Renters find key for surviving housing crisis

Samantha Laros

Jim Hauch seems to have found a lucrative loophole amidst a national foreclosure crisis.

Hauch, a former Kent student, recently graduated from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and is studying for the bar exam. Between his two companies, Hauch Housing LLC and A&H Investments, he owns about 15 properties in Kent. He said he first noticed the potential to make money from student rental properties when he was an undergraduate living on Lincoln Street.

“(The foreclosure crisis) is affecting the Kent single-family homes,” he said. “There are excellent deals on single-family homes in this city. But the licensed student rentals, because they’re occupied and have a constant stream of income, remain somewhat unaffected through the recession.”

He bought his first property while he was a sophomore at Kent State.

“The reason I was able to buy so many is I got in with some owners who knew each other,” he said. “A couple of them were older and looking to get out. So, they were selling them, and I stepped in and bought them.”

Generally, he said, the houses are sold privately without a real estate agent, or passed down through family and close friends.

This is the case for Buckeye Parks Management, which rents about 49 apartments and houses throughout Kent. Secretary Jenny Conlon, or “Jenny-on-a-showing,” as she said her clients know her, said this year marks Buckeye’s 40th year with the same owner. This year he will pass the business down to his daughter, she said.

Conlon has worked with Buckeye Parks for six years, answering phones and showing properties to prospective tenants and parents. She said one of the neatest things about her job recently has been meeting second-generation tenants.

“The parents will come in to take a look at the house or the apartment that their daughter (or son) is going to live in,” she said. “They’ll jump out of their car and say the landlord’s name, ‘George Wallace,’ and I’ll say ‘yeah.’

“In one place on Lake Street, it happened to be the place where the parents moved into it when it was one big house back in the late ’60s, early ’70s. It was not separate apartments like it is now, ” she said. “That’s where they met and fell in love, was in that house.”

From a renter’s perspective, there is a fixed number of houses available for rent with a fairly high demand.

Both Hauch and Conlon said properties on Lincoln, Summit and College streets are the first to be rented out because of proximity to campus.

Hauch said his houses closest to campus were full by the end of January. In February and March, those farther away started to fill up.

In Conlon’s case, the six-bedroom houses and the one-bedroom apartments were the first she filled this year. She recommended that students looking for those properties start in January or February.

Conlon said she also notices a trend of properties being passed down within a group of friends. Often, the same group of friends will have a house for three or four years with the exchange of one or two roommates.

“In one of my six-bedrooms … they were there four years,” she said. “It started off with one group, and they stayed a year. Then, some of them graduated and their younger sisters came in and took over their room. Some of the larger places kind of get handed down.”

Conlon said that despite a high demand for certain properties this year, she has more properties vacant in mid-July than ever before, which could be good news to those students still looking for a home in the fall.

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Samantha Laros at [email protected].