‘You’re on edge every second’: Rising housing costs squeeze buyers, tenants

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Harvard University report concluded that as of April, families need to make $28,000 more to qualify for a mortgage.

Central Florida residents, such as Dominique Ward, 35, are fighting that financial and emotional battle.

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Ward has two careers in the medical field, but she lives with five adult relatives in the three-bedroom home she rents.

“My American dream is to have my own home with the white picket fence, but I feel like that’s a fairytale,” she said. “I never really imagined once I moved out, I was going to come back home again.”

Ward said she had no other choice.

“Put on your big girl draws then do what you got to do. And that’s what I did,” she said.

Read: What is inflation, how is it calculated and what does it mean for your wallet?

While living on her own, Ward said she spent almost $2,500 monthly on rent and bills.

But splitting those costs four ways, she now saves about $600 monthly.

Broker associate Diedra Cobaris said these non-traditional living arrangements are becoming more common.

“I’m starting to see there’s a shift coming where it’s bringing more families back together,” she said. “The cost of everything steadily rising is just causing families to say, ‘Let’s pool all our resources together.’”

Deborah, who asked Channel 9 to not reveal her last name, said she had to make tough decisions to make ends meet.

Read: US inflation surges again in June, raising risks for economy

“What was it like for you to hear the words, ‘You’re squatting?’” Channel 9′s Phylicia Ashley said.

“I never heard that term before. And I said, ‘No,’” Deborah said.

The former restaurant manager is on disability benefits and brings in almost $1,700 a month with her partner.

She said she saw a home that was vacant, and she needed a place to stay other than the U-Haul she had been living out of.

“Everything went up, but the checks are staying the same,” Deborah said.

The Orlando Regional Realtor Association said mortgage rates in Central Florida rose from 3.22% to more than 5.28% in the last two years.

In the last year, the average price of a home jumped from $360,000 in May 2021 to $445,000 in May 2022.

The organization’s president-elect, Lisa Hill, said it is a classic case of supply and demand.

“If you have low inventory and you have a lot of buyers, that’s just going to create this market, and it’s going to be a frenzy,” she said.

Hill said what happens in the housing market trickles down to the rental market.

Deborah said that although the way she now lives is more affordable, it does not bring her peace of mind.

“It was scary,” she said. “Luckily, we didn’t have to break in because the door was open. But to walk in, you’re on edge every second.”

“What was it like for you to hear the words, ‘You’re squatting?’” Channel 9′s Phylicia Ashley said

“I’m freaking out,” she said. “I’m trying to find a place that everybody’s just like $2,000, and then you got to have the down payment, which is $4,000 something to move in.”

Cobaris and Hill both said the market is stabilizing with more construction and supply coming in.

Read: US inflation surges again in June, raising risks for economy

Sellers and landlords will not have the flexibility to squeeze as much out of people.

Ward said she sees the bigger picture down the line.

“I thought I’d always see darkness, but the light has became greater and brighter,” she said.

Deborah said she thinks about her next move.

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Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

Jason Kelly joined WFTV in 2014.