Rise in Prices for Off-Campus Rentals Affect Students

The unexpected rise in price of rental properties in Long Branch has caused many Monmouth University students to look for other housing alternatives, according to students and specialists.

 “Locally, we are seeing prices increase substantially in certain areas and the demand from buyers is overwhelming,” said Michele Irizarry, a CEO/Broker from Shore Prime Properties who has been working in the real estate industry for the past 18 years. “We cannot bring homes to the market as fast as people are buying them,” she said.

Moving.com, which is part of the realtor.com network, shows a breaking record on the number of people looking to buy or rent houses in the area. Realtor.com says summer home buying season is off to a roaring start. As buyers flooded into the market, Realtor.com’s monthly traffic hit an all-time high of 86 million users in June 2020, breaking May’s record of 85 million unique users nationwide.

 “People are trying to avoid big cities like New York and are migrating, especially to the shore area. At the moment, Long Branch is one of the most popular cities and this is one of the reasons why prices are going up,” said Olga Moncada, a realtor from Weichert Realtors in Marlboro, New Jersey. “Another reason would be the low interest rates at the moment. This is a good moment for homebuyers’ as well as for investors,” she said.

 “Through informal conversations with the local communities, it would appear that some property owners of seasonal rentals have decided to extend their stay and not rent this year,” said Vaughn Clay Ph.D., Director of Off-Campus and Commuter Services at Monmouth. “With that said, the number of students who are living off campus this year still seems to be holding constant with what we have seen in prior years,” he said.

For those who live a few miles away, the alternative can be to stay at home. “I did not find a place because of COVID-19,” said Ben DeGennaro, a junior marketing student. “Previously I was renting an off-campus house with a couple other students.” Now DeGennaro, is living with his parents in northern New Jersey.

According to junior marketing student Matt Pereira, it was easier to find places to rent near Monmouth University prior to COVID-19. “Due to high prices, students now have to share their spaces with more roommates. I believe there is a lack of places to rent, and yes, students are definitely forced to live with several more roommates in order to afford to pay rent. Given that MU is located next to the shore town of Long Branch, a very popular beach destination for many, it definitely is an area that is in high demand. The pandemic has affected the amount of houses available and in turn made it more difficult for students to find a residence for the semester,” said Pereira.

Paul Newell, an attorney and resident of Glen Ellen Apartments in Long Branch, also mentioned that the high prices might be the reason why students are no longer renting in the complex. “When I first moved in, there were four students living in a unit in my building.  Since these students moved out several years ago, rents in the complex have gone up substantially. I do not believe that there are any MU students living in this complex at this time, since it is quite expensive. For a one bedroom apartment you will pay $1,750.00 a month,” said Newell.

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For some students who are trying to cope with higher rental prices, planning ahead can make a difference. Senior communication student Lauren DeMarco has previously rented off-campus and is currently living in a house with three roommates. She said that she believes students can find places to rent, but feels they have to start looking for a place well before the school year starts. “I do, however, think that some students, depending on their range in price, are sometimes forced to live with more people,” said DeMarco.

Irizarry also said that she has had fewer inquiries this year from MU students looking for rentals. “Overall, students looking to rent during the school year still have homes available to them, if they are willing to meet the rising rent rates. It is the annual rental market that is greatly affected in an area that is dominated by seasonal rentals. Annual rentals are hard to come by. This, compounded by inflated rent rates, make it very difficult for an annual tenant to find housing that is affordable,” she said. “I do feel that due to the high rent rates, students are moving in together to offset the cost of living.”

As reported by Zillow.com, the median home value of single-family homes and condos in Long Branch is $439,593. Zillow said this value is seasonally adjusted to remove outliers and only includes the middle price-tier of homes. Long Branch home values have gone up 7.0 percent over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 5.7 percent within the next year.

The average rent for a studio apartment according to zumper.com is currently $1,600. This is a 5 percent increase compared to the previous year. Today’s rental pricing for a one-bedroom apartment in Long Branch ranges from $1, 070 to $3,590 with an average monthly rent of $2,022, according to the website ApartmentHomeLiving.com. A three- bedroom apartment ranges from $1,500 to $7,076 – averaging $3,861 for the same location.

“Due to the uncertainty of the moment, some students waited until the last minute to start looking for houses. And that, along with low offers that we have, definitely hurt them,” said Moncada.

Michaela Schenker, a graduate student of criminal justice, said that this is her third year renting an off-campus house. “I believe there are plenty of options as far as student rentals go,” she said. “There are some that are really expensive but most are within a good budget and cost no more than $650 a month. Having more roommates does not necessarily mean a cheaper monthly rental fee. I pay more this year than last year, and I have one more house mate than I previously did.”

Mary Tawil, a broker from Weichert who has been in the business for 11 years, said that although some homeowners that used to rent their houses for winter season are now staying for a longer period of time, there are still plenty of options and availability for MU students in the Long Branch area. Additionally, according to Tawil, prices are stable.

Clay said he has not seen or heard of any additional difficulties when it comes to students renting off campus in the local communities this year. He said, “I believe that students can find off campus rentals with just a bit of organization and effort.”

According to Clay, Off-Campus and Commuter Services has not received any feedback from students who were searching for rentals that would have suggested that landlords or realtors were increasing the price per person or the overall monthly cost of renting a property off campus.

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