Local homeowner Bill Cherry grew frustrated watching his home sit empty for more than nine months while it was on the market.
His huge, sprawling house overlooking Thorpe Park nearly sold twice last fall, but the deals fell through at the last moment. As snow began to descend on his empty driveway this winter, Cherry found himself regularly paying for a plow on the hope buyers might tour his home.
"It is a little like hemorrhaging money," he said.
So after sending another mortgage payment to the bank, Cherry joined the trend of frustrated homeowners looking to recoup a portion of their mortgage payment by renting out thier home.
He turned to Matt and Ryian Brydenthal, a husband and wife Realtor team specializing in property management. With seven years of experience in renting out homes locally, Matt Brydenthal said overall demand for rental homes has been climbing steadily as has the monthly rents those homes command.
"The demand in the rental market has increased every year since we've been doing it," Brydenthal said. "And we've seen rental prices go up as well."
He estimates that in the last two years, calls from local home-owners interested in renting out their homes have doubled.
The primary reason, he said, is homeowners looking for some revenue to offset the cost of their mortgage as they wait for the local housing market to recover. Some homeowners, including Cherry, tell Brydenthal they are willing to rent out their homes for a few years in order to wait out current market conditions.
According to data released by local Realtors, the median sale price for single-family homes has declined slightly compared to last year, but with a sizable backlog of unsold homes.
"A lot of the homes that are selling are the have-to sellers or the homes that have that special little something," Brydenthal said.
But many owners of larger homes are not finding as many buyers out there as several years ago, at least not those willing to pay still-high Flagstaff prices.
As a result, some owners have turned to renting out their home even if it means they can't get the full cost of their mortgage.
"Even if it means they are paying $200 or $300 of their mortgage, they are happy to pay as it keeps them from falling behind," he said.
As for renters, the Brydenthals use an application process and require a one-year lease to give homeowners some greater certainty in terms of income. He said he charges a flat 10 percent fee for the properties he manages, which includes collecting the rent and general maintenace of the property.
Ryian Brydenthal said part of the demand for renting a home in Flagstaff is that it is cheaper on a monthly basis than purchasing.
"They can rent a place, for instance, in Boulder Pointe for $1,650, where to purchase the same home in the high $300,000 to $400,000 range — their payments would be a lot higher," Ryian said.
For comparison, the average monthly mortgage payment for a $380,000 home with a 30-year loan at 6.5 percent interest would be $2,400.
"People have a lifestyle that they are used to living and are unable to buy into that lifestyle here, so they are choosing to rent. People without a large down payment are able to get more house for their money if they choose to rent," Matt added.
He said demand is so great right now for rental properties that would-be renters are getting into mini-bidding wars over some properties.
"They come to the open houses arguing who is the better renter," he said.
He said he has rented several homes recently to out-of-town professionals who have only seen pictures of the home, yet they are willing to sign a one-year contract and spend thousands on a home they've never seen.
Ryian said she has seen somes homes snapped up by eager renters within a day.
"I didn't even have a chance to put the [rental] sign in the ground," she said.
For Cherry, his home is still listed for sale. He said he is unwilling slash the price of his home to force a sale.
"I won't have a fire sale," he said.
If Brydenthal can find a renter for his home on five acres near Thorpe Park, Cherry said he can wait a few years to try to sell the property for what he believes it is worth — nearly $1 million
Until then, Cherry hopes to find a renter willing to pay roughly $3,000 a month for his five-bedroom home.
J. Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.