2019 Shapes Up to Be a Weak Year As Multifamily Rent Growth Slows

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The average U.S. multifamily rent has risen $14 over the last three months, which is a decent performance but far short of the levels of recent years, according to the May report from Yardi Matrix.

“Year-to-date through May, rents were up 1.2%—again, good but not up to the recent past. In fact, over the last six years, only in 2017 (1.7%) did rent growth fail to reach 2.0% year-to-date through May,” the report says.

Multifamily rents grow slowly

  • U.S. multifamily rents increased by $5 in May to $1,442. Because rents increased less than they did in the same month in 2018, year-over-year growth fell 50 basis points from April to 2.5%.
  • Although rent gains are in line with the long-term average, 2019 is shaping up to be weaker than the last few, much more robust, years. Year-over-year rent growth has dropped 80 basis points over two months and 110 basis points over three months.
  • After sharing the spotlight with Las Vegas last month as the top metros, Phoenix pulled ahead in May atop our list of major metros with a 6.8% growth rate. Las Vegas is second at 6.6%, followed by Sacramento (4.1%) and Atlanta (3.9%).

2019 could be shaping up to be a weak year

“This is notable because the bulk of rent growth tends to occur in the first half of the year. If the past is any guide, 2019 would be hard-pressed to continue the bullish outcomes of the last six years if things don’t improve quickly,” the report says.

Year-over-year rent growth tops in Phoenix and Las Vegas

Demand in the desert continues to show up in the year-over-year numbers, according to the report.

  • Rents increased 2.5% year-over-year in May, down 50 basis points from April and 80 basis points from March. The year-to-date increase of 1.2% is the slowest rate of growth since 2011.
  • The Renter by Necessity category (3.0%) continues to grow at a faster rate than the Lifestyle category (1.7%). Only eight metros top the 2.5% overall national average in Lifestyle rents, but 22 metros top 2.5% growth in RBN rents.
  • Phoenix (6.8%) overtook Las Vegas (6.6%) in May to lead the rankings. The metros are No. 1 and No. 2 in both Lifestyle and RBN rent growth, and both have increased occupancy rates of stabilized properties by 20 basis points over the past year (Las Vegas to 95.0% and Phoenix to 95.5%) despite adding a significant amount of new supply. Meanwhile, Houston (0.4%) and Seattle (0.8%) have the weakest growth.

“The National Association of Business Economists released a survey that found a growing number of prognosticators increasing the odds that a recession will start in 2020,” the report says.

“Even though a recession in the near term remains a minority opinion, however, the downside risks are growing. The biggest reason cited is trade uncertainty, with 88% of economists surveyed downgrading growth forecasts because of President Trump’s policies on trade, which include tariffs on imports from China and Mexico. The other top reasons cited for the weaker growth outlook are stock market volatility and slowing global growth,” Yardi Matrix says in the report.