January 25, 2013

House vs. Apartment and Other Rental Types

This is one of the more common questions/suggestions we get at Rentometer’s help desk. I should preface this discussion by stating that we currently make no distinction between rental types when performing the analysis. Does this cause skewed results you may ask? You’re not really comparing apples to apples then are you? This is another question that may also cross your mind. I’d like to tackle this subject with my own story. I think it illustrates both sides of the equation.

Up until a year ago I lived in an apartment complex for four years. This was a pretty unique place. It was a converted textile mill, that offered 20-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, restored wood floors, in-unit laundry, and heat and hot water included, along with numerous other on-site amenities. I had a one-bedroom loft with a rental price that was almost off the meter for my area. There literally was nothing that compared—and that included single-family homes in the area.

Jump ahead to where I am now. I decided to get married, so we moved into a single-family, three-bedroom home with a nice fenced-in yard for Lucy, our Golden Retriever. Nothing is included, and I now have to shovel snow, mow the lawn, and perform all of the other chores that come with home ownership. The rent of this place is also above the median for my area, when compared to other three-bedroom rentals.

If I were to take the Rentometer as the final word on whether either of these two rentals were fair market value I would not have lived in either. In the first case, comparing single-bedroom apartments I would not have been able to find another unit even close to that rent, even if I compared it to single-family homes with many more bedrooms. Moving to the single-family home actually lowered my rent. I had to evaluate what the offered amenities meant to me. Being single, they meant a lot. On the other hand, when I decided to move into the single-family home it showed on the meter as higher than most other three-bedroom rentals in the area as well. Now, I had to consider if having the privacy and space of the house as opposed to the community living of an apartment held more value to me. I also had to do some more research to see what other houses in the area were listed at. In the end I believe that both places are well worth the rent I am paying given the other options available. Yes, in both cases I could find less expensive units that were of similar size but not with what I felt was important in a rental.

Rentometer is a great guide to help you see what is available and in what price range, but it is not designed to be the final answer. We hope to help you in your research on comparing similar units. They may not be exact matches, but they will serve as a good starting point in setting a rent or for finding a rental. We also welcome your suggestions and strive to add tools to help you better evaluate rents.

There are so many factors to consider when looking for the right price or the right place. Rentometer is the best place to start!

~ Alex