The struggle is real in Knoxville, whether you’re looking to rent or buy

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — If you’re planning to rent in Knoxville anytime soon, you might want to begin your search now.

More and more people are being added to waiting lists, being outcompeted, and looking for an affordable house or apartment to call home.

Lacy Mellon, a local realtor and rental property owner, would have anticipated 20-30 calls on her 1,500 square-foot property on North Fourth Avenue a couple years ago. But this year is different.

“I started advertising the property about three weeks ago. Since then, I’ve fielded no less than 200 calls, emails, people finding me through Instagram, through Twitter, through Facebook, through a mutual friend, anything they can do to try to get information about this property and give themselves and edge and to try to get in there. They’re just desperate for somewhere,” she said. “I had one person ask if it would go into a bidding war, to just the highest bidder. It’s just wild.”

The demand was so great she had to schedule two mass showings and invite dozens of people to come tour the house at the same time. Alexandra Neild was one of them.

“It’s really awkward walking around the house with 30 other people and you’re like good luck, but I hope you don’t get it,” Neild said. During the tour, she began to empathize with the many families she noticed at the home and asked herself “is it okay for me to apply?”

She’s been looking for a place to rent for a month and has yet to put pen to paper.

“I obviously need a place to live. It seems that every house that I go to, they either have so many applicants or it’s very unreasonable priced and I can’t afford it… it’s just overwhelming honestly.”

Mellon attributes some of stress on the rental market to the low inventory of houses on the market for sale. Families are being outbit, thus having to rent. Landlords are able to sell their properties at a premium, meaning existing tenants have to relocate.

“It’s just creating this starved rental market with not enough inventory and more renters coming into the market than I think we’ve ever seen before,” she said.

Prices are going up with that demand. Numbers from Apartmentlist.com show rent in Knoxville is going up an average of 4.1% month-over-month, greater than the national overage.

Inventory is the only culprit behind the number of “starved” renters, Mellon also believes there’s an influx of people moving to the area from other states. “…the Secret of our little Scruffy City here in Knoxville is out. People are flocking here…it’s just created this massive shortage of inventory. i don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Mellon added.

Mellon recommends you know where you’re going, start looking months in advance, talk with your existing landlord about the current rental market and ask for more time to find housing. She also said you should prepare to be willing to work with a landlord’s timeline, meaning you consider signing onto a lease prior to leaving your existing home.

Lastly, she said to be a great communicator when talking to a prospective landlord or property manager.

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