Tips for finding a place

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The Knoxville real estate market is full of buyers willing to pay far more than the asking price to move into a new home.

But mania doesn’t just affect homebuyers, it makes it difficult for renters to find affordable housing.

Kayla Senor is one of the many new tenants looking for housing this year. She started looking for an apartment a week before graduating from college, hoping to find a place within two weeks. Almost two months later, Senor has secured a place … for the end of August.

According to Apartment List estimates for May 2021, the average rent for an apartment in Knoxville is $ 1,164, an increase of 13% from a year ago and almost 9% more than at the start of 2021. The calculation includes the size of rentals from studio to end. up to four bedrooms.

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Although availability fluctuates, fewer than 100 units in Knoxville are immediately ready to accept tenants in the market, according to announcements on Apartments.com. The Apartment Association of Greater Knoxville reports that 96% of the units are occupied, leaving 4% of the rented units for those who want a place ASAP.

Brandon O’Connor, executive vice president of The Knoxville Apartment Guide, and Michael Cohen, owner of Asset Realty Management, told Knox News they’ve never seen anything like it.

“We’re a little over 40 years in this industry and we’ve seen all the ups and downs in the economy,” O’Connor said. “What we are seeing today is quite a departure from what we have seen in the past in both demand and growth.”

Competition and costs are on the rise

Three things currently define the Knoxville rental market: development, demand and dollars.

Cohen told Knox News that of his company’s 750 to 800 properties, he assumed three were vacant, but availability changes based on the day. This is largely because units are being added at an all time high. The Greater Knoxville Apartments Association told Knox News that approximately 1,000 units are expected to be added to the area’s inventory in the coming quarters.

Brandon O'Connor is Executive Vice President of The Knoxville Apartment Guide.  He said units at many developments like the Crescent Ebenezer Apartments in West Knoxville are going so fast that

Despite opening a significant number of new units, O’Connor said, “Demand almost exceeds, if not outright exceeds, production in rental space.” Most rental properties cannot keep up with demand, so landlords offer waiting lists for units that will be available up to 60 days later.

The increased interest in leasing has also inflated prices. O’Connor said most landlords with listings on knoxvilleapartmentguide.com have increased their rental rates several times in 2021, which is “anything but ordinary” at this point in the year.

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The shortage and high prices do not allow tenants to be so picky, regardless of price or location. Senor went through the harsh realities of renting in Knoxville. The apartments she found were not affordable for her or had a long waiting list. She couldn’t justify either.

“The only amenities on renter wish lists right now are availability and affordability,” O’Connor said.

What you can do to win

If you’ve found an available rental that fits your budget, the next step is to apply. The rental application process has not changed over the past year, but is more competitive due to an influx of applicants.

Senor was surprised by the prices of the apps and the hidden charges. Make sure you know all the costs associated with the request to avoid overburdening your budget or paying just to sit on a long waiting list.

Mike Cohen is the owner of Asset Realty Management, which leases units in Knoxville.  According to Cohen, investors buy new construction homes just to rent them out because the market is so good.

Cohen and his team review rental requests every day. He told Knox News they are looking for the same qualities they always have, but now that there are multiple applicants for each property, they can be “a little more selective.”

Here are four steps you can take to have the best chance of securing a rental in Knoxville.

  • Apply Early: Cohen reviews applications on a first come, first served basis. The sooner you submit a completed application, the more likely you are to get it accepted.
  • Have a high credit score: A high credit score shows homeowners that you’re on top of your payments. Cohen said there are exceptions like hospital bills, which he tends to be more forgiving of.
  • Don’t be in debt to former landlords – this is a red flag for anyone you pay rent to. Cohen recommends coming to an understanding with previous owners before applying.
  • Clear the eviction: a good rental record can help you move forward with your application. In some cases, tenants who have been evicted may see this red flag removed from their records. If this is an option for you, it could put you in a better position as a candidate.

Why renting isn’t easier

A rental home in West Knox County managed by Asset Realty Management.

Knoxville’s real estate and rental markets mirror each other, which means housing is harder to find for everyone. O’Connor and Cohen agree that it will take time for the industry to adjust, and that won’t happen anytime soon.

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Local residents looking to rent, those coming from out of state, and house hunters who have given up on buying are swarming every available unit. In addition, institutional investors or large capital groups are buying properties, which makes prices even worse.

New units are always being added, but Cohen believes current rental costs could be “the new normal” even after inventory replenishment. O’Connor suggested that tenants consider all of their options before starting rental research, which Senor ultimately did. Her alma mater allowed her to stay on campus temporarily while she sought a long-term rental.

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, you know,” O’Connor said. “It might not be worth doing it now. It might be better to wait.”


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