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High-rise apartment buildings like Riverfront Towers are rare in the city | © Ken Lund / Flickr
High-rise apartment buildings like Riverfront Towers are rare in the city | © Ken Lund / Flickr
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The Ultimate Renter’s Guide to Detroit, Michigan

Picture of Tim Marklew
Updated: 2 March 2018
Over recent years, Detroit has become an attractive proposition for many people due to a lower cost of living, thriving art and culture scenes, job opportunities and value for money when it comes to living arrangements. Grandchildren of former Detroit residents are moving back to the city and are being joined by people from New York, L.A., and other expensive cities who are looking for rental properties. If you’re considering renting in Detroit, here’s what you need to know, according to Tom Ball, an experienced realtor from Real Estate One and a lifelong Detroiter.

The rental market

Detroit is pretty unique when it comes to U.S. cities, and that’s no different for renters. The city’s history of booming and shrinking is still impacting the rental market, as Tom explains.

“When the city was flourishing and expanding, the auto industry enabled a lot of workers to become homeowners, and there were more single-family detached homes in Detroit than anywhere else in the world. There were renters like in all cities, but Detroit wasn’t like Chicago or New York, with a disproportionately small amount of apartment buildings—and that’s still the case.”

Tom continues: “When the market bottomed out several years ago, all the condos and lofts that were built to be sold became rentals overnight, and a lot of qualified buyers opted to rent while looking for the ideal house, usually as close to the neighborhoods they want to live in, so they could get a feel for it.

“Now, because the market is such, properties that were rentals are being sold again, and quality rentals are disappearing. Long-term renters are being given opportunities to buy properties, but many prefer the simplicity of renting and choose to move instead. Unfortunately for tenants, it’s a seller’s market again, and good homes in preferred neighborhoods don’t stay on the market long.

“That said, there are still great duplexes, triplexes, condos, and lofts to rent in the city, with typical rents between $500 and $2,000.”

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High-rise apartment buildings like Riverfront Towers are rare in the city | © Ken Lund / Flickr

Neighborhoods

There are a number of good neighborhoods for renters to look out for, according to Tom.

“Southwest Detroit, home to Detroit’s Hispanic community, is a great option, with affordable properties and excellent bodegas and restaurants within walking distance.

“Eastern Market is attracting many young people new to the city due to its amazing and unusual properties and close proximity to wonderful small businesses and the market itself. Hamtramck is another funky and diverse option with good rental options that are attracting a hip young crowd.

“East of Downtown, historic neighborhoods like Indian Village and West Village have been a good choice for renters for a long time, and they are currently seeing a lot of changes with new businesses opening regularly.

“Though costs are going up in general, in any of these neighborhoods, people can rent great homes inexpensively when compared to other cities.”

Advice

Tom says knowing the neighborhood you’re moving to, at all times of the day, and engaging with your neighbors is a must. “Always drive through the neighborhood you want to rent in, both during the day and the evening, so you see what it is like. Always, always, ALWAYS know your neighbors. They will watch out for you, and you can watch out for them. And it builds a better neighborhood and living situation.”

Watch out for additional costs or inconveniences. Tom says, “Parking costs are often extra, and parking in certain places is becoming more expensive. If you’re renting in the city proper, you will need a car though because there are no supermarkets close by and the mass transit system, whilst improving through efforts such as the QLine, does not match that of other cities.”

He also advises people to be sensible about Detroit’s reputation for crime. “People worry about crime in Detroit, and it’s certainly a factor, but no more than in any big city. If you’re used to city living, sensible and engaged with your neighborhood, then surprises are unlikely.”