Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some thoughts on Apartments and Rents

by Bill McBride on 5/16/2012 07:37:00 PM

Just over two years ago we started discussing how the environment was becoming more favorable for apartment owners. This was based on several factors:

• Favorable demographics: a large cohort was moving into the low 20s to mid-30s age group. (see graph of age groups at "Rents soar")
• There were a record low number of multi-family housing units being started, meaning very few completions in 2010 and 2011.
• A large number of families were losing their homes in foreclosure, or through a short sales, and many of these families were becoming renters. (limited new supply)
• The price-to-rent ratio favored renting.

Sure enough, the vacancy rate for apartments declined sharply over the last two years, and rents have been rising.

Looking forward, the environment will be a little less favorable for apartments owners in a year or two. Demographics will still be favorable for several more years, but it appears completions might start catching up to absorption in a year or two (based on some comments and projections today from Reis director of research Victor Canalog on a webinar).

Below is an update to a graph comparing multi-family starts and completions. Since it usually takes over a year on average to complete a multi-family project, there is a lag between multi-family starts and completions. Completions are important because that is new supply added to the market, and starts are important because that is future new supply (units under construction are also important for employment).

This graphs use a 12 month rolling total for NSA starts and completions.

Multifamily Starts and completionsClick on graph for larger image.

The blue line is for multifamily starts and the red line is for multifamily completions.

The rolling 12 month total for starts (blue line) has been increasing since mid-2010. The 12 month total for completions (red line) is now following starts up. This suggests that completions (new supply) will increase sharply in 2013 and 2014, although this will still be below the level for the pre-bust period.

Other factors that might make the environment less favorable for apartment owners are:
• More investor buying of single family homes as rentals.
• Fewer foreclosures in 2013 and beyond.
• Wages not keeping up with rent increases.
• House prices are now back to "normal" levels in many areas based on rents. Further rent increases will start pushing more renters to buy (those that can qualify).

These are just some preliminary thoughts - right now conditions remain very favorable for apartment owners as indicated by the recent NMHC apartment survey and Reis quarterly survey.

Housing Starts increase to 717,000 in April
Industrial Production up in April, Capacity Utilization increases
MBA: Mortgage Delinquencies decline in Q1
Q1 MBA National Delinquency Survey Comments

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