Supply, Demand, and Crappy Landlords

Posted on 22. Jun, 2006 by in Real Estate

You may or may not know that the family and I are heading back to the Bay Area, California in August. Because we’re not sure how long we’ll be staying, we’ve been frantically looking for a place to live. For about two weeks now we’ve been scouring the internet trying to find the “perfect” place to live. We’ve compiled a huge list of potential apartments that I will be visiting later this week in an apartment-searching-blitz.

After making a number of phone calls trying to schedule appointments to view my list of apartments I have come to a realization that supply and demand affects attitude and customer service – and in my case it results in a poor attitude and crappy customer service.

My theory is that because the landlords in the Bay Area know that people are desparate to find affordable housing (demand is high), they can do whatever they want (because the supply is low). It doesn’t matter if they’re rude, have outlandish requests, and never return your phone calls because there is always someone desparate enough to jump through the hoops. I’ve had several problems with the rudeness that comes out in this season of high demand and low supply…

First of all, I can’t get a hold of anyone! Regardless of whether or not the listing includes “office hours” nobody seems to be working during those hours. I’ve spoken with more answering machines the past few days than actual human beings. And even after leaving countless messages, can you guess how many landlords have called back? Zero!

When I do get a hold of someone they act like they could care less whether or not you’re interested. “Umm… does the apartment have washer & dryer hookups?” you may ask. “Hmmm? What? Oh, ummm…. I don’t know.” These people don’t know anything!

The most frustrating part about this process has been the large number of different “procedures” (aka hoops) that you have to jump through to even apply. One landlord I talked to told me he couldn’t show me the apartment until I had applied and been approved. But why in the world would I go through the trouble to fill out a 5 page application (literally) for an apartment that might be a rat-infested hole-in-the-wall?

Most businesses, even when demand for their product is high, still understand that someday the demand will drop off and customer service in the “good times” will help keep customers close. Landlords don’t seem to realize this. Perhaps when the housing bubble in the Bay Area bursts (oh how I pray for that day…) they will realize that being a jerk to me will only make me hang up on you and call a different apartment. Yeah, and perhaps hell will freeze over…

One Response to “Supply, Demand, and Crappy Landlords”

  1. Jordan T. Cox

    23. Jun, 2006

    While supply is low and demand is high, it’s also true that this is an “inelastic” market. Affordable housing is a necessity. Most other markets, people will say “Eh; I would like the Mac’N’Cheese – but it’s really not right that I should pay $500/box for it… so I’ll just buy this steak for $3 instead.”. Housing’s a different story. Since you need it, and they’ve got it – they’ve also got you by the gonads. Joy!

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