges in the current rental market.

In the past, Rennison said, the biggest obstacle was getting renters to pay. Now, more property owners are having difficulty paying, being foreclosed on and finding a new place to live.

“I guess it’s just a sign of the times,” she said. “It’s all doable, though, and we work through it.”

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