Realtors: Renting property difficult

By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent

When it comes to evaluating the current real estate market in eastern New Mexico, it all comes down to a matter of perspective — especially when the issue of rental houses comes up.

Many searching for homes to rent are having difficulty. The realtors, however, are living large.

“It’s a great market right now. But I know that as fast as it can turn good it can turn bad,” said Jo Jones, co-owner of Kenneth Realty in Clovis.

“Right now, though, I’ve got two (available rentals) that I haven’t even put on the books yet and I had a guy take one sight unseen. So that tells you, it’s pretty tight.”

In Portales, the rental market may be even tighter.

“There’s a bigger demand than I’ve ever seen in rentals. We have some of our own, but they’re all full — it’s really hard to find one,” said C.H. Justus, owner of Justus Realty in Portales. “There’s a lot of building going on, houses going up everyday — I believe 10-to-12 going up in Portales.”

Not surprising, the less-than-cheery outlook comes from those who are actually in need of a place to rent.

In Portales, concern exists not only for the current lack of available rental houses and apartments but also for the very near future — when Eastern New Mexico University students return for the fall semester.

For the past two years, freshman and sophomores at ENMU have been required to live in on-campus housing unless granted a waiver. But, for the 2004-05 school year, Eastern is relaxing that rule to require only freshman to live in dormitories and on-campus apartments.

According to Kathie Rolston of the ENMU Housing Department, the school has plenty of available places for full-time students to live.

But the sophomores at Eastern who decide to test the waters for off-campus rentals may be in for a rude awakening.

“I’m a single parent, so I can’t live on campus. I wanted to move into a house, but there’s no houses available — at least that I could find,” said Kellin Moreland, 20, a junior who lives in the Los Pueblos apartments in Portales. “I tried at the beginning of May, the beginning of June and the beginning of July.

“Most of my friends, because we’re at the junior or senior level, have stayed here and worked while going to summer school,” added Moreland, a Tucumcari native whose parents now live in Phoenix.

“I know a lot of people who do go home, but they keep renting their houses over the summer — because they can’t come back and find something.”

While realtors and potential renters are well aware of the current state of the market, answers as to why availability is so low aren’t as readily handy.

“No, I don’t. I’ve been trying to figure that out myself,” said Sandra Bedinger, qualifying broker at Master Realty in Portales, who adds that she’s getting approximately 25 phone calls a day asking about rental availability.

“I have a big question mark about where they’re coming from. Out of 70 rentals, I’ve only got Air Force people in two units — so they’re not really from Cannon,” Bedinger said. “I have no construction people, and I know they’ve got all that construction going on for the cheese plant. I have had a lot of people say they’re going to retire here.”

Bedinger has been in the real estate business for 35 years in Portales and Justus (31 years) and Jones (28) have similar longevity.

“I really don’t know. I don’t have an answer as to why the demand is so much greater,” Justus said.
As for those trying to find rentals, the realtors also have sympathy for that group.

“I worry about that, because I don’t know where they’re going to live,” said Bedinger of the returning ENMU students. “And, actually, the university people are some of my favorite tenants.”