By Carol Stiffler
It’s hard to find somewhere to live in Newberry these days.
Mya Glaesman, a Newberry native who has been living in Texas lately, wants to come home with her boyfriend and dogs to have family support when her first child is born later this year. She’s been trying to find an apartment for months, with no luck.
“It’s awful,” she said. “It’s going terrible.”
Glaesman, like several others, has put out feelers on Facebook, asking the Newberry Area Yard Sales members if they know of any place she can live. She’s open to moving as far away as Sault Ste. Marie, but her dogs preclude her from any available apartments — which isn’t many.
Money isn’t the issue – she’s ready to pay up to $800 a month in rent, like she does in Texas. She’s got good references, she says, pays all her bills on her own, has work lined up in Newberry, and says her dogs are well trained.
But that doesn’t matter when there are literally no available units.
Is the population increasing? Local officials aren’t sure, and note that it will be interesting to see the 2020 census numbers when they’re out.
Betsy Costa, a sales associate at the Cummings McCraney Real Estate office in Newberry, can’t speculate about the population but notes that the housing market was already low on inventory when the summer buying season began.
“It’s tight,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of listings, and if we get a house for sale, usually we have several showings, and more than one offer in a week.”
That’s happening on waterfront properties, too, she said.
Costa said the price for housing is increasing, moving up from extreme lows a few years ago.
“People are paying pretty much asking prices, and making full price offers,” she said.
Costa suspects having low inventory is part of the reason for the increase in listing prices, and speculates some of that issue might be simply because people aren’t putting their homes on the market.
Area resident Rob Onica says his property management company receives calls from would-be tenants every day.
“We are full,” he said. “The shortage has been astounding.”
Onica and business partner Mike Metzler run Avenue A Property Management, and own and maintain 18 rental units in the village of Newberry. They bought the Hollywood Motel, then converted it to apartments four years ago, where they offer efficiency suites with cable, internet, lawn, and snow removal included. Rent is $625 per month.
Tenants are happy there, he said, and some have told him they’ll live there until they die. That’ll make vacancies hard to come by.
Onica and Metzler are restoring one apartment right now, and if they weren’t working in it, they know it would be rented out.
They don’t keep a waitlist for apartments, Onica said, because needs change and people may find other housing in the meantime.
But Onica knows that “in the meantime” can see people living in unappealing situations.
“We’ve taken in people who were literally camping,” Onica said. “We get calls from people who are living in their vehicles.”
It isn’t necessarily that people can’t afford to pay the rent.
At the Luce County Housing Commission, Executive Director Shannon Marks says housing is hard to find, but clients who come to the commission for assistance with rent must first find a place to live.
The commission has 110 vouchers, one per household, and 67 are in use. Marks said the housing commission uses hotel rooms when necessary, and keeps a wait list.
“Oftentimes it is a matter of us using all of our funding on just those 67 vouchers, so we aren’t able to use the full amount,” she said.
Deer Park resident Pete Wurdock is one of the lucky ones. He’s been on the hunt for a house in Newberry for months, and was recently beginning to consider renting until he found a suitable home.
“I began looking in November when I was still living downstate,” Wurdock said. “I’d make arrangements with my agent to come up for a day and see the properties I was interested in, but more than once she called the night before to tell me they had accepted offers.”
Wurdock, who has two dogs, was looking for a place with enough room, that didn’t need too much work, and was generally pleasant to dwell in.
He toured three homes last weekend, two of which didn’t fit the bill at all. He made a cash offer on the third and it was accepted. He hopes to close on the property by August 1.
“It has been a wild ride for sure, and I was beginning to think moving here was a mistake,” he said. “Now all that has changed and my fingers remain crossed as the next few weeks pan out.”