Renter’s Guide: Why prices are so high around Savannah and where to look

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 1:34 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Rental prices are spiking nationwide, and hitting record highs in California, New York and Savannah, Ga.

Experts say there are a number of factors driving up rent prices. Rentals have gotten so expensive in the greater Savannah area that some families are being forced to make difficult decisions.

There are two questions many renters are asking:

  1. Why are rentals so expensive?
  2. Where should someone look around Savannah if they want to save money?

Rental prices in Savannah and Pooler, in particular, have gone up at an alarming rate in the past year, affecting thousands of residents. Joe Martinez, a retired Gulfstream employee who lives in Pooler, is one of them.

“If the rent goes up, I’m going to be forced to move somewhere else,” Martinez said.

Martinez says he thought his social security would allow him to live out his retired years comfortably in the Savannah suburb. But now, he’s paying $1,559.26 per month for a one bedroom apartment off Pooler Parkway. He says if the rent goes up any more, he will have to move.

“We’re retired. We only get one check once a month. And, the very little bit of money we have, we have to make ends meet,” he said.

Kaila Hall wanted to move her young family to Pooler, but rising prices priced them out.

“It’s not even an option right now, because really we’re just going day-to-day trying to get through it, you know?” Hall said.

Hall says she and her husband both work. But right now, with soaring prices for everything from groceries to gas, she says they are just making enough money to rent their home in Rincon. They have three young children, and would prefer to either rent or buy a home in Pooler. But she says that’s not an option right now, and points out that the high prices in Pooler are driving up costs in smaller, nearby communities like Rincon.

“That kind of shocked me, because those are more country areas,” she added.

So, just how high is the rent?

We crunched rental data in Savannah and Pooler. Numbers from the research team at Apartment List - which analyzes rental data nationwide - shows prices here have skyrocketed. On average, you’ll pay nearly $1,200 for a one bedroom apartment in Savannah, up 23 percent from last June. In Pooler, you’ll pay more than $1,500 for a one bedroom unit, up 20 percent from a year ago.

You can take a look at the numbers for yourself here:

But it’s not just Savannah and Pooler; rental prices are up across the entire region. That includes places like Wilmington Island. We interviewed realtor Emily Trust with Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty at what was, at the time, one of the only available rentals on the island.

“This is, as far as we know, the only rental available on Wilmington Island right now,” Trust said.

Trust says it’s an issue of supply and demand. Homes are selling for record-high prices, and the current market is highly competitive, pushing more people to rent. Trust also points out the Savannah area is very transient. Nearby military bases, colleges and large employers experience turnover. Many of those people are not looking to buy, which only adds to the competitive rental market.

Trust says the pandemic also played a key role. Supply chain issues are delaying construction on new rental developments, which would theoretically help bring prices down. Trust says there’s also been a geographic shift from states like California and areas in the northeast to here in the southeast.

Still, Trust says the high prices in Pooler in particular stand out.

“Yes, it does surprise us. Because Pooler is known to have a lot of new rental complexes, and a lot of homes to rent,” Trust said. “Investors buy homes out there to rent. And yet, rentals are still unbelievably limited.”

Trust says people looking to save money on rent should shop areas in Savannah, but not in the heart of downtown. It’s something Thomas McMillan, rental property manager for Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty, knows all too well.

“We’ll put a property up, and we’ll have 10-15 applications the first day,” McMillan said.

McMillan says if you are looking downtown, you should try to lock something down before SCAD’s fall semester starts.

“As soon as you see something up, you have to jump on it,” he said.

Some renters say, with affordable rentals so hard to find, they may consider other options. Pooler renter Carlos Gadson Jr. agrees.

“The rent prices are pretty much like buying a house!” Gadson said. “You might as well just buy a house.”

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