Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Local apartment rents and the millennial job market

May 31, 2017

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Look into your local apartment rental scene for business stories with a millennial focus. (Image by "jarmoluk" via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain)
Look into your local apartment rental scene for business stories with a millennial focus. (Image by "jarmoluk" via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain)

Job and wage growth are key factors in driving local and regional economies. But don’t overlook the impact of affordable rents, especially for millennials just getting established in their careers.

Low rents are playing an important part in the emergence of Austin, Texas, as a new tech hub. Monthly rent there eats up less than one in four dollars, just 23 percent of a paycheck, according to appfolio.com, an apartment management company, citing a recent survey conducted by real estate research firm Axiometrics. Rent as a percentage of take-home pay is even lower in cities including Las Vegas, where renters pay only 20 percent, and in parts of the Midwest. That’s considerably less than what renters pay in New York, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where rent can consume half—or more—of net income.

You can report a trend story in your area by offering millennials key information about making smart decisions about renting, one of their most important financial choices. Look at one or more of these story angles in your reporting:

Measure the state of the local rental market

What’s the state of your local rental market? How does it fit into the national picture? Sites such as move.com offer new renters helpful information. Is your area attracting young renters? If so, what are the businesses that are drawing them to your zip code? If not, are there plans underway to encourage the types of businesses that would attract young workers? What challenges does that create for realtors and landlords? Talk with local sources who can offer first-time renters the insider information they will need to make an informed decision.

Know the basics of renting a first apartment

For young renters, a first apartment is all about taking an initial leap into independence. That step is also a financial decision with potentially costly terms and conditions. Those can include everything from underestimating the upfront costs (security deposit, utilities, pet fees) to overlooking the impact of legal consequences (late fees, subletting). New tenants need to read (not skim) their leases before signing. A helpful source is this guide from NOLO. Six out of 10 millennials also fail to buy renter’s insurance, according to this entertaining CNBC story reported by a member of Gen Y. And most don’t know the importance of planning a household budget, reports Kiplinger’s magazine.

Explain how to negotiate rent

If you’re reporting from an area with high rents, you may want to develop this overlooked story. As the residential housing market contracts, it drives rents higher. For first-time renters, especially those who may be carrying student loan debt, saving $50 or $100 a month can make a real difference in their budget. Do some calculations based on your local market and share tips on how to negotiate from apartmentlist.com.


Reporter’s Resources:

• appfolio.com is the website of AppFolio, an apartment management company that develops property management software. The blog and press release section are full of ideas.

• nar.com, the website of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest association of realtors, has a robust research and statistics library.

• apartmentlist.com, a website that matches renters with apartments, offers research on real estate trends and related topics for millennial renters.

• iwllteachyoutoberich.com is the website of personal finance author Ramit Sethi, and also offers tips on negotiating rent.

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