In the past several years, San Antonio has been attracting many new residents! A rising job market, a low cost of living, and a unique sense of culture truly make this city stand out...and the rest of the country is taking notice! USAA, Rackspace, Joint Military Base San Antonio, and South Texas Medical Center are just a few of the employers who have been attracting San Antonio’s recent growth! Last year, Forbes named San Antonio the 4th fastest growing city in the state of Texas. Our new residents represent almost every demographic...millennials, retirees, families, and everything in between. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, San Antonio saw more millennial growth in recent years than any other major city in the country!
In light of this recent growth, the ever-tightening housing inventory makes complete sense! Many new residents are buying homes, and the spike in the local economy has allowed a good deal of renters to move to homeownership.
But what if you’re not ready to buy a house? When moving to a new city, many brand-new residents prefer to rent before buying, even if just for a year. This decision allows a little more time to scope out the feel of the city, possible neighborhoods, and consider all options before jumping into such a big commitment. Studies show that millennials are especially prone towards caution when it comes to buying a home...most likely due to the recession mindset that still haunts many twenty-somethings.
If you’re currently having a tough time deciding if you should buy or rent, check out our recent blog “Should I Buy a Home or Continue to Rent?" There are many factors to consider, including age, education, professional aspirations, marital status, financial pros and cons, convenience, etc. If you’re unsure whether buying or renting makes more sense for you financially, you can use our easy “Rent or Buy Calculator” to help estimate which saves you more money!
So if you do decide to rent, how do you find the house that fits you best? The rental game can seem like a jungle, especially in a city as big as San Antonio. Below, we’ve outlined some of our collective wisdom to help you navigate the process of renting a home.
1. Do your neighborhood research
If you’re one of these new or soon-to-be residents we described earlier, chances are you aren’t very familiar with San Antonio and all its neighborhoods yet. Each city’s layout, demographics, and area vibes are so unique...how do you find out which neighborhood fits you? The last thing you want is to find a great house online and jump into a lease...only to find out that you’ve made a 12-month commitment to live in a not-so-great neighborhood. Several websites can prove of key importance when scoping out potential areas:
- Neighborhood Scout: This website is a well of information related to neighborhoods, including overviews of demographics, schools, crime rates, etc.
- City-Data: Another demographic-related website, City Data lays out extensive information on neighborhoods and zip codes, from population to education levels.
-Walk Score: Discover the walkability of different zip codes, including sidewalks, ease of public transportation, and proximity to things like nightlife and grocery stores.
2. Utilize specialty websites and databases
The Internet’s role in real estate has grown exponentially in the last 20 years! Chances are, if you’re looking for a rental home, you’ve been doing most of your research online. But where do you start? We recommend checking out databases like Rent Jungle, For Rent, Apartments.com, Hot Pads, ForRentByOwner.com, or local classifieds like those on the My San Antonio page. Another interesting resource is Sabbatical Homes! This website is considered “the academic community's resource for home exchange, home rental...etc.”
3. Don’t fall for rental scams
While roaming on the vast landscape of Internet listings, it’s absolutely necessary that you watch out for rental scams! Thieves can create fake listings that sneakily exploit your credit cards, social security, and more. So how do you know the difference between the real thing and a con game? Here are a few key red flags to watch out for:
- You’re required to wire payments: If the landlord requires you to wire money, you might double check his or her reliability...especially if you have yet to meet them. Once you’ve wired money, you can’t get it back.
- Watch out for a landlord/owner who is conveniently “out of town” when you’re able to meet, especially if they require you to pay for a security deposit before meeting face-to-face.
- Always research the Internet ad and owner thoroughly. If you find the ad listed under a different name or slim to no information on the owner, suspect a scam.
- If the landlord/owner in question asks you to submit a credit report (with personal and financial information) via a specific link, be wary. We recommend only trusting sensitive information to secure sites.
4. Look for houses that aren’t selling
So what if you’ve combed through rental sites and can’t find anything that really seems to suit your personality and situation? Think outside the box...or the rental website! Try searching for homes that aren’t selling on real estate sites like Zillow or Trulia. If you find one you like, it might be worth it to contact the seller and ask if they’d consider renting their property out. If a seller is growing frustrated with the lack of offers or can’t afford a double mortgage, renting could be incredibly beneficial to both of you! This oft-neglected strategy might allow you to find a great house in a neighborhood you love.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth
Although the majority of our research and searching for rental homes seem to be online, one of the most valuable search tools is still networking! Word-of-mouth continues to be a huge help when trying to get ahead in the rental game. Often, with the help of friends, family, and coworkers, your extended network proves to be one of your most valuable assets. We recommend putting the word out to anyone you know and trust. Sometimes, you’ll find a homeowner looking for a tenant. Other times, you’ll hear an important recommendation from someone who’s already leasing. Either way, a friendly connection to a rental property can help cut prices or create a good relationship with your landlord.
6. Talk to an expert
No matter how many internet searches or hours of research you do, an expert will always be able to provide key insight that you aren’t able to find on Trulia or Zillow. We recommend talking to a REALTOR® about your search for a home rental! Our agents have an unparalleled expertise about San Antonio neighborhoods! Contact us today to get connected and start searching for your perfect rental home.