Calgarians struggle to find a rental home amid booming market

Calgarians Laura Kelly and David Litwiller are looking for a single-family detached home to rent, but have had no luck after six weeks of searching.

“We don’t need one until July 1,” said Kelly. “But we are running into some crazy, crazy road blocks.”

Litwiller says the couple’s main issue is the sky-rocketing cost of rental properties in the city.

“Roughly about a month ago, rent was around $2,000 to $2,300 a month for the kind of rental we are looking for, and today it’s almost $3,000 for the same property,” he said.

At that price, Kelly and Litwiller say it’s going to be difficult to buy necessities like groceries, the price of which has also spiked.

In addition to the high cost, Litwiller says the market is so competitive that it’s difficult to even get a showing. He says for some of the properties they are interested in, there are 100 other applicants.

“I went to an open house yesterday afternoon and there was a line up out the door and down the street of people walking through the house,” said Litwiller.

David Litwiller and Laura Kelly continue their search for a rental home.

According to statistics from property management company Hope Street, the average rental rate for all properties in Calgary has increased by 25 per cent since Jan 1.

“Unfortunately, we don’t see signs of a slowing down or cooling-off period, so its conceivable that rates could actually increase further, especially between now and September,” said Shamon Kureshi, CEO of Hope Street.

The increasing price is driven by several factors, including high demand and low vacancy rate for properties. For single, detached homes, Kureshi says the vacancy rate is about 0.6 per cent.

“The inventory of available rentals is going down drastically because landlords can sell their houses very quickly and often for considerably more than their listed prices.” 

Furthermore, Gerry Baxter, executive director with the Calgary Residential Rental Association, says anyone buying property and turning it into a rental right now is buying at a high interest rate.

“The Bank of Canada has been increasing interest rates to try and curb the economy, so what we’re seeing now is if you’re buying at a higher interest rate, it means that your rent is going to have to go up,” he said.

“But if a landlord needs to increase rent, they should always be looking to make sure it’s reasonable.”A hot rental market can create a breeding ground for rental scams. Kelly says they haven’t experienced that, but are frustrated with certain demands from landlords.

“We can’t even get in to see a place, but they want us to fill out applications forms and give out personal information like social insurance numbers, drivers license numbers and even pay stubs before we view the place if we even get a viewing.”

Kureshi says it’s not out of the ordinary for landlords to ask for personal information so they can do a background and credit score check, but that there should be a conversation between a landlord and renter to determine what is reasonable. 

Kelly and Litwiller say they aren’t blaming landlords for their struggle, but are getting more worried as they inch closer to July 1, when their lease is up.

“We have good jobs, good income, but it’s so competitive… we don’t know what to do,” said Kelly.

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