Relocating to Houston? How to Beat the Rent Crunch

Houston renters are facing rising prices and reduced apartment supply, according to the Houston Chronicle.

A surge in workers relocating to the area is partly to blame, the paper says. Houston’s robust employment market (No. 2 in the nation, according to Forbes) is drawing thousands of new residents to the city, many of whom choose renting as their first option, according to the Chronicle.

But even with increased competition for good rental units, moving to a new apartment doesn’t have to have to be difficult. Whether you’re among those relocating to Houston or simply a longtime resident who’s looking for a new rental, the following tips can help you navigate the hot “H-Town” apartment market.

Find Places within Your Budget

The average Houston apartment rents for $1,249 as of June, up about 25 percent from 2009, according to RentJungle.com. But the increase hasn’t affected all neighborhoods equally, says Houston real-estate professional Adriana Galicia of Venterra Realty.

“Neighborhoods inside the 610 Loop have absorbed large numbers of transplants in recent years and tend to be the most expensive,” she says. “Even apartments in other desirable areas, such as the Galleria or West Houston, haven’t risen as much.”

Try using a rental price map, such as the one found at Zillow.com to identify areas with units within your price range.

Look for Safety, School Quality

For many renters, living in a safe neighborhood is important — as are quality schools if you have children. Check out this Houston Chronicle map comparing area school ratings.

Likewise, you can visualize an area’s crime statistics using maps such as the one offered by the City of Houston.

Keep in mind that while higher rents often correlate with better schools and lower crime, that isn’t always the case, says Galicia.

“Many of the Inner Loop neighborhoods with higher rents don’t necessarily have the best crime profiles or public schools,” she says. “You really have to do your research and weigh the pros and cons.”

Calculate Relocation Cost

New residents relocating for business reasons may have all or some of their moving expenses covered by their employers. Still, says Galicia, it’s important to know what you’ll need to cover.

She says that renters often face lower costs, since apartment moves tend to be lighter and involve furnishing fewer rooms than a home would. Try using a moving calculator, such as the one at CitytoCityMoving, to estimate your move’s price tag.

Figure Out the Commute

Your rental decision might be influenced by how far you’ll need to drive to work or whether public transportation options fit the bill.

The commute calculator offered by Houston’s METRO can help you determine if its bus routes fit your budget.

Or, check out CentralHouston.org’s calculator to tally the cost of your daily commute.

Choose Utility Providers

“Texans have more choice than other states in selecting utility providers,” says Galicia. That means you can expect more competition among utility companies for your business, he adds.

Check out the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ Power to Choose website to compare electricity providers’ offerings. And don’t forget to choose Internet, cable and other utility providers.

Adjust Your Insurance

“Your rental and car insurance rates will probably change when you move,” says Galicia, so you should contact your insurance providers before your relocation to register your new address with the provider.

It may also be time to consider renters insurance or to make changes to an existing policy, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

 Recommended by the Editors: