Hardest Places to Rent in Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

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Patty Cox wants to rent a house, but she’s out of luck.

She needs something pet-friendly for her two dogs and a safer place than the part of town where she lives with her two teenage daughters.

“They had a shootout the other night where bullets went through people’s doors and windows,” she said. “Basically, I would like to be in the country somewhere, where I don’t have so many neighbors, where there aren’t that many people. “

She looked on Zillow, Trulia and Craig’s List, and she posted on Facebook pages. She recently asked on a social media page for renters and landlords if anyone had been lucky enough to find rentals, and all but one said no.

Rental properties are in high demand. In fact, the competition is so fierce that it drives up rents; Nationally, rents have increased by nearly 10% in the first six months of 2021. In some places the market is so tight that people are bidding above the rental price in order to get the only one. location available.

In Pennsylvania, big cities and their surrounding suburbs and towns will have the most rental property battles, according to Brian Carberry, senior editor of Apartment Guide and Rent.com.

“The more urban you are in terms of demographics, the more people there are, the more demand and the less supply,” Carberry said. “In Pennsylvania, the areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are the hottest, and some neighborhoods in those areas will be more in demand, and some cities outside of those areas will also be hot.”

The slowdown in housing construction after the recession created a housing shortage across the country – for landlords and renters, but that’s only part of what is fueling this rental frenzy. The low stock of homes for sale forces more people to sign a lease than a mortgage. Added to this is the moratorium on evictions, which lasted throughout the pandemic until just a few days ago, taking the lives of some homeowners.

“The government has let down owners and tenants,” said Greg Wertman, president of HAPCO Philadelphia, an association of owners and managers of residential investments and rental properties.

Failure, for him, is how the moratorium on evictions worked. His association is made up mostly of low to moderate income homeowners, and most of them are small family farms with one or two buildings they manage. It has lost 600 members since the start of the pandemic; real estate swimmers buy most of these properties and turn them into residential properties.

Landlords have absorbed the cost of non-paying tenants through the moratorium, and although the government says they can get some of that money back, repayment requires tenants – some who have moved – to approve this assistance.

“The media and others are saying, ‘Hey, there’s all this money homeowners can get and regenerate themselves. You don’t get everything back. It will never happen, ”Wertman said.

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The short list

Tammy Strickland helps manage approximately 250 rental properties in York and Adams counties for multiple owners, and she only has three rentals available over the next few months. For every lease she has, five to 10 people have requested the space.

“It’s probably the lowest I’ve seen on our list in the 11 years I’ve been here,” said Strickland, Leasing Manager and Realtor at Ginny L. Reichart Realty in Hanover.

“People are not moving like they normally do, due to COVID, and some owners are selling their properties because the properties are selling. They can get their property at a higher price than they did two years ago. It’s a sellers market, ”she said.

Carberry has seen this trend, but is warning homeowners to keep their property, if they can, as those properties will provide stable income and create equity.

The question of supply and demand

It is still unclear what the end of the eviction moratorium will do to the rental market.  Will there be a change or an opening for more spaces, as people hire roommates or move in with their families.

“The demand simply exceeds supply,” Zillow economist Alexandra Lee said.

The moratorium has pressed the pause button in the lower-cost rental market, but when there is an influx of supply, prices are likely to come down, she said.

Zillow predicts 260,000 evictions will take place nationwide over the next few months, she said, but she expects some landlords and tenants to work under informal agreements. Evictions are costly, time consuming and stressful for both parties. The impact of these evictions on the housing market is unclear, she said.

The pandemic has also created a change in housing: telecommuting has created the possibility for owners to move away from their employer. They were looking for more space inside and outside their home, and they wanted better rental prices.

“Affordability is part of the equation, but implicitly it’s more space, more bang for your buck,” Lee said. The pandemic has pushed back the timelines for people considering a move and in some cases it has completely changed their preferences, she said.

Even before the pandemic, a shift had taken place away from costly coastal hotspots, like New York City, San Francisco and San Jose.

“They saw a sharp slowdown during the pandemic,” Lee said. When workers were given the opportunity to work from home, some left expensive coastal towns and settled inland. The Sun Belt is growing the most in places like Las Vegas, Tampa, and Phoenix.

The fight of a disabled veterinarian

Patty Cox grew up in the mountains of Sullivan County, then moved to Lancaster and joined the military for 10 years. She is now renting a house in York, but it hasn’t been easy. She and her two daughters unwittingly moved to a dangerous area.

“We tried to get away from the trouble and then we feel comfortable. We’ve been in a house for two years, two and a half years, then there’s a shooting, a burglary. We had our house broken into, ”she said.

She is disabled and lives on a fixed income. Her dogs – both a mix of pit bull and rotweiller – are loyal and protective of her and her children, but some owners won’t rent from owners of these breeds.

“My dogs behave well, but some owners don’t see it that way,” she said.

She’s looking for four bedrooms, a country house, and a place to feel safe, for less than $ 1,000.

Advice to tenants

The rental market is currently tight and rental prices are rising.

Homeowners are looking for solid jobs and a steady income, Rent.com’s Carberry said.

“The owners really care about the financial story,” he said. “Evictions are a red flag.”

But a co-signer, roommate, or someone who can guarantee the rent can help appease a worried landlord. Additionally, the landlord asks for a rental price, but a potential tenant may offer something to sweeten the deal, including paying more than the asking price or agreeing to a longer lease.

Kim Strong can be contacted at [email protected]

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