After years of losing money on his east Boise rental property, things are now changing for Kelley Creamer.
Creamer owns a small two-bedroom home that he and his wife bought in 2004. They fixed it up with high-end kitchen appliances, cabinets and granite countertops. They lived in the house until they purchased another home and moved into it.
It was 2010 and Boise was still suffering from the effects of the housing downturn. Creamer says had the couple sold their first home, they would’ve lost around $20,000.
“We were upside down in it and it was not the right time to even think about selling it,” he says. “So we didn’t have much choice but to keep it.”
The couple decided they’d have to rent the home as a means of paying the mortgage. But Creamer found that to be a difficult task. The poor housing market meant there were plenty of places for renters to choose from. Creamer did find a renter for his house – at just $650 a month. That, he says, was about $350 less than his mortgage payment.
Fast forward five years. The pendulum has swung. It is now a landlord’s market and Creamer is about to raise his rent. His next tenant, he says, will pay $900 to $950 each month. The real estate website Zillow estimates the current rent value to be just under $1100.
“We’re finding out that that is the value of our house,” he says. “And that helps us get back – recoup – the mortgage costs. And I think there are all sorts of property owners and landlords out there that are finally being able to come back out from under water.”
Creamer is referring to what experts say is the tightest rental market in the Treasure Valley in decades, and possibly ever. Vacancies are at historically low levels. As competition has increased for fewer properties, rent prices have gone up – some by as much as a third.
Some landlords have drawn the ire of advocates for low-income renters. The new owners of the Glenbrook Apartments are perhaps the most visible. A planned renovation there – and higher rents as a result – led to protests and accusations of greed.
That sort of reaction may be one reason why many landlords and property managers aren’t willing to discuss the issue publicly. For instance, one of the region’s largest management companies, Boise-based Verity, didn’t return calls requesting comment.
Creamer is in the process of cleaning and painting his rental home to prepare for its next tenant. As he does so, he’s aware that winners and losers in the Treasure Valley rental market have changed in the last five years. He knows his decision to increase rent means one fewer option for those searching for affordable housing.
“You feel for the tenants,” Creamer says. “You feel for the people that need to find a good, safe place to rent. It’s got to be difficult for those folks that are in the lower income range.”
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