Rental market slow moving

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A slowing real estate market is leaving an impact on the rental market in Okotoks, forcing many landlords to drop their monthly rates.

Okotoks’ once tight rental market is showing signs of easing over the last two years.

Web-based rental listing site RentFaster.ca showed an average of approximately 25 to 30 rentals available in Okotoks in 2014, but as of Aug. 23, there were 52 listings in town on the site. In July, 66 homes were up for rent on the site.

Rent in Okotoks, according to RentFaster.ca, varies from $800 for shared accommodations to $3,000 for a single detached four-bedroom home. The average rent in town currently sits just over $1,550.

Prairie Management and Realty Inc. office administrator Jennifer MacTavish said slow home sales is driving many to list their homes for rent. The result is a number of large, single-detached homes being put on the rental market alongside the typical condos and suites. There has also been an increase in the number of homes being offered as rent-to-own properties, she said.

“The sales market was low, so a lot of people weren’t selling or getting what they asked for, so in turn they decided to rent their homes,” said MacTavish. “There just isn’t a market for homes over $700,000 to $800,000.”

With so many properties available and a slow economy, she said many landlords have been forced to reduce their rents or provide other incentives.

Prairie Management acts as a liaison between homeowners and renters, often in cases where owners have moved away and can’t manage the property on their own. When tenants are difficult to find, they often make suggestions to their clients on how to attract renters, she said.

“We’ll talk to them and say, ‘You’ve had it up for rent for three months now, there’s been no serious inquiries, we should maybe consider other options like a first month off or something to make it more appealing to the public,’” said MacTavish.

Landlord Chantel Van Buren has owned a rental property in Crystal Shores for more than 10 years and has dealt with other rental properties for more than 18 years. Initially, she and her husband purchased the home to live in while their own house was being built.

Van Buren listed the home for rent at the end of June but said she was not receiving nearly as many inquiries as in past years. This month, she lowered rent on the property to match a reduction in rent across the board, and is offering the first week free to the right tenant.

“We try to keep our rent at or below what the current rents are because we would rather have quality tenants that are going to look after our property and stay for a while,” said Van Buren. “At the same time, we have mortgage payments to make and all the rest of our bills go up every year, so it is a balance.”

She said the slower market hasn’t deterred her from owning a rental property. Meeting nice people and interesting characters is part of the appeal of owning a home for rent, she said.

“There are definitely ups and downs in the market just like house sales,” said Van Buren. “This just happens to be a down time.”

Lloyd Smith, who also owns an Okotoks rental property currently available said he’s found the market is still brisk with a lot of people inquiring about the home, though it’s not nearly as strong as it was two years ago when the house was up for rent.

“A couple of years ago I would have had 20 people call and request a showing of this house the first day the advertisement went out,” said Smith. “Now, it is half a dozen a week.”

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