Out of the Dorms, It’s a Cutthroat Rental Market

The Challenges of Finding Off-Campus Housing


Caroline Coughlin and Erin Wilson

Incline Village housing is not only the most expensive real estate in Nevada, it’s also some of the most expensive housing in America, and the number of housing units is remarkably low. With a year-round population of 9,000 people and only 3,767available housing units, simple math makes it clear why Incline Village lacks available properties for SNC student renters.

“Housing in Tahoe is really difficult to find,” said Hannah Greene, a senior digital arts and journalism major. “I have lived here for around four years and have lived in so many different houses. None of them have been easy to find. It is definitely harder for college students.”

Competition for local housing means that students have to stay on top of the market and move quickly. Junior Imahni Burks, a marketing major, lost out on a great Incline Village apartment by only a few minutes. “My roommates and I started looking for a place in October, and we finally found a loft-style apartment across the street from the Hyatt. Right when we turned in our application, someone else turned theirs in,” she said. So Burks and her friends started their search all over again.

Finances play a huge role. Rent prices for Incline Village houses and condos have steadily increased in the past four years. Rents increased by 14 percent from 2015 to 2016, making it even harder for SNC studentsto find affordable off-campus housing.

Greene said it’s disappointing to find the perfect house and then realize it’s way out of your budget. “Rent prices are through the roof in Tahoe,” she said. “I lived in New York City before, and housing here is almost as difficult to find.”

Even when students are lucky enough to find suitable off-campus housing, they are subject to background and credit checks that may disqualify them. Junior Ciera Serrano, a global business management major, said that credit checks often make students look like poor rental candidates. “A lot of homeowners around here run credit scores. Since college kids don’t have much credit, it makes it almost impossible to find somewhere to live,” she said.

Junior Rachel Lightner is searching for housing now. Her current lease ends April 30, and she’s looking for a rental she can keep over the summer. “We’re going through a rental company now, and there are a lot more rules and regulations involved. Realtors don’t want to work with college students. They want people that are going to be here for 20 years,” she said.

To bypass some of these obstacles, some students rent directly from homeowners rather than going through rental companies, but this can lead to uncertainty. Digtal arts and journalism major Kyly Clark said that she is worried about possible eviction because her landlord plans to sell the house she lives in.

“For now my rent is month to month,” Clark said. “I asked my landlord about my future in this house and if he could see me there for another year. If I can’t stay, I will be faced with finding a new spot. I’ve been looking every day on Craigslist, but there is nothing, and I’ve been looking since July.”

There’s no rent control in Washoe County, so landlords and homeowners can raise their tenants’ rent at any time. “A lot of people I know have had their rent increased at the same time we’re looking for housing. So it’s a very competitive period to get a house for the summertime here,” Lightner said.

Most SNC students seeking off-campus housing have only a few choices—move back on campus and live in the dorms, get extra roommates to help pay the rent, or move out of Incline Village.

“I realized the housing in Incline Village was quite a bit more expensive versus the grid area in Kings Beach,” Lightner said. But she added that the number of available rentals isn’t much larger in Kings Beach or nearby towns. For a wider choice of rentals, students have to commute all the way to Reno.

“I go on Craigslist every single day, and I’m constantly checking for houses,” Lightner said. “But it’s really discouraging when you see Reno has thousands of places opening up daily. In North Lake, maybe one place per town gets added every other day. It’s so competitive here.”

Burks struck out in Incline Village, but had good luck finding a five-bedroom house for herself and four other roommates just 10 minutes away from SNC’s campus. “Sometimes the commute is annoying, but I have a car so it’s not that bad,” she said. “My other roommates don’t have cars, so sometimes they have to walk to school. It’s a two-mile walk.”

Lightner noted that the rental process involves a lot of research and paperwork, and it can be challenging for many SNC students who are first-time renters. “You’re in the dorms and everything is taken care of, and then all of the sudden your time is up in the dorms. You’re thinking, ‘What am I supposed to do?’” She added that if SNC had an off-campus housing department that connected students with available rentals, “it would make the transition much easier for our students.” 

But it’s really discouraging when you see Reno has thousands of places opening up daily. In North Lake, maybe one place per town gets added every other day. It’s so competitive here.”

— Rachel Lightner