As a newly engaged graduating senior, I have been scouring the greater Indianapolis area for housing for nearly six months to avoid moving back in with my parents right out of college. Unfortunately, with my budget and the current housing market, I have had no success finding affordable housing as a potential renter and buyer. The internet has been a great resource for my search where I have used websites, such as Zillow, Realtor, Trulia and Redfin. However, the homes that I see one week seem to disappear before the next, and in some cases are only on the market for a few hours before being marked as sold. The difficulty of finding housing is something that many university students are able to avoid by living on campus, but for those that choose to live off campus and those who are graduating, this problem can put undue stress on top of things like job searching.
Over the past six months, I have been primarily using Zillow to do my home searching, as they have a great user interface and it functions as an all-in-one platform for both renting and buying. While I would love to settle down and buy a home, the turn over for the listings on Zillow has been so rapid that I have expanded my search to potential rental properties as well. According to RENTCafe, 45% of households in Indianapolis are renter-occupied and 54% are owner-occupied. The website also shows the average rent in Indianapolis at $1,020 as of Oct. 2021, which is just over $500 cheaper than the national average. According to the website, only 13% of the rental properties are listed between $500 and $700. On top of this data, Rentdata.org states that the size of homes and apartments being rented in the $500-$700 range only includes studio apartments and one bedroom apartments and homes.
I began to ask myself why this is the case and if the housing market will rebound sooner rather than later. According to the Home Buying Institute (HBI), there are two reasons why it is so hard to find a starter home. Their reasoning includes a decline in single-family home construction, as well as a reluctance to sell due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to the housing market in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when small homes (1,400 square feet or less) made up 40% of new home construction, similarly sized homes now only make up 7% of new home construction. HBI states that there was also a surge in home-buying following the beginning of the COVID[-19] pandemic because people felt the need for more space and homes better equipped for working at home. Throughout the pandemic, especially during the three-semester period where I strictly took online classes, I spent nearly all of my time in my own home. So I can understand why people might want to focus more on what they have rather than searching for a new home. Unfortunately, this has left first-time home buyers, such as myself, without much to choose from or anything at all.
According to another HBI article, the national inventory fell to about 923,000 homes nationwide, marking a national record low. As of right now, us first-time home buyers need to be patient and persistent, according to HBI. As I scroll through Zillow on my phone almost every afternoon, I try to keep myself from imagining how great it would be to move in, and instead try to refine my taste in homes. I would encourage first-time buyers to narrow down your needs from your wants, not in an effort to settle for something less than perfect, but so that when the house or apartment of your dreams surfaces, you will be ready to jump at the opportunity when it presents itself. If you are still struggling to find what you are looking for, then opting for a short term lease might be the best choice. Bide your time, bite the “rent bullet” for another six months and hope.