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Rentals outpace ownership

Buyers scarce, despite low housing prices

POSTED: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Despite low prices for houses, more people are renting now.

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With the economy effecting everything from gas prices to grocery shopping, many people have made changes in anticipation of a recession.

And here in Hall County, the economy has not only affected how people live but where they live.

"The rental market is starting to rebound," said Frank Norton Jr., president of the Norton Agency, explaining that many in the area are choosing to rent instead of buy homes. "Occupancy is up."

There are a few reasons why more people are renting.

"There are folks who are being displaced from their housing because of foreclosure as well as folks who are staying in the rental market until they understand a little bit better what’s happening in the housing market," Norton said.

Jack Waldrip, the owner of Jack Waldrip Real Estate, said he has seen people having more difficulty making their rental payments with the slower economy.

"The market all the way around is slow," Waldrip said.

Jill Payne, a leasing agent with the Norton Agency, said she has seen both a high number of people interested in renting and a high inventory of rental properties.

She said she rents a variety of rental properties but has rented more three bedroom, two bathroom homes than usual.

These houses typically cost between $850 and $1,000 a month to rent and "that’s a typical price range most people can afford," she said. "It’s reasonable to get a nice home under $1,000."

Because the supply and demand for rental housing is fairly level, there has not been a huge increase or decrease in the price of rent.

"I haven’t seen an increase in rental rates yet," Norton said, but predicted that they could go up by the end of the summer if the demand for rental housing continues.

"We haven’t really increased the rents because there is such a high inventory so we are having to be competitive," Payne said.

Waldrip said that the supply of houses available for rent increased with the number of people looking to rent. Builders who can not sell new homes are willing to rent them instead of letting them sit vacant, and families in danger of foreclosure are choosing to rent as well.

"There’s more product on the market for rent," Waldrip said.

"A lot of people call me about renting their house because they can’t sell it," Kara Patton, a property manager with the Simpson Co. said. "More people are renting than buying."

Norton said there may be more of an interest in Hall County within the next year and a half for building more apartment complexes and other multifamily units.

Hall County is in a slightly different position than other Georgia counties because the supply of homes is closer to the demand of people.

Counties such as Forsyth and Gwinnett built more new housing recently and have more available homes than people.

"We don’t have the oversupply," Norton said.

Waldrip said that some markets in areas such as Florida and California are "overbuilt" and "have been hit a lot harder than we have. But this area’s been hit a lot harder than people realize."

With so many people finding themselves in hard times right now, does the current housing market help anyone?

"It’s benefitting smart people with money who can take advantage of the market confusion," Norton said.

Norton predicted that it will be the middle of next year before the housing market improves.



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