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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Have Residential Rents bottomed?

by Calculated Risk on 6/17/2010 01:04:00 PM

There is some evidence that apartment rents have bottomed ... at least temporarily.

The BLS reported this morning:

The shelter index increased for the first time since August 2009, rising 0.1 percent. The rise was mostly due to the index for lodging away from home, which increased 2.5 percent. The indexes for both rent and owners' equivalent rent were unchanged in May.
The OER measure was up slightly and tends to lag other measures of rents.

Back in May, the NMHC reported that the market tightness index had increased sharply:
The Market Tightness Index, which measures changes in occupancy rates and/or rents, rose sharply from 38 to 81. This was the highest figure in nearly four years.
“We saw a sharp increase in the Market Tightness Index, which fits with the surprisingly strong (for a seasonally weak period) effective rent growth.” [said NMHC Chief Economist Mark Obrinsky]
There are some monthly private apartment data providers why say that rents have risen over the first 4 months of the year (on month-to-month basis, rents are still down year-over-year). They are reporting that the occupancy rate has risen slightly too.

I spoke with a large apartment owner in Texas who told me they are seeing effective rents rising over the last few months.

I've also heard that the mood really changed at the NMHC meeting in May compared to the January meeting. There is a growing consensus among large apartment owners that rents have bottomed and the industry will rebound in 2011.

And from Dawn Wotapka the WSJ: Apartment Leases, Rents Pick Up
For the first time since the downturn, some of the nation's largest apartment-building landlords are reporting that rent declines have stopped and some are even boasting modest increases. Green Street Advisors, a real-estate research firm, says demand might have struck bottom in the first quarter ... From January through May, rents climbed 2.8% nationwide, according to Axiometrics, which tracks the national apartment market.
This seems surprising given that REIS reported a record vacancy rate in Q1: "Nationally, the apartment vacancy rate stayed flat at 8%, the highest level since Reis Inc., a New York research firm, began its tally in 1980" and the Census Bureau reported the rental vacancy rate was at 10.6% in Q1, just below the all time high. Note: Reis is for large cities, the Census Bureau is nationwide.

Just something to be aware of ... rents could start falling again, but it does appear the slide has stopped for now - at least for the large apartment complexes.