By Jennifer Pybas

Blue Sky Property

If you are a renter and looking for a place to live, or think you may be looking in the near future, here are some questions that you may be or should be asking yourself.

How long will it take me to find my next rental home?

How much more should I expect to pay?

Will I be paying more money for a smaller or lesser home?

Do I meet the qualifications for the application process?

Will I find a place that allows my pets?

Where should I be looking?

We’ll answer some of these questions below, but first, here is some context.

It is a landlord’s market.

Most people in the Santa Ynez Valley have experienced a change in the rental market or have a family member or friend who has been affected. If you own your home, you may be surprised how much it would currently rent for. If you are a renter who has rented in the valley for a long time and have to move, you will be surprised at the current rental prices.

We began to feel this about five years ago because of low rental inventory, which is getting lower each year. Not only does this drive the prices way up, it also makes it harder for you to find a rental, qualify, and possibly bring your four-legged family members.

This is of course affecting all surrounding areas, but the valley is greatly affected due to the size of the community and the number of people wanting to move here. Many renters who have been trying to hang on and rent here in the valley for years are finding they have to move to a neighboring community, even though the prices there have increased as well.

We are seeing more people looking for roommates, multiple families wanting to rent one home, families with multiple children inquiring about one-bedrooms, and the most Section 8 (a federal housing assistance program)  inquiries I have ever experienced.

The main contributors to this problem are no new building and more renters than in previous years, so that the increase in renters has outgrown the construction of rental units. The vacation rental craze also contributed as well, and the desire of living here means that many people move here and stay, without a lot of housing turnover.

Now, to answer the questions above.

Allow as much time as possible to look for the right home for you, as there are not many to choose from. If you are looking for a certain area, such as a particular school district, or if you have pets, this could take more time.

This can be difficult when sometimes people are given only 30 to 60 days to find a new home. This unfortunately forces people to take homes that do not work for them and often more than they can afford. This then creates short-term tenants and tenants who break their leases.

You should expect to pay more, and sometimes much more, if you want to stay in the valley and are lucky enough to find a place that checks most of your “I want and I need” boxes.

You may need to expect to pay more for a smaller or less desirable home, one that is not in the location or school district you want. Higher rental prices also include higher deposits and pet deposits.

Because the inventory is low, owners have more applicants to choose from. It is important that you know how to qualify and set yourself up for this. Make sure your credit is good, you have long-term and stable income, about three months more than the rental amount, and current and previous long-term rental references.

It seems that in the valley most people have pets, but now many owners can afford to not allow pets.

You should be looking on all the websites of the local property management companies and even on Craigslist (but please be cautious of Craigslist scams). Websites such as trulia and can be helpful, as they usually pull from our websites.

If you are a property owner who rents or is interested in renting your home, it is important to get the fair market value for your property. But remember that asking the highest amount in rent does not always bring long-term quality tenants, and it can cost you money.

One thing that has not changed is that good, well qualified, long-term tenants are still the best option, and owners can find them by being fair and realistic. Tenants can help all renters by being this type of tenant, which creates owners who will be more confident about the tenant-landlord process.