rent costs

How to Navigate Increasing Rent Costs in North Texas

This comes as COVID relief funding for rental assistance is starting to wane

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The City of Dallas Rent Relief Program will be closing its rent assistance program application portal to new applications starting on May 22.

The program has been using CARES Act money to help people cover rent during the toughest parts of the pandemic.

City officials said they will stop accepting applications because of funding limitations and the high volume of applications they've already received so far.

“With the closure of the application period, we will not be able to accept any new applications at this time," the city said in a statement to NBC 5. "We will still process those already received and provide services so long as funding allows. We expect to offer a new application period in the future once we receive additional funds."

The Rent Relief Program will continue to process applications that have already been submitted prior to May 22, in accordance with Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA) prioritization requirements. 

The program provides rental assistance to households that earn below 50% of the area median income, $43,850 for a family of three, or in which one or more members of the household are unemployed and have been for 90 or more days. The city considers eviction status when assigning cases for processing.

Applications submitted by May 22, 2022, will be prioritized according to these criteria and then in order of receipt. The City of Dallas is working to expand partnerships to increase processing speed and capacity. 

Applicants can visit the program website here and click “Check App Status” at the bottom of the page. Applicants will need their ERAP number in order to check their status.

RENT STICKER SHOCK

As early pandemic-era relief money runs out for various programs across the country, inflation and demand are continuing to put a strain on people’s wallets.

According to the latest census data, DFW racked up the largest population gain in the country over the last two years.

"Rent is higher than we have ever seen in the Dallas metro area,” said Amanda Pendleton, a home trends expert for real estate website Zillow. “Rents are now 18% higher than they were just a year ago. So that's outperforming even what we're seeing on a national level.”

Many people are turning to sites like Zillow to help them not only research what homes are for sale in the hot North Texas market but also where to find cheaper rent and apartments that fit their needs.

Pendleton said with so many people are moving to Texas, the demand is driving up prices. And because there is only a 3% vacancy rate for apartments, the competition is fierce.

"It is a very challenging time out there for renters and they're being forced to make a lot of different compromises, which can be difficult,” Pendleton said. “Right now, renters just don't have a lot of room to negotiate on rents.”

The average apartment rent in Dallas just topped $1,500 last month for the first time ever, causing many to get priced out of their apartments as renewals come up.

So if you're one of those starting from scratch on the search for a cheaper place, here are some tips to help you get an edge over the competition:

SET A BUDGET AND UNDERSTAND RENTAL MARKET TRENDS

According to Zillow’s Consumer Housing Trends Report, 81% of renters say finding a rental within their initial budget is the most important factor in choosing a home.

Before starting their search, renters should know what they can afford and arm themselves with information to feel confident they are getting a fair deal.

“Understand what you can afford. So use a rent affordability calculator to set your budget early, and then understand what your rental market looks like. Do your research,” said Pendleton.

Search online for rent affordability calculators that match your budget so you can know what rent rage to shoot for while searching.

USE TECHNOLOGY FOR THE SEARCH PROCESS

Utilize online tools like 3D tours and online floor plans for the properties.

This can help you narrow down the properties you want to see in person or it can help you start submitting applications quickly so that you don’t lose out on a unit.

“In today's rental market, landlords are going to be getting applications from multiple prospective tenants," said Pendleton. "There's going to be a lot of competition for every single unit out there."

Zillow’s survey showed 43% of renters surveyed in 2021 agreed they wasted time during their home search visiting properties they would have skipped had they understood the floor plan before visiting the home.

WATCH OUT FOR APPLICATION FEES

With that said, highly competitive markets like DFW mean people will probably be submitting multiple applications. At $50 or more for each application, the costs can add up.

“Chances are if you're diving into the rental market right now, you're going to have to submit several applications," said Pendleton. "Sometimes up to 10 or a dozen applications before you're finally accepted to a home and that's even if you're a well-qualified tenant."

According to Zillow’s survey, 61% of all renters applied for two or more properties in 2021. Black and Latinx renters typically submit three applications and are almost twice as likely as white renters to submit five or more applications during their search.

Some real estate sites have programs where people can apply online for an unlimited number of properties for a flat fee. Zillow’s applications program charge $29 and lasts 30 days of unlimited applications for participating properties.

NEGOTIATE WHERE YOU CAN

Pendleton said there are some areas you can potentially negotiate on while signing a new lease.

“I think it doesn't hurt to ask your landlord if they'd be willing to move on, you know, pet fees for parking fees or gym fees, you know some of these amenities that are add ons," she said. "There may be more flexibility there."

Another way to save money might be looking at the length of the lease.

"If you know you're going to be somewhere for two or three years, by offering to sign a longer lease, not only are you going to lock in that rent and you're not going to have to pay those annual increases, but you're going to be a more appealing applicant,” said Pendleton.

The strain on the rental market might not be ending any time soon.

Richardson-based Real Page said developers are trying to keep up with building new apartments but completions have been pushed into 2023 because the pandemic paused construction start times in 2020.

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