Mar 062013
 

Jean-Paul Villere

Repeat after me and out loud if you like: the New Orleans rental market is not like other rental markets.  And mantra or double down if it helps you: the New Orleans rental market is not like other rental markets.  It is only the first week of March, and I wrote about this last April, but it has become my mission to educate the public on this.  Since the beginning of the year my phone rings non stop abuzz with anxious returnees and largely clueless university parentals most all not even looking to rent till end of May and maybe August.  Ready for some contradictory advice?  Relax.  But be ready to be ready.  Why?  Read on:

(1) Timing.  Most rentals are only known to the market within 3-5 weeks of their availability.  So if you seek a June 1 move in date, exhale.  Don’t even think of reviewing inventory unless it’s mid April.  It’s true, everyone will be clamoring, but that’s the way it goes.  Too, if something is vacant and available now – as in today – why are you looking at it?  That landlord wants their tenant muy pronto, not in 12 weeks.

(2) Use an agent.  The lessor pays the agent (if it’s a listing), so it costs you nothing.  Many won’t return your calls; they just won’t.  We’re a busy market, and one-off calls have a way of falling through the cracks.  Is it right?  No.  But expect it to happen.  Few lessors are shopping the housing wanted ads on Craigslist so a little aggressiveness, assertiveness, and all around persistence on your part will serve you. 

(3) Timing revisited.  If you see something that clicks, put in an app.  This is not the leisurely shopper’s market.  If you are looking at other spaces be quick about it.  The one you just saw might go to the next viewer, or the viewer that saw it before you.  And our inventory is thin.  How thin?  You don’t wanna know.  Thank Hollywood and an ever-improving reputation for this.

(4) You and 3 of your closest friends.  Like each other today.  Will drive an agent absolutely bonkers coordinating schedules for showings and who likes and doesn’t like what or this and that.  Stop.  Did you read (3)?  Find a place and stay there, a 2/1 I’m talking.  Choose one friend.  Renew your lease next year.  Same roomie?  Great!  Didn’t work out?  Find another roomie, but keep that lease (unless you hate your place).  Why?  Again, our inventory is thin and  – - -

(5) Rents are higher than you’ll expect.  “Them’s Dallas prices” I’ve heard people kvetch.  Maybe they are.  Maybe they’re worse.  I don’t know; I don’t live in Dallas.  When tenant turnover happens invariably the rent goes up.  How much?  Some times a bunch.  Why?  Taxes, insurance, and supply and demand.  If you stay some place, your rent is likely to stay the same too.  If you moved out of state 2 years ago and want to come back to Mid-City today, expect shock.  $1200 is the new $850.

(6) Pets.  Oy, pets.  New Orleans landlords famously don’t want any pets.  There are those who will take them.  Embrace (4).  If you find a place that takes you and your non-human children, cohort(s), or otherwise companion(s), stay there.  Or buy.  When you own, who can dictate – apart from city code – what pets you have and how many?  Not your lender.  But your landlord can and will.

(7) Finery.  Get the details out in the vetting process.  Who pays for what utilities?  What about pest control?  Yard care?  How’s the water pressure?  What about tenant disputes with other tenants?  Why’d the last tenant leave?  If an appliance breaks who is responsible for fixing it?  Are the walls, floors, and/or attic insulated?  You can never know too much about what you propose to rent.

(8) Handicap accessibility.  Most of New Orleans residential rental stock is around 100 years old, on raised piers, and has no inkling of ADA ramps or ADA baths.  If you need these things, an apartment complex in Elmwood, Metairie, or Kenner is likely your best bet.  Where there’s ground floor slab units with 36″ wide doors.  The Crescent City has very few examples thereof.

(9) Go with your gut.  Never challenge your instinct.  If a place feels right, do it.  If something seems off, it probably is.  In finding the right place, the process can be frustrating but don’t let that sway your better judgment.  True, you may have to settle on criteria whether on price, geography, or amenity, and that’s okay because epiphany: there is no perfect place.  But your gut won’t steer you wrong.

(10) Being present.  Sending a friend to check out a place for you falls in queue with drinking expired milk or the five-second rule.  Don’t do it.  And most landlords won’t do it.  Your friend is not you.  Commit to visiting the Big Easy prior to securing a place.  And if you’re shopping schools for your child or children – whoa.  That’s a whole ‘nother article.  Let’s just say, don’t expect to appear, sign in, and call it a day.  You have to put in the time to make these decisions yourself.

Now get out there!  Or stay put.  If I were you, I’d be inclined to the latter until I had enough of a down payment to buy in my favorite town.  After all, with interest rates where they are, there’s a fantastic chance a monthly mortgage payment would be a whisper to today’s market-rate rent.  Food for thought.

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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  • SpacelySprockets

    I wonder where the future Tennessee Williamses go to live la vie boheme these days? Brooklyn and Austin, also too expensive for starving artists. I guess maybe Detroit?!

