It’s happening. People are returning to the city and renting houses and apartments again. Finally.

After a year upended by the coronavirus pandemic, the D.C. metro rental community is seeing an uptick in virtual tours and signed leases. We saw the migration begin about three months ago, after many of our clients received news from their employers about some in-person work and students learned about their classes.

If you’re thinking of moving in the next few months, you might want to start planning your move soon to take advantage of the decent prices still being offered.

People’s futures are becoming clearer these days, and they are acting on it. Suddenly leasing offices are busy again and even limiting the number of people on in-person tours to control the number of people on-site.

Units renting faster

Jay Patenaude from Keener Management reported that during January and February, one of Keener’s properties had four to six showings every two weeks, which would result in two rentals if the company was lucky.

Now the property is averaging 10 to 12 showings each week, with four or five leases signed from those showings.

More individually owned properties like single-family homes, condos, rowhouses and the apartments inside of them are starting to rent faster, and in some cases with multiple applications.

Not only is the charm of a unique rental home a draw, having more space to work from home and some outdoor space for new pandemic pets are higher priorities than before.

We have a client who had been working out of the area from home during the pandemic. She is returning to the D.C. metro area and needs some yard space — for her four chickens and one cat.

Rental growth is measured in other ways, too. In September, for example, Bright MLS reported that 36 rowhouses and single-family homes with two bedrooms or more had rented in D.C. In the past few weeks, 242 of them have rented, reflecting a significant spike in demand.

Rental incentives

But at the same time, the perks offered to renters during the pandemic are fading away.

Rental communities had offered incentives such as up to three months off rent, deals on parking or waived move-in fees to fill up vacant apartments. Because of these specials, independent owners had to come down in price to compete and get their properties rented.

There are still some good deals to be found, but as the lights are turning on again in units that stood dark for months, costs to rent are starting to trend upward. Monthly prices in the area had dropped during the height of the pandemic from $300 to $500 on average. Now they are starting to range from $1,600 to $2,400 a month.

If you already got an incentive on a rental or are being offered one as you sign a new lease, here are some tips to keep in mind:

· If a rent special is offered, be sure to ask whether it’s built into the rent quoted for the lease term. If the special is built-in, ask if the rent will increase at the end of the lease term based on the rent you are paying now or if it will increase based on the market rent.

· If you’ve been allowed to use your rent special as a credit throughout the term of the lease, know when that credit expires. It’s not a good surprise to be given an increase notice that is several hundred dollars above what you pay, and it’s often out of budget for most people.

Plan for when this might happen and be ready to move in case you can’t negotiate terms that will work for your budget.

· If you’re offered a waived amenity fee, find out if the fee is annual or a one-time cost.

· Same goes for the fees associated with your new pandemic puppy or cat. Some places offered waived pet fees as an incentive to signing a lease. Be sure to ask if the fee is annual or just a one-time thing.

· Free parking is a great perk. Make sure you know how long it will last and what the cost of parking will be once the incentive ends.

Nancy Simmons Starrs is founder and president of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment-search service.

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