Rent prices skyrocketing on the Suncoast

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Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 4:00 pm

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -- Rental rates are going up so much in our area, that some are finding few -- if any -- affordable options. It's a concern for families and the local economy.

It’s a delicate balance. Higher rent is a good sign the local economy has bounced back, however if the working class can't find a reasonably priced place to live, those who make it run are squeezed out.

Young couple Anthony and Kassandra Lowther have found themselves with two adorable little boys. What they say they can't find is an affordable place for them all to live. "A simple two bed one bath; it does not have to be extravagant," says Anthony.

They’re grateful for now to be bunked up with family. For two months they've searched. "It's a little rough right now. Everything is at least $700 or more. If it is not, then it's really not a nice neighborhood or it's really not in good condition. We are having a hard time."

“We just don't have enough inventory." For 20 years, Helene MacDonald has owned Horse & Chase Rentals in Venice. She says prices are at an all-time high. "A three bedroom two bath right now is going to be a minimum of $1,300 a month; a significant increase from just a few years ago."

The big reason she says is the economy has improved and snowbirds are staying longer. "Instead of spending one or two months they are now staying three, four, five months."

In many cases, owners are able to make more in those few months than renting the homes annually. Right now she says 80% of the seasonal rentals they manage are already booked for next year.

Out of the 200 annual rentals they oversee, four are getting ready to come online.

Supply and demand are quickly becoming a serious issue for much of the local workforce. "The problem is, the prices are going up to where it is almost unaffordable for them to rent."

Recent reports indicate rent in Sarasota and Manatee counties is rising more than double the national average. With supply slow to make a comeback it could even force some already here...out.

“We don't want to price anyone out of the market, because we are limited in what the income is in this area," says MacDonald.

For those like the Lowthers, the struggle coming out of the gates is already very real. “I don't understand how you can do it, how you can get by. I am trying."

Something else we heard is a lot of LLC's buying up foreclosed homes and renting them out. The rental experts ABC 7 talked to say they've heard a lot about that going on in the Sarasota area, but not much in the Venice area.

But there may be some relief in sight. A report by the Sarasota Herald Tribune found close to 1,000 units should be coming online in the next year, but not a lot in the Venice and North Port areas.

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