Renters in some areas, such as Austin, Texas, find themselves in bidding wars
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Add housing to the list of things that got more expensive last year. And that's trickled down to the rental market. Prospective renters in some areas such as Austin, Texas, have found themselves in bidding wars. Now, that's something that's unheard of just a few years ago. The real estate listing company Zillow predicts that Austin will soon be the least affordable city outside of California, of course. Here's Audrey McGlinchy of member station KUT with the story.
AUDREY MCGLINCHY, BYLINE: This past summer, Elisa Regulski was getting desperate. The lease on her apartment was days away from ending. And after putting in half a dozen applications on rental homes, the 29-year-old still didn't have a place to move to. It started affecting her mental health.
ELISA REGULSKI: I just wasn't sleeping very well. If you were to ask my friends, they would say that was pretty much all I was talking about for that month.
MCGLINCHY: Then Regulski got advice typically doled out to would-be homebuyers in Austin's booming for-sale housing market. Offer to pay more than the asking price.
REGULSKI: Our realtor was basically saying that the trends were going that people were bidding maybe 200 to $300 over rent a month, and that was shocking.
MCGLINCHY: Regulski, who was looking to rent with her fiancé, found a house for $1,800 a month. Frantic to lock it down, they offered to pay $200 more a month. In exchange, they got a year-long lease.
REGULSKI: Oof, it feels like a scam. I mean, it feels like it's just artificially inflating the worth of the market. And I don't know how it gets back down to what it's worth.
MCGLINCHY: Down is not the direction housing prices in Austin will likely go. Since the start of 2021, the average rent in Austin has risen nearly 20% to $1,500 a month.
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MCGLINCHY: Just north of downtown, workers nail together the frame of a new house. Cody Carr is the builder overseeing construction. He says in the past year, it's been hard to build as many homes as he normally would. The problem? Local regulations, labor shortages and supply chain issues.
CODY CARR: We've gotten notice today on this house that the windows might not be here for another three weeks. And we're going to be ready for them in about a week.
MCGLINCHY: In the meantime, that's one less home for sale. Experts say that bottleneck is partly why housing prices are skyrocketing. By one count, Austin added 33,000 more jobs than homes in the past decade. Carr says the demand is so high, some buyers are looking up building permits and showing up to his construction sites.
CARR: They're giving their card to people working on site, asking, hey, when will this be done? How much is it going to be? How can we lock it in today?
MCGLINCHY: That pressure is being felt across living rooms in Austin. Rosario Valencia has tried to make hers tranquil, filling it with potted plants.
ROSARIO VALENCIA: Those are my babies.
MCGLINCHY: They're beautiful.
VALENCIA: No, they are not.
Valencia lives with her sister. The two grew up in Colombia and immigrated to the States decades ago. They both earn hourly pay at a rehab facility. But stretching the money they make became harder when the rent on their two-bedroom apartment jumped by $300 a month this fall.
VALENCIA: I told the lady, I'm sorry, I got to move because I don't have money to pay that rent.
MCGLINCHY: But when Valencia looked at other apartments in the area, she couldn't find anything cheaper. So for now, she says, they'll stay put, spending nearly half of their monthly income on rent.
For NPR News, I'm Audrey McGlinchy in Austin.
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