San Antonio is truly a wonderful place to live, and it seems that the rest of the country is taking notice. In the past five years alone, the Alamo City has experienced an exciting population growth of 7%...nearly twice the national rate! A rising job market, a low cost of living, and a unique sense of culture truly make this city stand out. And, surprisingly, retirees and families aren’t the only demographics attracted to San Antonio’s charm. Forbes recently reported that from 2010-2013, San Antonio’s greatest population increase has come from millennials (almost a 10% increase). If you know anything about millennials and the housing market, you know that they are often very cautious when it comes to homeownership. Many prefer to rent a property (or even live at home) for several years before daring to set foot in the housing market. This is most likely due to the “recession mindset” that was prevalent in their early adult years. So where are these 300,000 (and counting) millennials living in San Antonio? Most are searching for and settling into rental properties throughout the city.
Whether you’re one of these millennials or not, how do you choose what type of property best suits you? Do you start searching for a house? What about an apartment? What are the pros/cons of each? 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 decision-making process.
Pros and Cons: Renting a Home from a Landlord
Pro: Direct relationship with the owner
When you rent a home, you are often put in close relationship with the owner/landlord of the property. Working directly with a landlord can “humanize” the lease, and often they are much more understanding than a leasing office when it comes to rules and policies.
Pro: Flexible policies
Because a landlord is often working on a case-by-case basis, there usually aren’t as many strict “blanket policies.” They are often much more understanding and willing to talk through potential issues with you. For example, whereas many apartment complexes don’t allow tenants to apply paint to the walls, landlords are often more prone to allow changes on a case-by-case basis.
Pro: Landlord may be willing to negotiate prices
While this is not always the case, individual landlords don’t usually have to stick with one standard price. Depending on the situation, you can often negotiate with the owner to come up with a fair, reasonable price.
Pro: Yard and garage space
One of the biggest perks of renting a stand-alone house is the yard space. If you have pets, several vehicles, or a desire to entertain, houses are often much more conducive to tenants who spend more time outdoors. This is why rental homes often appeal to families with children who like to spend time outside.
Pro: Greater sense of privacy
This one is obvious! Because rental homes stand apart from other units, they offer a much greater sense of privacy and ownership. Even when apartments have thick walls, it’s impossible not to notice loud music, stomping upstairs, or rowdy neighbors.
Con: Longer wait for repairs and updates.
Unfortunately, because rental homes don’t have an on-site staff, repairs and updates can take a bit longer. Landlords don’t usually have 24-hour maintenance crews like some apartment complexes.
Con: Landlord may be more thrifty with expenses
Landlords often only manage a handful of properties. Unlike apartment complexes, which have a larger revenue and more funds to update units, landlords tend to be thriftier when it comes to appliances, repairs, etc. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it may mean you have to wait a few months for the landlord to find the best quote or deal.
Con: Backyard means yard work
While having a backyard may be extremely attractive to you, the upkeep and maintenance of a yard can be tedious. Unless you work out a deal with your landlord prior to leasing, the responsibility of landscaping, mowing, etc. can fall on you.
Con: More expensive utilities
It’s a simple fact that rental homes are often larger and have more wallspace exposed to the outdoors. Unlike apartments, which are insulated by other units on either side (and sometimes above and below), homes are less energy efficient for the individual. Cooling and heating your home will most likely cost more if you’re renting a home.
Pros and Cons: Renting an Apartment from a Leasing Office
Pro: Prompt service and maintenance
Apartments (especially larger complexes) will often have a maintenance man or crew on-call 24 hours a day. If something breaks, comes loose, or isn’t functioning properly, you are usually able to get it repaired fairly quickly if you follow the proper protocol.
Pro: Professional leasing office/property manager
When renting an apartment, you almost exclusively have to go through a leasing office and property manager. A property manager is usually skilled in the areas of management, accounting, business administration, and property law, among others. Many have an actual certification in property management. Because of this level of professionalism, a leasing office will likely be more helpful and rational, even when potential problems arise.
Pro: Provided yard care and landscaping
Because most apartments don’t have private backyards, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of mowing, landscaping, or any other various forms of yard upkeep. If your apartment complex does have a common outdoor area or courtyard, the management will usually take care of upkeep so you don’t have to!
Pro: Lower monthly utilities
Unlike rental homes, apartments are usually part of a larger building structure, meaning much less of your unit is actually exposed to the summer heat or winter frost. Because of this level of insulation, utility costs are generally much lower for apartment renters.
Pro: Apartment amenities
Often, to improve quality of life and resident satisfaction, apartment complexes offer a wide variety of amenities...from simple to luxury. Common perks include fitness centers, pools, and common areas. Other apartments may also provide a coffee bar, concierge service, sauna, and community gardens, among others.
Con: Property manager is the middle man
As a tenant in an apartment complex, you almost never have access to the actual owner of the property. The property manager is the one you’ll work with, and he or she usually won’t own the apartment complex. This means that apartment’s rules are likely to be stricter than a rental home’s, where you have a more personal connection with a landlord. Many other tenants are facing the same rules, so you are less likely to convince a leasing office to “make an exception” for things like interior painting, pet policies, late rent fees, etc.
Con: Little or no private outdoor space
One of the biggest differences between apartments and homes for rent is the amount of private outdoor space. Whether you have pets, children, or guests to entertain, having your own backyard is always an attractive perk in a rental property. Thankfully, apartments often have common spaces or playgrounds to make this fact a little more bearable.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to apartments and homes for rent in the San Antonio area. If you’re currently deciding whether to buy or rent, you may want to read 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! Contact a REALTOR® to discuss which is right for you.