2022 is here, and it is time to give 2021 one last look before diving headlong into the new year. Whereas 2020 was a historic year for mostly undesirable reasons, 2021 will be a year multifamily industry participants reference and discuss for a long time to come. The story of 2021 was generational apartment demand and rent growth. Pent up demand from 2020, economic re-opening, stimulus efforts, population migration, changing renter preferences, and more fueled one of the most active years on record for the industry. As always, numbers will refer to properties of at least 50 units.
With 2021 coming to a close, and with apartment demand and rent growth rightly garnering a lion’s share of the attention, it is time to check in one last time this year on the new construction pipeline. Despite supply chain challenges and labor shortages, more new units were delivered through November of this year than in any recent complete year – and by a sizable margin. Nationally, about 325,000 new units were delivered through eleven months of 2021.
The new construction pipeline, despite the various supply and labor challenges present in the market, has continued to deliver units this year to an extent greater than in recent years. Through October, more than 300,000 conventional new units have been delivered, up from just over 260,000 new units in the same portion of both 2019 and 2020. While the preexisting upward trajectory in average construction time has continued and intensified, the average lease-up duration has declined for the first time in more than four years.
The 2021 multifamily bounce back has been like nothing seen in decades. Dazzling apartment demand has propelled lease concessions downward and average rent to stratospheric levels despite an increase in new supply compared to previous years. Of course, beneath the national metrics, some important differences emerge. As always, all numbers will refer to conventional properties of at least 50 units.
The rate of multifamily rent growth so far in 2021 has been much discussed recently as gains have reached dazzling levels on the back of historic apartment demand. Asking rent increases have contributed mightily to the growth, but the continued retreat of lease concessions has played a major role as well. As always, numbers will refer to conventional properties of at least 50 units.
The strong results for the multifamily industry seen in the first three months of this year continued through June. The upcoming July edition of the ALN monthly newsletter will cover mid-year results in more detail, but the general nationwide numbers are certainly worth highlighting. As always, numbers will refer to conventional properties of at least 50 units. Despite various supply chain and labor issues this year, just less than 190,000 new units were delivered through the first six months of 2021.
The mid-year review edition of the ALN newsletter will be published in July, but with only one day remaining in June for property updates to be collected, the data for the first half of 2021 is largely in place. One observation that jumps out from the data is the representation of Florida near the top of the list of markets with the strongest average effective rent growth so far this year. Florida markets comprise four of the top 10 markets while no other state boasts more than one, and seven of the top 15 markets – no other state has more than Arizona’s two.
2021 for the multifamily industry has been partially characterized by a very active new construction pipeline and a robust rebound in apartment demand. In ALN newsletters and blog posts these developments have been touched upon from various angles including price class, market size, and evaluation of specific markets. One area that has yet to be addressed is how all of the action of 2021 has played out across the urban-suburban-outlying area divide.
The multifamily industry has been off to a hot start to 2021 after a challenging 2020. New deliveries through April were up considerably, but so was apartment demand. Robust demand has been a continuation from the recovery that began in Q3 2020, but the difference so far this year is the reappearance of rent growth.
Despite strong demand dating back to the third quarter of last year for the multifamily industry, rent growth was largely absent until the calendar turned to 2021. So far this year, strong demand has been sustained and average effective rent was up by a little more than 2% nationally through April. One factor that has aided that growth has been the beginning of a drawdown in lease concessions after a dramatic increase in reliance on discounts last year
In this month’s ALN newsletter, first quarter multifamily performance was evaluated. One interesting perspective that was not covered was a look at the quarter by market tier. ALN assigns each market to one of four tiers based on the level of multifamily stock in the market, with Tier One markets being the 33 largest in the US and markets decreasing in size down to Tier Four. Considering only conventional properties of at least 50 units, let’s take a closer look at how these market tiers performed to start 2021.
Spring is here and the first quarter is behind us. It was around this time last year that the COVID-19 pandemic really began to significantly affect life and the economy with effects reverberating throughout the rest of 2020. A strong, though not ubiquitous, resurgence in apartment demand in the latter half of last year created a question for industry participants at the turn of the new year – to what extent would the multifamily recovery continue into 2021? At the national level, new construction activity continued at a feverish pace to the tune of more than 96,000 new units delivered in the quarter. This level of new supply outpaced that from the opening quarters of 2020 and 2019 by a significant margin. The 2021 deliveries equaled around 10,000 units more than in the opening quarter of 2020 and almost 25,000 units more than that portion of 2019.
After a rough second quarter in 2020 when the multifamily industry was dealing with the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, national apartment demand rebounded strongly in the second half of the year. It was this resurgence, above and beyond demand seen in the same portion of 2019, that buoyed overall annual performance numbers and prevented dramatic declines in average occupancy and rent. This positive momentum has carried over into the new year so far with net absorption in both January and February surpassing the same months last year.
In a blog post last week markets with notable population change from 2017 through 2019 according to the US Census Bureau were mentioned. As a follow-up to that, in this post smaller markets that have stood out regarding population change over that same period of time will be the focus. This time, rather than total population change, population percent change will be used. Because each ALN market contains only complete metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), MSAs will be combined where appropriate to represent whole ALN markets. No market had a higher total population percent change increase from 2017 through 2019 than Fayetteville, NC.
One of the major determining factors for multifamily performance is population and household change. 2020 appears to have brought about some dramatic shifts in population movement according to some early analyses such as one using LinkedIn data. Whether it was apartment demand results in suburban areas versus urban core, or the difference in demand between certain markets, signs of these shifts appear in the multifamily data.
While apartment demand was dismal through the first half of last year, absorption rebounded in the third and fourth quarters. Over the last few months many markets, in particular those across California and Florida, managed to significantly surpass their demand performance from the same period a year ago. The resurgence in national absorption has been timely as new projects continue to be added to the new construction pipeline at a rapid pace. All told, ALN is tracking more than 2.5 million pipeline units, though more than half of that total have yet to break ground.
2020 represented a dramatic shift from the type of multifamily performance industry participants had grown accustomed to in recent years. One theme was the particular difficulty experienced by the largest markets. Another was something of a flight to affordability made evident, in part, by the divergence in performance between the price classes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated response measures made 2020 an unprecedented year in many ways. The resulting disruption to the economy and every aspect of life dramatically altered the status quo the multifamily industry had grown accustomed to during an unusually long business cycle. Entire books could, and likely will, be written on the topic. For this month’s newsletter, we’ll take a fairly broad view in an attempt to elucidate some general observations from the past year.
In what has been a year of upheaval, one area of normalcy for the multifamily industry has been the flow of new units into the market. After some initial delays in the early days of the pandemic, the new construction pipeline ramped back up to deliver about as many units as were delivered in both 2018 and 2019.
The holiday season is here and, thankfully, 2020 is almost in the rear view mirror. This year has certainly been one of disruption, but one area of relative normalcy was new construction. This was true whether referring to the level of new supply or to the unit mix of product entering the market. The latter will be the focus of this month’s newsletter.