As signs for low and free rent speckle Saskatoon street corners, and the city remains a buyer’s market, small-time landlords are struggling to fill vacancies.
The Saskatchewan Landlord Association said the city’s six per cent vacancy rate is double the amount they like to see. Executive officer Chanda Lockhart blames unsold new homes being turned into rental properties.
“There was a lot of house builds that went on in 2015, and those house builds have been flipped into renters because the builders were not able to sell them,” she said. “General rule of thumb is 30 per cent of condos turn into rental stock, but it’s probably 50 or 60 per cent right now.”
The resulting glut in rental space has forced many landlords, large and small to offer discounted rates and incentives to entice would-be renters. Low prices and plenty of options is good news for the average renter, but bad news for small-time landlords.
“When you’re talking about some of these smaller guys who maybe only have one to five houses, they usually don’t have a corporate name or signage,” Lockhart said. “It’s very frustrating because a lot of them pay their mortgage with their rent payment; they’re not making an excess of money. So they’re having to pay that mortgage payment out of their pocket.”
Without the big advertising budgets, Lockhart said small landlords are trying to come up with creative ways to advertise their properties.
“More creative photos, (digital) tours on their websites, tweeting, using Facebook, even using LinkedIn,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart also suggested landlords speak with their current tenants and ensure they’re happy with their home. If a landlord has other properties available, offer referral incentives to tenants in their occupied properties. If a tenant gives notice that they’re leaving, landlords should find out why the tenant is leaving and see if there is a way to accommodate them either in their current place or in another property.
Because people are reluctant to move in the winter, Lockhart said landlords will likely be stuck with the number of vacant properties they have now until the end of March when the weather warms up.