In today’s market, a seller’s pain can be a renter’s gain. The regions hardest hit by the subprime crisis are some of the cheapest markets to rent. Wichita, Kan., leads the cheap list, where $470 gets you a brand-new one-bedroom with views of open wheat fields.
You may have thought that with fewer people being able to buy, rents would have actually started to rise, but that is not the way it has worked. Rental vacancies have actually risen in 29 markets nationwide, including some of the most desirable, like Las Vegas, Palm Beach and Orange County, Calif. There are 350,000 vacant rental properties.
New developers are turning hard-to-sell condos into rental units. For example, in Palm Beach, developers moved 4,200 condos into the rental market. In Dumbo, Brooklyn, two large new developments converted to rentals, adding 144 rental units into that small neighborhood (99 Gold Street and 133 Water Street).
There are, however, more advantages to renting than just getting a place to live you couldn’t afford to buy. For example, you can watch from the sidelines as the sale market stabilizes. You are not responsible for the maintenance. It is also a better bet if you think you will only be there for a few years; it usually takes at least two years to recoup realtor fees and closing costs. And, of course, for people with less than perfect credit, or uncertain employment, it is the only option right now.
Here are the five best places to rent on the cheap:
1. Wichita, Kan.Here you can get a 600-square-foot . Golf and country club fees are included. You can also join the fitness center and tanning parlor for a small cost.
Some fun facts about Wichita:
- Dennis the Menace lived on the outskirts of town.
- Pizza Hut started in Wichita and the original has been moved to the Wichita State campus where college kids regularly meet and eat.
- Wichita has 250 days of sunshine a year.
2. Oklahoma City
Here you’ll get a 900 square-foot home with a gym any fitness die-hard would kill for, . Some fun facts about Oklahoma City:
- Oklahoma City has some of the cleanest air in the country.
- You can still see real cowboys here, and it’s home to theNational Cowboy Hall of Fame.
- If you’re chubby and want to lose some weight, the mayor himself has challenged his 1 million constituents to lose a collective 1 million pounds!
3. Tulsa, Okla.You can live in a brand-new, 600-square-foot one-bedroom on a pond filled with ducks for $520 a month. The apartment is right next door to several golf and country clubs.
Some fun facts about Tulsa:
- Tulsa has one of the world’s biggest pizza/amusement parks with all-you-can-eat pizza and all-you-can-ride go-carts and bumper cars, and bowling till you drop.
- Tulsa also has the largestOktoberfest in the world outside of Germany.
4. Knoxville, Tenn.
Some fun facts about Knoxville:
- It’s home to Davy Crockett’s famous rifle, Old Betsy.
- Boaters love Knoxville. A boater can set sail from Knoxville and travel more than 600 miles down to the Ohio River. All counted, that's more than 1,000 miles of uninterrupted travel on smooth waters through several different states.
5. Dayton, Ohio
You get a 500-square-foot one-bedroom on the lake, with your own parking space, for $570 a month. Best of all, you can use a portion of your monthly rent toward a down payment if you decide to buy.
Some fun facts about Dayton:
- This city is made for inventors. The Wright Brothers designed their first airplane here.
- Other inventions created in Dayton are the cash register, the stepladder, the pop-top beverage can, the movie projector and the parking meter.
If none of the above locations tickles your fancy, here is a list of the best fancy places with not-so-fancy prices:
1. Palm BeachWest Palm Beach renters report average rents are down $29 per month compared to the previous 12 months.
2. Orange CountyThe O.C. is currently looking at 5 percent vacancy, the lowest it’s been since 2002. And rents only went up 2 percent in the past year, less than the cost of inflation.
3. Las VegasNearly 6,000 of the 2,400 homes listed for sale last month are now being listed as rentals.
4.Wall Street, NYC
Rent in studios in doorman buildings in the financial district dropped by $503, to $2,559 a month.
5. St. Petersburg, Fla.Rents dropped .6 of a percentage point just in the last quarter.
And if you are wondering how to go about finding cheap rentals, here are a few tips:
- Look for “For Rent” signs that have been standing for months.
- Play the landlords against each other. Bring competing advertisements for similar and cheaper apartments in the area and ask the landlord to match it.
- Ask the landlord formore stuff, like health club membership, new carpeting, fresh paint, free gas and electric, and even a free TV.
- Ask for atwo- or three-year lease. It will lock in your rate and save you money down the road.
- With a new development, ask for a construction special. Ask the landlord to reduce your rent until the banging and dust settle down.
- Ask the landlord towaive restrictions, like pet and barbecue restrictions.
- Bring yourproof of earnings, credit history and letters of reference. It’s your best leverage in negotiating.
If you can’t get yourself a good deal in this market, then you’re never going to be able to get one. Remember, every day these properties lie empty, the owners lose more money. They need you much more than you need them, so get out there and grab yourself a steal!