REAL ESTATE FOCUS: Additional rental housing is needed in area

Families are moving away from the city to raise their children, but are they always buying their homes? And if not, are they finding adequate rental property to meet their needs in the Hillsboro area?

According to Steven Garrett, Hillsboro city administrator, they aren’t.

“I see some families coming to the area as a stopping-off place, and not necessarily ready to buy and settle here,” Garrett said. “Society is changing from what it has been in the past and is becoming more mobile. What we have seen in the larger cities, like in Kansas City, is slowly coming to Hillsboro.”

Garrett grew up in Stillwell, Okla., and was in fifth generation of his family to live there. He said a several family members lived within an eight-mile radius of the original homeplace.

“I was the first to move away,” Garrett said. “But I couldn’t have made money farming the way they had done before.”

Garrett also said Hillsboro had a large population that experienced life in much the same way: they had grown up in the area, stayed here and found work one to two miles from home.

“Hillsboro is a town, in my experience, that has had a lot of owner-occupied housing with people who lived and worked here.

“It is my experience,” Garrett said, “that now, if you live within 30 miles of where you work, you are lucky.”

Delores Dalke, Hillsboro mayor and owner of the Real Estate Center in town, agreed with Garrett.

“We have a lack of rental property in the area,” Dalke said. “The rentals we manage are always full, with a waiting list of potential renters waiting to move in. Good quality rental property is in short supply here.”

Roger Perkins, sales associate with Remax and Associates said he sees much of the demand for rental units as seasonal, related primarily to the influx of Tabor College students and personnel.

“We have a pretty static industry and work force here,” Perkins said. “But college students, especially, are looking for cheap housing.”

Dalke and Garrett both say there are choices available for couples or individuals looking to rent a one- or two-bedroom apartment, but the couple moving in with children may have a hard time finding a home with enough space and bedrooms.

Dalke said prices for one- to two-bedroom apartments range from $300 to $450, with a wide assortment of houses available in different ranges of quality, sizes and prices.

“People are sometimes amazed at the low rent prices in our area,” Dalke said. “But when they see the quality they understand.”

The two city officials agree that Hillsboro needs more and better rental properties in the area.

Dalke said she would like to see people consider investing in an apartment project or in building two- or four-plexes. Both officials are hoping to see the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program add years of life to large older homes that could be used as rental options.

Perkins said he does not think new construction is needed in town. Rather the demands for rental property could be met with existing facilities.

“We’ve got some run-down houses that could be brought up to rental code,” he said.

While the consensus is that more quality rental housing is needed, Dalke pointed out that renters also need to consider several things before renting.

“Renters need to be prepared to pay a deposit, fill out an application, and have good credit references,” Dalke said. “I don’t think they always realize credit applications are looked over and examined just as thoroughly as if they were going to purchase the house.”

Dalke encourages young people to pay their rent on time and not to miss a payment. She said when they go to purchase a home someday, loan officers review the rental payments and it is an important consideration toward acquiring a loan. Rental-payment history becomes a part of the renter’s credit history.

Pets are another issue. Dalke said a number of landlords in the area will not allow indoor or outdoor pets.

“It only takes one bad experience for a landlord to discontinue having pets,” she said. “Because of the shortage around here, landlords can be picky about these kinds of things.”

As for special considerations, such as a renter offering to paint or repair a home in lieu of all or part of the rent, Dalke is cautious.

Landlords may want to have the rentees do the work first, then receive credit.

“I had to learn the hard way,” she said, “and sometimes I didn’t get the rent or the project completed.”

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