Living in an apartment? Expect your rent to go up again.
Renting has gotten increasingly expensive over the last five years. The average U.S. rent has climbed 14 percent to $1,124 since 2010, according to commercial property tracker Reis Inc. That’s 4 percentage points faster than inflation, and more than double the rise in U.S. home prices over the same period.
Now, even with a surge in apartment construction, rents are projected to rise yet another 3.3 percent this year, to an average of $1,161, according to Reis. While that’s slower than last year’s 3.6 percent increase, the broader upward trend isn’t going away.
“The only relief in sight is rents in the hottest markets are going to go up at a slower pace, but they’re still going to go up,” says Hessam Nadji, chief strategy officer at Marcus & Millichap, a commercial real estate firm.
The main reason: More people than ever are apartment hunting.
Young people who have been living with their parents are increasingly finding jobs and moving out. Rising home prices are leading many longtime renters to stay put.
In addition, most of the new apartments coming on the market are aimed at affluent tenants and carry higher-than-average rents. That’s true in cities where new buildings are going up in urban core areas, which means builders need to recoup higher land and development costs.
Consider Denver, where rents have risen more than 5 percent a year since 2010 — 9.2 percent in 2014 — according to Marcus & Millichap. Of 9,400 new apartment units added last year, 23 percent were in urban core areas.
Competition for apartments means renters are less likely to be able to negotiate with landlords, or win concessions such as a free month’s rent.
Here’s a look at why apartment dwellers will likely see rents go up for a sixth straight year.
More jobs, competition
During the last recession, about 32 percent of U.S. adults were living with roommates or adult family members, in 2012, up from 27.4 percent in 2006, according to Zillow, an online real estate firm.
Stepped-up hiring has begun to reverse that trend. About 2.8 million more Americans have jobs than 12 months ago.
“The share of young adults with jobs has climbed in the past year, and that will help many of them move out of their parents’ homes,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist at online real estate firm Trulia. “Most of them will be renters first.”
More people vying for apartments helps drive rents higher. And metropolitan areas with faster job growth are generally seeing higher-than-average rent hikes as well.
Traditionally, renting has been a stepping stone toward homeownership. When rents rise, tenants are motivated to buy sooner, especially when interest rates are near historic lows, as they are now.
But these days, renters are taking longer to buy. The U.S. homeownership rate ended last year at a 19-year low of 64.4 percent.
Between higher rents taking a bigger bite out of the bank account and sharply higher home prices, potential buyers are having more trouble saving for a down payment.
And many millennials, or 18- to 34-year-olds, prefer renting.