Renting compassion plea.
Renting compassion, not gouging,
Renting a home is unaffordable for many in neighborhoods like West Highland.
Diana Gray understands that rental rates and home prices have risen at a fast clip in Denver, especially in hot neighborhoods like West Highland, where she and her husband have been renting a home for the past 5.5 years.
When they decided to move to North Carolina to be closer to her husband’s family, she decided to help out her landlord by posting a notice about the rental home that would become available in December.
She had no idea of the heart-breaking stories she would hear after posting the notice on Nextdoor, a social media neighborhood site.
“I was not expecting that almost every person who contacted me to have a story,” the 35-year-old Gray said on Sunday.
She has received 30-40 emails from people of all ages and demographics, many of them being forced out of their current rental home because of significant rental rate increases.
One family of four is paying $1,600 a month for a basement apartment that floods and has mice.
A retired, disable woman living near Jefferson Park is concerned that her lease will not be renewed in January, because she has complained about the condition of her apartment and now fears she will become homeless.
She heard from people who have lived in the neighborhood for 10 or 15 years and “want so desperately to be able to stay,” but can no longer afford the rent.
On a personal level, she has a friend who was paying $1,000 a month for an efficiency apartment on West 32nd Avenue. When she left, the landlord immediately raised the rent to $1,500.
Indeed, the house next to the 3-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot ranch-style home they are renting for $1,275 is being rented for $2,600 a month, even though it is slightly smaller than their rental home, according to public records.
Gray asked that the exact address of the home they are renting not be published. She gave the owner several names of people interested in it and he has rented it to someone who will replace them when they leave next month.
Records show the current owner paid $226,000 for the home in 2003, while the owner of the home next door paid $240,000 in 2102.
She heard so many heart-breaking stories that it inspired her to make a second post on Nextdoor, asking people renting their homes to show compassion and not gouge renters, just because they can.
Dozens of people responded, most of them praising her, although some took her to task, indicating there is nothing wrong with a landlord requesting and getting the market rent.
After all, a willing buyer and a willing seller coming to terms is the classic definition of a free market.
And she understands that landlord’s expenses rise and those costs need to be passed on.
“Somebody mentioned that property taxes are going up,” said Gray, who is trained as a teacher and currently is working in the food industry.
She not only understands, but has experienced that firsthand.
Her landlord called them when his property taxes went up and reluctantly told them he needed to raise his rent by $50 a month when the lease renewed.
In fact, he has never raised it by more than $50 a month, since they initially signed an 18-month lease.
They are grateful that he never charged them the full market rent.
“We’ve wondered and held our breath over the years, worrying that every time our lease renewed each year that our rent would skyrocket and we would have to move out,” Gray said.
Despite all the bad press landlords get, many of them will give financial breaks to good, long-term tenants, as it is risky and expensive to roll the dice with a new renter.
Gray doesn’t expect landlords to give their properties away.
“I don’t think you have to low-ball your own self, but I’m thinking if you can price it a couple hundreds of dollars below the market, it would be greatly appreciated and shows that you are at least conscious of what is going on,” Gray said.
She also is aware that each owner’s situation may be different, as their cost basis can greatly vary for a similar home.
“If you bought two or three years ago, you might have paid $500,000 or more for a home, and you have to charge a lot if you are now renting it,” Gray said.
“But if you bought the home 10 years ago, your mortgage is probably low enough that you don’t have to charge $2,600 a month, just because you can get it,” she said.
West Highland, the new Wash Park
Initially, she was a big fan of how West Highland was becoming the new Washington Park.
“At first, I thought it was a really great thing,” Gray said. “I mean, you look at Wash Park and how beautiful the neighborhood is and how beautiful Washington Park itself is. I thought wouldn’t that be great if Sloan’s Lake was kept up that nicely and the neighborhood became a well-kept family area like Wash Park.”
But she is concerned that change and housing appreciation came too quickly to northwest Denver neighborhoods.
“They started tearing down homes and building bigger homes,” which changed the character of the neighborhood, she said, driving up the prices of smaller, rental homes that could be torn down and replaced with bigger, more expensive homes.
In fact, one of her former neighbor’s bought the rental duplex immediately west of her home and east of his primary home, because he feared that it would be sold to a developer that would replace it with something not to his liking.
Does she think that when it comes time to sell a home that you should also show compassion to the would-be buyer?
“It all depends on the owner,” she said.
Some people, she noted, are moving to a bigger home or building a home and financially they need to maximize their profits.
On the other hand, she has friends in the neighborhood who had a bidding war for their home and ended up selling it to a family that wrote them a letter, telling them how much they loved the home and they appreciated the opportunity to raise their family there.
“They sold it to them, even though they received higher offers. So it does happen.”
Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. DenverRealEstateWatch.com is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.