What Renters Don’t Know

I remember what it was like to be a renter in my twenties. I watched the rent creep up each year and worried about how I would afford it. I also knew so many things about my space were beyond my control. I was stuck with the appliances and the mediocre finishes because the apartment I lived in was not mine. At the time, I also was completely unaware of what it would be like to buy a property and what I should be doing to plan for becoming a property owner.

If my parents had not encouraged me to buy a condo in my late twenties, I am not sure the thought would have occurred to me at the time. My parents are Jamaican immigrants who I admire so much for achieving the American dream despite various obstacles. Homeownership and responsible money management were always something they took very seriously. They knew I should not rent long-term well before I did, and they were happy and able to help me with the down payment on my first home. When I look back on those years I think about what I did not know as a renter and how many renters lack the information they need to make the best financial decisions before they are ready to buy. Now, as a Realtor, when I meet with renters for a counselling session they either want to buy soon or they are thinking of buying in the next few years. There are a few things that many are surprised to learn:

Renters can get my assistance to negotiate rents and renewal lease terms even if I was not engaged to secure the rental. I offer this service at no cost.

Landlords in Fairfield County consider many factors when it is time to renew a lease. They tend to want to keep current tenants in place as long as they pay on time and take care of the property. They also know that there is a risk of having 2-3 weeks of vacancy if a tenant moves out. This does not mean that landlords will not raise rents for tenants that are in place. However, it does mean that they are responsive to what the market for rentals is like when leases have to be renewed and they make decisions accordingly. When I advise renters on how to respond to proposed rental increases, I am able to provide the renter and landlord with facts about the current rental market and discern if an increase is justified. In a market where rents are improving, I can generally negotiate rents to stay the same or I can negotiate a rent that does not reflect the full market increase for comparable properties. Accordingly, if the market demand is declining and rents are going down, I can often negotiate a decrease in rent for tenants that are in place.

Middle and upper middle class renters often qualify for first-time home buyer programs.

These programs are not just for low-income residents. There are many good loan products for first-time buyers that offer reduced interest rates and savings on loan costs. May also offer low down payment options, which can allow you to buy sooner rather than later and lock in the low interest rates that we are currently experiencing. In our currently market, many condo owners have a lower monthly housing cost than renters in similar sized spaces. I help renters explore and compare the various first-time home buyer options offered by banks and also through the FHA (Federal Housing Authority) and HDF (Housing Development Fund) programs.

Buying a property in Fairfield County still affords you the opportunity to move quickly.

Of course, it is a bit easier to move if you rent versus buy. However, if you own, moving is not as difficult as many people think. We are so lucky to live in Fairfield County. We have a very strong rental market. It is fairly easy for a Realtor to rent out any property at market value and if you are really in a hurry you can rent it below market value and have basically no vacancy losses. I generally rent properties in 2-3 weeks and most or all of my owner’s expenses are covered by the tenant even when we experience the weaker rental markets. Selling a small property (especially condos) can also happen relatively quickly, and on average in about 3-4 months. I advise my clients to secure properties that have the features and locations that most buyers and renters want, so renting out and selling these properties quickly is not a huge challenge unless we are in an extreme economic downturn; and even then, you have the choice to rent or sell. Usually, one choice is better than the other and affords you the option to move with minimized risk.

I offer free counselling sessions to help people prepare for a variety of lifestyle options including, renting, buying, investing, selling, downsizing or moving into assisted living. It is never too early to start planning, so call for an appointment or let me know if you know anyone who needs assistance.

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