    • http://twitter.com/JeanPaulVillere JeanPaulVillere

      Escalating rents in more trafficked parts of the city I’m guessing won’t affect any future TWs; when he lived in the FQ it wasn’t what it has become.

      • SpacelySprockets

        It seems when I look at listings online that rents have gone up a lot even in “undesirable” neighborhoods that might be considered the modern-day equivalent of the FQ in Williams’ youth? And the sketchy neighborhoods today are probably a lot more dangerous than back then.

        • yeldarb

          Wouldn’t be so sure about that last part. Danger isn’t a recent invention in our cities. In fact, some cities produced murder rates that dwarf even what New Orleans has managed in recent years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712200880 Angie Peckham

    It’s a shame salaries haven’t kept up with the cost of living. I am sooooo rent/car insurance poor!

  • SafetyDance

    It was crazy competitive when we were looking at rentals last June. People were giving deposit checks sight-unseen. We were the first people to inspect our current rental, and we wrote the check a minute after walking through the front door

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    “Them’s Dallas prices” and $1200 is the new $850!

    But according GNO Inc, isn’t New Orleans supposed to have a LOW COST of LIVING?

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
    Can’t stand the “Proud-to-call-New-Orleans-Home”
    bumper sticker types?
    Too afraid to follow me on Twitter?
    You can still bookmark me on Twitter at
    @AhContraire
    .

  • legalnola

    How about tenants with a dog who are willing to paint the whole place and hang blinds on 36 windows, JP?

    • http://twitter.com/JeanPaulVillere JeanPaulVillere

      Well legalnola, just so long as it’s 36 and not 35. Really!? Can you leave some breadcrumbs so I can find out who you are and what specifically you’re referring to. On its face, I think that’s a terrible idea because (A) most tenants are crap painters and (B) no tenant in the history of renting has ever brought the space back as it was when they moved in. Or as a title atty I know likes to say “When you rent a car, do you wash it before you return it?”

      • legalnola

        Lowe’s could never get the right size on that last picture window – seriously, called like 10 stores to get it.

  • best_in_show

    Everything is about money. Everything. No exception. My experience and that of so many of my friends is the unexpected sell of the property right out from under your nose…either BUY or get out! I have had to move twice because of the building being sold to some corporation for condos or the owner just wanting to dump the property (bought on line, I add). Jean-Paul’s advice is very, VERY accurate. If you like where you are well enough, STAY there. Renting is not like shopping, just for fun, unless you have unlimited financial resources or rich parents. As the song goes, “Location, Location, Location”. Personally, I did not come
    back to New Orleans after an absence of 30 years to live in some suburb with no mass transit. New Orleans to me is NEW ORLEANS. That time a long time ago, living and working on the West Bank, living
    in the Quarter, the Marigny, Uptown near Tulane (grad school…walking
    distance) acclimated me to various parts of the city. Coming back 19 years ago was a shock! No department stores, K&B out of business, the famous Schegmann’s gone, no neighborhood doctors, nothing. Everything moved to Metairie. Everything. Mass transit? Fuggeddabouit. A car is a necessity…IF you can afford the insurance and getting the vehicle repaired when it is sideswiped or stolen. So, make good decisions and choices: where do you WANT to live and WHY do you want to live there. (I am addressing those who want to LIVE in New Orleans, not transients.) Living in New Orleans is like starting a new romantic relationship: find out all you can about your potential “partner” before committing. Drive around, check where the stores are (if there are any), gas stations, schools, music venues, good restaurants, check if the properties are maintained (tall grass, stoves and fridges in the front yard), etc.
    Print out Jean-Paul’s article and LAMINATE it.

  • Uptowner

    This is great advice. I was a long time renter, saved by living (relatively) cheaply with roommates, and eventually bought a double. Its been a great decision and I’d advise other renters to do the same – your mortgage’s equity will increase on your tenant’s dollar and your payment/month isn’t going down the toilet either like it does w/ renting. Also, generally, your payment per month will be lower than it would be on a rental…just have to get that down payment up front

  • http://twitter.com/Owen_Courreges Owen Courrèges

    As a landlord, I’d also add these two:

    1) Read the lessor’s listing entirely, especially with respect to size and square footage. There is nothing more frustrating than wasting your time showing somebody who thinks an apartment is too small for their needs when the size was clearly stated in the listing. You should be scheduling a viewing to assess condition, area, get a feel for the layout, etc., not to decide whether you need 500 square feet or 1,500.

    2) Try to keep a good credit score. Landlords know that there are a lot of people in this city who chronically fall behind on rent and bounce from place to place, narrowly avoiding eviction. A good credit score tends to show you aren’t one of them without forcing a lessor to call around. It’s a crude and often unfair measure, but that’s how it works.

  • oh_but_no

    I wish I would have seen this sooner, but I think I made an B, thanks to some very helpful friends a way cool property manager.