Seek a full house

Trying to find ways to grow their business even though they were already working seven days a week, Kim and Spencer Grist of Reno Rental Finders sought counseling from the Nevada Small Business Development Center.

Rod Jorgensen, who heads business counseling at the center, and a team of graduate students, took a careful look at Reno Rental Finders and offered a simple suggestion to the Grists:

Hire some help. Stop working so hard.

A little over a year later, the company now includes a fulltime manager, a couple of part-time location agents, and it's looking to hire more part-timers.

The Grists, however, still work seven days

a week. All the additional help simply provided the company the capacity to handle more listings.

The business is anything but complicated: Reno Rental Finders contracts with landlords to find tenants for their residential properties, signing them up one vacancy at a time. Its staff members provide personalized showings to potential tenants drawn to the listings on the company's Web site.

Tenants pay a $25 application fee $35 for married couples that's good for any of the properties listed with Reno Rental Finders. Landlords pay $400 or half of the first month's rent whichever is greater after a tenant is approved.

The key to the business, says Kim Grist, is a steady and growing number of listings. Last week, the company's Web site listed 89 residential rentals 50 homes, 17 apartments, 12 townhomes and 10 condominiums.

Houses range from a $2,900-a-month home at Arrowcreek it includes a home theater to a cozy downtown cottage priced at $550 a month.

The landlords who list their properties with Reno Rental Finders all are individual owners of investment properties no big property owners among them who often don't have the time or patience to show

their properties themselves.

They also get counseling from Reno Rental Finders about the rents they can expect in the current market.

And that, Kim Grist says, is becoming a more difficult conversation.

For one thing, a growing number of the landlords who are looking for tenants these days never expected to be in the rental business. They're homeowners who can't sell their house during the downturn but can't afford to leave it vacant.

At the same time, rents have been soft in recent months. A house that might have commanded $1,200 a month late last year now rents for $1,150.

And further confusing the market, Grist says, is the number of tenants in the market who never expected to rent again many of them former homeowners who lost their property to foreclosure. Believing the market to be weighted entirely toward renters, they tend to be aggressive about the price they're willing to pay.

But it's not entirely a renters' market, Grist says.

People continue to move to northern Nevada. Couples fall in love, marry and need a place to live. Other households break up in divorce and create demand for rentals.

A growing demand, she says, comes from multi-generational families parents, children, grandchildren who are moving under one rented roof to save costs.

As they work to grow the number of listings with Reno Rental Finders, the Grists are indomitable networkers everything from the Reno-Chamber of Commerce to eWomenNetwork to school parents' nights.

Often, Kim Grist says, she introduces herself at parents' nights as "Kim Grist from Reno Rental Finders" and remembers only later to introduce herself as a parent.

Kim Grist began working for the firm as a manager when it was launched in 2003. The couple purchased Reno Rental Finders in 2006.


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