Eastside renters enjoy the fruits of failed real estate flips

It’s not like apartment rents across Echo Park and other Eastside neighborhoods have dropped dramatically. But if you are stuck paying $1,400 a month for a one-bedroom apartment with no parking and a growling pit bull for a neighbor, then it might be worth checking out the market. You will probably find more options and amenities than existed only two or three years ago. It’s kind of payback for years of living in a landlord’s market.

“A lot of people [who signed leases during the peak years] are realizing they got ripped off,” said Liz McDonald, AKA The Rental Girl, who has been in the Eastside rental business since 2001. “Landlords are willing to negotiate more than before – they have to.”

Renters who find more options can thank real estate speculators, as well as a deflating economy, for the bigger selection. Many of these investors who had been fixing up and trying to resell, or flip, these properties got stuck when the real estate market and economy tanked. Those failed flips, many featuring stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops (haven’t we seen enough of these?) are now competing with traditional apartments. As a result, McDonald suggests renters check out the listings on The MLS, which is primarily for sells and buyers, to find rentals.

“They sell it,” McDonald said. “So now they are turning around and renting.”

That’s put landlords of older properties and traditional apartments under more pressure to fix up their places or hold the line on rent. “The place with original charm how has to compete with new granite counters, stainless steel everything and recessed lighting,” McDonald said.

But rents, McDonald points out, have really not dropped. It’s just that those landlords who had been able to easily jack up the rent by $100 or more every time a tenant moved out are having a harder time. “This year we are not able to get that increase.”

Still, some landlords have been lucky. In September, a recently renovated 16-unit building in Echo Park that McDonald represents began leasing apartments. They have all new interiors, including claw-foot tubs, but no off-street parking. Only three are left as of early December, she said.

“We pretty much have been renting them quickly at $1,395”

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