This statistic must bring home the idea that finding the right apartment is more important than ever: “People have spent more time in their apartments during this pandemic than they normally have in a year,” said Frances Williamson, director of SEO and content for Apartments .com That is a finding shared at a recent company meeting. “Isn’t that crazy?”
The good news: Even in the midst of a pandemic, the rental market continues to churn. So if you are thinking of moving or are looking for a new place in Southland or more, here are some tips that will help.
How do I find a new apartment now?
As with most things during this pandemic, the apartment hunt is best done online.
This is the part of the rental process that has changed the most, with landlords – from small building owners to large management companies – offering safe alternatives to finding a new place.
The most popular new method: virtual tour. They take different forms, including a 3-D virtual tour and live video chat with rental agencies walking around the room. Many units currently available for rent offer this online search.
“Many markets have shifted in that direction,” said Evan Raciti, executive vice president of the rental listing company RentHop. “Many owners and proactive agents take it themselves to make online video tours and make sure they can send it to interested tenants.”
If you still want to see the place directly, some landlords have a system to leave the key in the dropbox or with employees on the spot.
“That’s the way to overcome the locking order,” Raciti said. “So the agent isn’t really present.”
Can the whole process be done online?
For most places, yes – and this has proven to be more effective than you think.
According to Williamson, Apartments.com has seen record levels of users since the initial drop in mid-March, with digital content features such as photo units and online messages with prospective owners responsible for massive spikes.
According to a study conducted this month by Apartments.com and real estate research company Kingsley Associates, Williamson said, 53% of the tenants surveyed had toured the apartment almost during the pandemic. And 63% of those who take a virtual tour say it’s enough for them to make a hiring decision.
“The interesting part for me is seeing how comfortable people are with this transition to online,” Williamson said. “I think part of it is reality, circumstances. But there doesn’t seem to be much doubt. “
Rental agencies have also begun to revolve on digital methods such as virtual consulting. And even before the pandemic, more and more apartments have adopted the signing of online leases.
“With people who cannot visit the community as much as possible, do not go alone to fill out applications, the intention to go through the full journey of online tenants has increased,” Williamson said.
Is it easy to find an available unit?
Yes, and somewhat surprised those in the industry.
According to the same study, Williamson said, 40% of those surveyed wanted to move within the next six weeks, more than double the number before the pandemic. Raciti has seen a spike in the list of sublets, a potential indicator that is looking for more tenants to break out of their current agreement.
Most of this, of course, is financially driven. But Williamson believes it could be the result of staying home orders too.
“I think many people are like, ‘Oh, I’m sitting in my apartment, and that makes me ready for change,'” he said.
Whatever the cause, it has kept the rental market moving even when many other parts of the economy are screaming. More than two months in many closures, inventories have remained stable.
“This works at a relatively good level,” Raciti said. “You will be surprised. We see the agreement being finalized.”
How about the price?
According to Raciti, unit prices in general remain stable and can actually be set to go down in the near future.
“Landlords will always try to keep their rents looking good,” he said. “So they won’t want to drop prices right away.”
In contrast, the prevalence of “concession deals” – such as lower security deposits or first month’s free rent – has increased, especially in crowded metropolitan areas.
“But if that doesn’t work,” Raciti said, “you will see an abundant supply in the next few months, and I will imagine we will start to see actual gross rents begin to fall, along with increased incentives. So that could be a good opportunity very good for people who want to move to the city. “
What else should I consider?
For tenants who have expired leases, Raciti suggests looking for short-term extensions.
“Much of this depends on their current situation, but many current owners are more willing than ever to make short-term extensions to leases,” he said. “So if you want to give yourself a little time to think about where you want to land, I would say, reach out to your landlord and say,” Can we do an extension for three months? “
“Get yourself a few months to get more visibility where the market is and you get out there,” Oh, the market is far more profitable for tenants, “and you can get a better deal.”
For those who are ready to move now, it may be necessary to expand your search zone to look into the suburbs if possible – a trend that Williamson said has developed in recent months.
“It’s very interesting to see,” he said. “Maybe it’s because more people are attracted to other places, or because jobs are uncertain, or people protect the pandemic from their home market. But that must be the change we have seen. “
But whatever you do, stay optimistic. Because even at a time when almost everything has to be done online and invisible, there is still a world of options available to tenants who are ready to find a new place before the pandemic ends.