The best benefit of renting a home may be calling the landlord when the kitchen faucet springs a leak or a mouse pays a visit to the basement. If only finding a great rental were as easy as picking up the phone. The Main Line area is one of the country’s most competitive rental markets, even hotter than the city of Philadelphia. The Philly suburbs are ranked as the country’s 17th most competitive market for renters, according to the online marketplace RentCafe. Its report analyzed occupancy rates, rental supply, the number of renters competing for each rental property, and rental renewal rates.
The biggest challenge for would-be renters is finding a place they can afford, according to a recent Zillow survey, with 38% of renters saying it’s the most stressful part of their search. That’s not surprising. A survey by Rent.com says rents are up about 21% in the Philadelphia region, averaging about $2,000 a month. According to data from the U.S. Census, the typical renting household has a monthly income after taxes of $3,800 each month, meaning they have to spend more than half their income to keep a roof over their heads.
Roommates and other tried-and-true strategies to share costs are still popular. In the current market, many landlords are giving a break on prices to renters who lock in longer-term leases. At Radwyn Apartments in Bryn Mawr, a 700-square-foot one-bedroom rental goes for $2,400 a month. Sign on the dotted line for 18 months and the rate goes down to $1,875. At Luxor, an amenity-rich apartment complex in Bala Cynwyd, a 774-square-foot one-bedroom apartment with a den starts at $2,054. The community includes enticements like a pool, a sun deck, a parking garage, a dog park, a fitness studio, and a BYOB lounge where residents can build a sense of community.
A survey by rent.com says rents are up about 21% in the Philadelphia region, averaging about $2,000 a month.
In the Zillow survey, 77% of renters say they’re making compromises to keep prices down—like settling for apartments with older appliances. They’re giving up balconies, patios, covered parking and, in some cases, central air conditioning. One in three is renting a unit that’s smaller than they’d like.
Baby boomers who are downsizing and embracing a maintenance-free retirement are a growing part of the rental mix. And many young professionals are approaching leasing as a short-term proposition. “Some people want the flexibility of renting for a year or two, especially if they think they might be moving,” says John Bell of RE/MAX in Chadds Ford. “Or they don’t have a down payment to buy a house and need to save more money.”
Conversely, enterprising homeowners are becoming landlords to meet financial goals as they move to the next stage of life. “We had a situation where the owner rented his house, took the money from the rent, and fixed up the house so he could sell it,” Bell says.