Home rental costs climb higher nationally, locally

Renters are feeling the toll of the struggling housing market.

It's a sign real estate is shifting gears.  Renter Bridgette Ebben says most of the apartments in her building are empty.  For the last few years, Ebben has been happy to sidestep the drama homeowners have suffered in an unstable market.  But she says it's caught up.  “In June, we had approximately a 15% increase in our rent and not just an increase in rent, but they're also taking amenities away.”

Local realtors say it's becoming increasingly common.  Rent is expected to jump 5% across the country this year, and another 5% in 2012.  Realtor Jim Austin says, “The supply's a little low out there right now and when supply gets low and demand gets high, your prices are going to go up a little bit.”

Nationwide, apartment and rental housing construction has been cut in half in recent years.  Lincoln hasn't been immune. Also, a wave of former homeowners who had trouble paying their mortgages are now competing for apartment space.  Austin says, “In my eyes, it's an opportunity for people to purchase rather than rent.  A lot of people are spending more money renting and they could get in a house with similar square footage, or however you want to look at it, for less money.”

Ebben says she and her family will do just that.  “Instead of throwing away our money every month, we'd rather be building equity in a house.”