February 19, 2016 5:33 pm
Updated: February 19, 2016 8:30 pm

Alberta landlords forced to offer free TVs, housecleaning, groceries to rent their properties

WATCH: With Alberta's once-hot housing market now cooled, some landlords are going to extreme lengths to lure new tenants. Reid Fiest explains.


Sign a lease to rent one Calgary home, and a big screen 55-inch LED TV is yours to keep. It’s a growing trend Alberta landlords are being forced to keep up with in order to lure tenants.

Gifts and free rent are now commonplace in ads, after a dramatic shift in the rental market since oil prices dropped.

“[In the past] you could throw an ad up with a high rent and get a bunch of calls right away,” leasing agent Shawn Langille said.

“You could pick your tenant and have them fight over a property.”

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Not anymore.

The rent for the house Langille is leasing has been slashed between $200 and $300, yet it’s been sitting empty for six weeks and counting.

“You have to get the rents in the same comparison as your competitors and offer the incentives,” Langille said.

Some of the other freebies being offered to renters: monthly housecleaning, grocery store gift cards, and cable and Internet.

READ MORE: Calgary tenants in the middle of a renters’ goldmine

It’s a seismic shift in fortunes for property owners.

Many parts of Alberta had virtually no vacancy for close to a decade, but now the head of the Calgary Residential Rental Association estimates it’s between 10 and 20 per cent.

“Do we see any bright lights at the end of the tunnel?” the association’s head Gerry Baxter said.

“Right now things look pretty gloomy—probably for the bulk of this year.”

Online rental sites have seen their business spike, with a big jump in ads.

“Roughly a 40 per cent increase from this time last year,” RentFaster.ca’s Mark Hawkins said.

“And then we’ve seen that price drop anywhere from 10 to 20 per cent.”

Experts say the next big hit to the market could come in the spring, when many leases typically come up for renewal.

Plus, supply continues to increase as more Albertans are renting their homes out, as opposed to selling them at a loss.

“Yeah, it’s bad,” Langille said.

But at the same time, for people who own property, it’s the long term game that you’re in, knowing charging less rent is better than getting none at all.

WATCH MORE: Calgary real estate to remain a buyer’s market in 2016

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