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Few spaces available for McHenry County residents looking to rent

Several factors keeping current tenants from moving, creating slim pickings for people hoping to rent locally

Prospective renter Michelle Golon (right) looks through a one bedroom apartment with Wendy Hall inside Hall's duplex on Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Bull Valley. A shortage of apartment rentals in McHenry County has some renters struggling to find living spaces.
Prospective renter Michelle Golon (right) looks through a one bedroom apartment with Wendy Hall inside Hall's duplex on Thursday, April 5, 2018 in Bull Valley. A shortage of apartment rentals in McHenry County has some renters struggling to find living spaces.

People looking to rent in McHenry County are in luck – as long as they’re in search of a two- to three-bedroom home for just more than $2,000 a month.

That’s the average size and cost of the 75 properties available in the county, not including private property available without a real estate agent, Heartland Realtor Organization Chief Executive Officer Jim Haisler said.

“It creates a problem for the low end of the employment market. Oftentimes we’ll see that people who have the low-end jobs are often renting,” Haisler said.

County rental data show a median rent of $1,650. Property on the higher end of the spectrum can run as much as $5,000 a month, while the least expensive spaces tend to go for about $850.

Although apartments and condos make up the majority of spaces available for rent in the county, Woodstock resident Wendy Hall said she had no problem finding people interested in renting the other half of her duplex.

“My brother put the ad up just a few days after we heard our current tenant was leaving,” Hall said. “Within a day we had three phone calls, so I made appointments with those three people, and then we got another phone call.”

As Hall showed the property to potential renters, she heard stories of the seemingly slim pickings in the area, particularly for people who were young or lived on modest means.

“The couple that’s probably going to take it was probably in their mid-30s, maybe 40s, and they were struggling because they’re on disability,” Hall said. “... Places that they called that were up on Zillow were already taken by the time that they called.”

Haisler said rent prices in the area seem to be driven by how few spaces are available. Renters who previously stayed in the same home for about five years are now staying for seven.

“With a lack of new construction over the great recession ... that was also a major decrease in the amount of supply in properties,” Haisler said.

Families affected by the mortgage crisis have been hesitant to move.

The crisis cost Hall and her husband their house and led them to rent a family member’s duplex they’ve lived in for the past eight years.

“We know how that experience was and I think we would have been in very bad circumstances had we not had a family place to go to,” she said.

As people leave the state, they tend to leave everything behind, meaning they’re more likely to sell whatever property they own, rather than rent it out from another state, Haisler said.

He added that a temporary solution for hopeful renters could be to move in the direction of homeownership, but even as people are starting see an increase in their wages, they’re just not fully comfortable moving up from their current home.

“The ironic part is people can actually own a home for less than they can rent a home,” Haisler said.

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