Apartment transaction volumes eased in 1st quarter 2022, following record volumes in 4th quarter 2021. Roughly 2,200 apartment properties changed hands at a value of nearly $63 billion during 1st quarter 2022, according to Real Capital Analytics (RCA). This was the strongest 1st quarter on record, though transactions were well below the previous quarter when around 4,900 properties changed hands for more than $161.6 billion.
More apartment renters than ever are choosing to renew leases in the same unit, even as rents jump amidst rapid inflation. At the same time, market-rate renter incomes continue to soar – helping push up affordability ceilings. More than 57% of market-rate renters with an expiring lease renewed over the last 12 months, up 3.5 percentage points year-over-year, according to actual rent rolls running on the RealPage platform. By comparison, apartment retention between 2010 to 2019 averaged 51.5% before soaring in the COVID era.
Multifamily building permits and starts were both up sharply in March compared to February, despite slight upward revisions to previous data. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the annual pace of multifamily permitting increased 10.9% to 672,000 units from February’s revised rate of 606,000 units. Permits are up 33.6% from the annual rate from one year ago. Annualized multifamily starts were up 7.5% from last month and 28.1% from last year, with 574,000 units started. Both multifamily permits and starts have been on an upward trajectory since the end of the pandemic lockdowns.
The Texas apartment market has been a supply and demand beast for the past two years. Among the 11 largest Texas apartment markets that fall within the top 150 U.S. markets examined by RealPage Market Analytics, supply and demand volumes have grown significantly over the past two years. The existing unit count in the state of Texas has grown by 140,000 new apartments over the past two years, which increased the state’s existing inventory base roughly 6%.
Much like conventional apartment rents, student housing pricing varies widely across the U.S. The average price of a student housing bed runs higher in states with steeper conventional apartment prices, such as in the Northeast and West, and lower in the South and Southeast. Across the core 175 universities tracked by RealPage, average effective asking rents per bed in privately owned student housing runs around $860 per month.
While the Los Angeles apartment market has lagged, the rest of Southern California markets have performed ahead of U.S norms. When looking at cumulative rent growth since February 2020, Riverside has been one of the nation’s standout apartment markets, logging an increase of more than 32% in the past two years, according to data from RealPage Market Analytics. San Diego and Oxnard have both seen rent growth of more than 23% since February 2020, while Orange County has also trended ahead of U.S. norms with a 21% increase.
Student housing performance readings continue highlighting the overall sector rebound from the pandemic-induced lull. Fall 2022 pre-lease velocity among the RealPage 175 set of campuses through March (61.2%) is ahead of March 2020 (59.5%) levels. It should be noted that March 2020 figures were at the precipice of the COVID-19-driven slowdown. Much of the month’s leasing activity had already happened by the time that quarantine measures were taking place. Therefore, it wasn’t until April that performance slowdowns really came into the picture.
Record demand has pushed apartment occupancy to new highs in the U.S. since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As nationwide occupancy increased, all floorplans got a boost. No floorplan has experienced a greater surge in demand than three-bedroom units, according to data from RealPage Market Analytics. Compared to February 2020 (the last month before the pandemic began), three-bedroom units gained 260 basis points (bps) in occupancy to register at 97.4% in March 2022. That’s one of the highest rates on record since RealPage began tracking this unit type.
In what’s becoming a recurring storyline, the U.S. apartment market set record highs for demand, occupancy and rent growth in 2022’s 1st quarter – toppling previous multi-decade peaks set just one quarter earlier. Huge appetite for housing continues to power unprecedented market conditions. Net demand for market-rate apartments totaled a remarkable 712,899 units nationally in the year-ending 1st quarter 2022. That’s 8% more than the previous high set one quarter earlier, and 76% higher than the pre-COVID-era peak set back in 2000.
Apartment markets in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. continue to be very stable performers, after displaying a pattern of tight occupancy and modest rent growth throughout the past decade. In the U.S. overall, effective asking rent change averaged 3.7% annually during the 2010s decade, according to RealPage Market Analytics data. Meanwhile, nationwide occupancy came in just a touch under 95%.
