I have noticed a very interesting trend in Jamaica. Renters are now quoting their prices in USD for properties, especially in Kingston. I mean, New York city apartment rental prices! Yes, even during Covid-19. These properties usually appear to be very nice but we primarily earn JMD in Jamaica. This means that our rent would increase daily as the value of the Jamaican dollar inevitably depreciates. You know when you are making natural juices at home to accompany your Sunday dinner and you use the strainer to filter out the sediments that you don’t need? That’s me, I’m the sediment, because once I see rent quoted in USD, I am automatically filtered out. Those ads are not for me. There are so many of these properties though, that makes me realize that there are some people in Jamaica making some serious money!
I moved to Kingston in 2009. Since then I’ve had 12 addresses. No, I have never been evicted, I always pay my rent on time and I maintain my lessor’s property. I mention this to add some credibility to my voice when I say I really know Kingston and the value that each area offers. The common theme however, is the high cost of rent relative to income.
So last year I went to view an apartment in Meadowbrook. I arrived for the viewing early so that if I liked the place I could try to convince the owners before the crowd comes. This apartment was about $40,000 Jamaican and in 2019 I thought that was affordable for the specified location. When I arrived there was a line stretching out to the gate with people waiting to view! The demand was high. The small studio apartment needed a lot of love and attention, it was an afterthought which found itself attached in someone’s back yard and it was extremely small! I’ve seen 2 bedroom houses for rent in the country for $2,000, just 40km away, that no one wants. Why should we fight so hard to live in substandard conditions in Kingston? Why is the rent so high? The simple answer, demand vs supply.
Kingston is a concentrated area of opportunities for Jamaicans. Jobs, recreation, social services and convenience are all features of the capital city, Kingston Jamaica. Therefore, because of those pull factors, the demand is high. The supply of suitable apartments is however low, so its a ‘sellers’ market. Home-owners can manipulate the prices as much as they want because they know that it will be rented. Of course, one wants to live close to work to avoid the never-ending traffic.
Renting has now become such a tedious and stressful process which can be compared to gambling. You are required to provide personal details such as your pay-slips, references and previous addresses along with your application before you are even considered. Another trend I noticed is that you may now be required to undergo an interview process! You have to prove that you qualify to live at a proposed house or apartment and with highly qualified persons applying, getting selected is a game of chance.
What these real estate agents like to do is stack the viewing sessions so there are usually multiple persons looking at the property to give the illusion that it is in demand. That way applicants compete with each other and possibly make higher offers.
If you have been suffering from rent-too-high syndrome, I have some tips that may help. I will share in a subsequent article.