Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Reis: Apartment Vacancy Rate declined slightly to 4.6% in Q3, More Supply coming in 2013

by Bill McBride on 10/03/2012 11:42:00 AM

Reis reported that the apartment vacancy rate (82 markets) fell slightly to 4.6% in Q3, down from 4.7% in Q1 2012. The vacancy rate was at 5.6% in Q3 2011 and peaked at 8.0% at the end of 2009.

Some data and comments from economist Dr. Victor Calanog at Reis:

3Q Vacancy Rate: 4.6%, down 10 bps from second quarter’s 4.7%

3Q Absorption: 22,615, down from the second quarter’s 31,014 and the first quarter’s 36,423

3Q Completions: 13,531 units (similar to the second quarter’s figure of 13,370 units

"The national vacancy rate barely fell, inching downward from 4.7% to 4.6%, during a quarter that usually exhibits seasonal strength. This is the slowest rate of improvement since the recovery began in early 2010. For perspective, note that vacancies declined by an average of 35 basis points per quarter in 2010 and 2011; this year, vacancies fell by 30 basis points in the first quarter, 20 basis points in the second quarter, and 10 basis points in the third.

Net absorption, or the net change in occupied stock, slowed accordingly. Only 22,615 units were leased up in the third quarter, a clear trend downwards from the second quarter’s figure of 31,014 and the first quarter’s figure of 36,423. This is the lowest rate of absorption since the first quarter of 2010, and represents less than half the quarterly average rate of about 50,000 units that the sector enjoyed in 2010 and 2011.

Inventory growth continued at about the same pace as the second quarter, with 13,531 units coming online. This is still a relatively restrained pace for new construction, and demand for apartments still clearly outstrips supply growth, with absorption figures higher than construction, and vacancies declining. Still, there is cause for concern in the near‐term that demand is abating for multifamily, just as a veritable avalanche of new projects begins to open their doors early next year.
There are two fundamental risks in the near future: first, that demand for apartments will not be as robust. Home prices have shown a clear upward trend in recent months, with data from multiple sources all consistently reporting higher home prices and stronger figures for net home orders; it is notoriously difficult to trace a direct correlation between single‐family home prices and demand for multifamily rentals, and linking individual decisions to either buy a single‐family home or rent a multifamily apartment is challenging. Low mortgage rates have not prompted many households to buy homes, given expectations that home prices will remain flat. But that trend might finally be shifting: as home prices rise, households may feel a greater impetus to consider buying homes while mortgage rates remain low, and before prices rise “too much.” This will tend to depress demand for apartment rentals.

The second risk for the apartment sector is the predictable spike in new construction, a big wave of which is expected to come online starting in 2013".
Apartment Vacancy Rate Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the apartment vacancy rate starting in 1980. (Annual rate before 1999, quarterly starting in 1999).

Reis is just for large cities. It appears that the declines in vacancy rates is slowing, and rent increases might slow too. Also, as Calanog notes, there will be a significant increase in new supply in 2013 (and in 2014).

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