Apartment Rents Hit Biggest Growth Spurt Since 2019

Apartment rent trends may have hit a new stride. The Apartment List national rent index increased by .7% month-over-month in February, the largest monthly increase since June 2019. The increase also represents the second consecutive month of rent growth, a possible turn in the downward trend in rates catalyzed by the pandemic.

Considering historic rent growth trends, the month-over-month increase represents a substantial bump forward. For the past three years, February rent growth was .3% month-over-month. The report from Apartment List notes that the 2021 increase is more than double February 2020. In January, rent growth also outpaced the prior year’s average.

It isn’t all good news. Overall, the national rent index is still down .8% year-over-year, and rents have yet to recover to the post-pandemic peak in August following a trough in December. However, the gains in January and February have helped to offset some of those losses. Rents are now down only .1% from June rent levels, and rent losses are starting to recover. Last month, rents had a year-over-year decline of 1.2%, and this month the number has improved to .8%.

While this is an overarching trend, Apartment List notes that rent trends are very market specific through the pandemic. Rents in some markets are hitting a trough—or recovering from one—while booming markets are continuing to see rent growth. Of course, this has been the trend throughout the pandemic. Multifamily has shined in the sunbelt region. A recent report from Yardi found that high-cost metros like New York and San Francisco struggled during the pandemic, seeing substantial rent declines, smaller metros actually saw either positive or flat rent growth. Tampa led the top 30 markets on a month-over-month basis in December with .9% in rent growth, while the Inland Empire, Phoenix and Orange County followed behind with 0.5% rent growth.

Some investors are forming investment strategies to respond to the trend. Last month, Rastegar Property Co. launched a $200 million private investment trust to invest in vintage multifamily assets throughout the Sunbelt. The firm plans to renovate, reposition, re-lease, and/or develop vintage assets throughout the region, which includes 18 states. The region has quickly become a favorite among investors during the pandemic due to strong inward migration supported by work-from-home policies.

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