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Looking for a rental home? Here are some tips from local real estate professionals

Don’t believe everything you see.

That’s the warning from local real estate professionals, who are cautioning would-be renters that online websites advertising homes for lease can be far from accurate. A quick online review indicated that there were between 19 and 75 rental properties available in Beaufort County this week. Not so, according to three sources interviewed this week.

“The demand is great, but availability is almost zero. Website numbers don’t reflect availability, I can tell you that,” said Susan Ashby of Coldwell Bankers / Coastal Rivers Realty in Washington, “Online sites are much slower about updating their information but we update daily. I have three for rent right now, but that could change in an hour.”

Sandy Deans, a property manager with The Rich Company, echoed Ashby’s warning. “Those websites will advertise stuff long after we have them rented,” she said, noting that there’s not much available because of the tight housing market. “That ‘sell market’ is so hot that it’s forced some people to rent because they can’t buy right now, and prospective builders face pandemic-related material shortages that will make people’s rental time longer, probably by a year.”

What’s a prospective renter to do? “Stay local,” said Shannon Blackstone, owner of Pamlico Properties. She advised renters to depend on people who live where they want to move. “You can’t believe everything you see on those national websites. Call the actual home owners or one of our businesses, or find people who might know someone with something to rent.”

All three real estate professionals gave a common explanation for the lack of local rentals: Beaufort County is a popular location because of all it offers.

“A lot of people move to this area and work for big companies, but love the water or the feel of a small town, and would rather commute than have an easier drive because they live in a big city. Beaufort County has the small towns, the quaintness, the history, the water, everything,” Ashby said.

“I probably get at least 10 calls a week from people looking, but can’t help them because of lack of inventory,” Deans said. “My last three residential properties were rented before they were even empty yet. I tell people to get in their car, ride around, look at different neighborhoods, and greet people with signs in their yards.

And if one company doesn’t have a rental available, someone else might.

“We network with other companies so, if I don’t have rental, I will send someone to another realtor,” Ashby said. “The whole idea is to help person needing to rent a property, even call private owners to see if they still have their yard sign out. We just try to work together. It’s not even a small town thing for me. It’s just who I am.”