Across the nation, the markets that were inducing the most anxiety for landlords in mid-2020 have all experienced an urban core rebound even stronger than most anticipated. Arguably no apartment niche was hit harder throughout the pandemic than urban cores in gateway markets. Most urban core operators turned to rent cuts as early as 2nd quarter 2020 and continued to slash rents well into 2021, while residents fled, and occupancy dwindled. Now, that seems to be in the rearview.
Since the sharp declines in both permitting and starts for multifamily development at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trajectory for multifamily has accelerated, compared to before the pandemic shutdowns. In February, the annual pace of multifamily permitting decreased 4.5% to 597,000 units from January’s revised rate of 625,000 units, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, that was still 12% greater than the annual rate one year ago. Annualized multifamily starts in February were virtually unchanged (0.8%) from last month but were 37.3% greater than February 2021.
There’s a severe shortage of affordable rental housing all over the country, and it may be worse in California than anywhere else. The root issues are plainly simple to identify (although more challenging for policymakers to properly fix). Here’s California’s rental housing crisis succinctly captured in five charts – adapted from a presentation I gave recently to the California Housing Finance Agency’s board of directors. California has the third-highest share (among all states) of severely cost-burdened renters, per Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Student housing pre-leasing exceeded the halfway point in February, again surpassing the rates seen this time in previous years. Fall 2022 pre-lease rates again stand above pre-pandemic norms. As of February, 50.8% of beds at the core 175 universities tracked by RealPage were leased for the Fall 2022 school year. In February 2020 – the last month before the pandemic began – pre-lease rates registered at 50.1%. In February 2021, during the height of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, pre-leasing reached a modest 40.0%. This month’s pre-lease rate marks the strongest February on record.
Apartment rents continued to increase in February 2022, but the pace of growth reverted closer to normal – even as occupancy remained at record highs. Effective asking rents for new leases in February increased 0.75% month-over-month on a same-store basis. While that was the largest increase for a February on record, it wasn’t by much – and that alone is a notable shift. February’s increase was just 21 basis points (bps) above the long-term average for February going back to 2010.
Despite continuing headwinds for multifamily development such as increased labor and material costs, construction delays, and other COVID-related difficulties, the pace of multifamily building permitting and starts has accelerated since the beginning of 2021 when tracking seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR). The SAAR is the number of permits or starts expected over the next 12 months based on the monthly seasonally adjusted rate.
As the nation’s apartment market fundamentals rebounded from the pandemic lull, the appetite for continued investment into the sector followed a similarly remarkable trajectory. In 2021, some 674,000 units were absorbed on net, surpassing the previous annual peak by some 60%. Subsequent occupancy rates continue to track at all-time high levels, and in turn both the relative stability of the apartment sector and its suggested upside in the coming years have fueled incredible investor demand as well.
Families represent the nation’s sixth largest renter cohort, making up about 5% of apartment renter households in the U.S. RealPage performed a massive study of more than 11 million individual apartment leases to create an industry-leading cluster analysis of U.S. apartment renters. Those 11+ million leases were analyzed by our team of data scientists who crunched the numbers and identified the most powerful and explanatory variables.
Apartment transaction volumes surged in 4th quarter, with the dollar value of trades – and the number of properties trading hands – hitting the highest level in more than 20 years, and possibly ever. Roughly 4,300 apartment properties changed hands at a value of nearly $148.9 billion during 4th quarter 2021, according to Real Capital Analytics (RCA). That dollar volume was the highest on record in at least 20 years and was 73% higher than the previous peak which was recorded in 3rd quarter 2021. The number of properties changing hands was also at a record high, after hitting a recent peak of over 3,100 units the previous quarter.
San Francisco’s Bay Area has rebounded, after the region took a significant hit during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that rebound hasn’t come at the cost of neighboring metros. Like many major coastal markets across Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, the pace of recovery in the Bay Area still trails the U.S. overall. But promising signs have emerged, as this region shows its strongest fundamentals since the onset of the pandemic.