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Understanding Houston’s rental market, leasing process

September 23, 2018

Leasing a property can be a favorable option for people who are moving to Houston. For many, leasing offers the best of all worlds.

It allows newcomers who are unfamiliar with Houston to experience a neighborhood or area before making a purchase. By leasing a property for the first year, they are able to get a better feel for the area.

And, for those who might only be in Houston for a relatively short period of time, leasing allows them the opportunity to remain fairly mobile.

The good news is that Houston has a variety of rental options available, from apartments to single-family homes and everything in between.

So, with many areas, neighborhoods and properties to choose from, it is best to work with a Realtor who really knows the ins and outs of the local market, and will take the time to thoroughly explain the leasing process.

According to Bob Owen, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties, it can be difficult to describe Houston’s rental market in general terms to people who are relocating here. In a city the size of Houston, real estate tends to be very area and neighborhood specific.

“The rental inventory varies radically from submarket to submarket within the Houston marketplace,” said Owen. “For people who are relocating, there are those who really care about schools, and those who don’t.

“Those who don’t care about schools can be more flexible about where they can live and be content until they decide what they want to do on a more permanent basis.”

He added that for people who are looking for a rental property that is located within a particular school district or zoned to a specific school, that the market is likely to be very tight, with fewer properties available to lease.

As such, Owen said that it is essential to set expectations at the very onset when assisting his relocation clients. This is especially important when people come to Houston on a preview trip before they are ready to lease a property.

“If someone is coming here, but they won’t be ready to lease for a couple of months, I tell them that we will look at neighborhoods and some sample homes within those neighborhoods, but that it would be a waste of time to write an application for a lease to begin in two months. Not many landlords will accept that and hold a house for two months,” Owen said.

Generally speaking, he said that it is best to be within 30 days of the lease start date when submitting the application.

In terms of the lease process and the out-of-pocket expenses, Neil Silverman, a Realtor with Bernstein Realty, said that he provides all of his clients with a list that outlines the typical lease approval process.

“I explain that the application fees can range anywhere from $30 to $75. Then, there’s going to be a background check and a credit check, and when that comes back and everything looks good, we’re going to write the contract,” said Silverman. “If they have a pet, there’s going to be a pet deposit, which could be non-refundable.

“Then there’s the security deposit, which is equal to one month’s rent. I explain that they will need to have that security deposit to the landlord very quickly to hold the property and execute the contract. Then, a couple of days before the lease starts, they need to pay their first month’s rent.”

One of the biggest concerns for people who are relocating is the lease term.

In many cases they might only want a one-year lease, which is often the desired term for most landlords as well.

“A lot of times, especially with relocation clients, they come here and they want to feel out the market for the first year,” said Silverman. “Then in a year, when they really know where they want to live, they want to be out of the rental property.”

Then there are other cases, such as with a foreign national moving to Houston on a two-year assignment, where a longer lease term might be needed.

Silverman said that landlords are often very open to a two-year lease, because it guarantees that there will be a tenant in the property for a much longer period of time.

Finally, while many landlords might be more flexible when it comes to pets in the property, especially if a property has been vacant for a while, Silverman said that they might not accept all breeds.

“There are certain breeds that landlords are staying away from, because they are thought of as being aggressive, such as German shepherds, Rottweilers and pitbulls,” said Silverman.

Michelle Sandlin is an award-winning writer, journalist and global mobility industry expert. Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheMichelleSandlin and on Twitter: @MichelleSandlin. Also visit “On the Move” at blog.chron.com/onthemove.

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