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Rent Growth Cools to Slowest Annual Pace in Over a Year

New data confirms a fall cooldown has come to the rental market, as national rent growth dropped to its lowest annual pace (+7.8%) since June 2021, according to the latest Realtor.com Monthly Rental Report for September.

In another sign of more typical seasonal moderation than last year, the U.S. median rental price posted its second month-over-month decline in eight months in September, further slipping from its July peak.

September 2022 Rental Metrics – National

Unit Size

Median Rent

Change over Sept. 2021

Change over Sept. 2020

Overall

$1,759

7.8 %

22.8 %

Studio

$1,483

10.1 %

22.8 %

1-bed

$1,647

7.7 %

23.0 %

2-bed

$1,941

6.4 %

22.4 %

 

"After more than a year of double-digit yearly rent gains and nearly as many months of record-high rents, it's especially important to see consistency before we confirm a major shift like the recent rental market cooldown. But September data provides that evidence, as national rents continued to pull back from their latest all-time high registered just two months ago," said Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "This return of more seasonal norms indicates that rental markets are charting a path back toward a more typical balance between supply and demand, compared to the previous year."

National rent cooldown continues, offering renters relief from rising prices

September marked the second straight month of consistent moderation in national rents, in terms of both the annual growth rate remaining in single-digit territory and continued month-over-month price declines. These trends are mirroring the earlier shift in for-sale housing, suggesting that the rental market is following similar patterns of more typical seasonal cooling as part of the real estate refresh from the 2021 frenzy.

However, like this year's homebuyers, renters are still facing significantly higher housing costs than in prior years, with national rents for all unit sizes at more than 1.2 times their 2020 levels in September. As a result, rental affordability remains a significant challenge, especially as inflation continues to outpace wage growth.

"We expect rent growth to keep slowing in the months ahead, partly driven by the impact of inflation on renters' budgets," said Hale. "However, it's unlikely that rents will return to a more normal pre-COVID pace of growth for at least another year, when available rental inventory starts to reflect the recent uptick in multifamily new construction."

Highlights:

  • For the second month in a row, the U.S. median rental price for 0-2 bedroom units ($1,759) grew at a single-digit year-over-year pace (+7.8%) and dropped on a month-over-month basis, bringing total declines in September over July's peak to $22.
  • Although yearly rent growth moderated to its slowest annual pace since June 2021 (+8.5%), it remained more than two-times faster than the yearly rate in March 2020 (+3.3%) at the onset of COVID. Additionally, national rents were 24.8% higher in September compared to the same month in 2019.
  • Rent growth for larger units also cooled in September, with two-bedroom ($1,941) and one-bedroom ($1,647) median rental prices both rising at a single-digit year-over-year pace for the second month in a row, up 6.4% and 7.7% respectively.
  • Despite outpacing larger unit rents in September, studio rental prices followed a similar pattern of deceleration in September, dropping $15 from the July peak to a median of $1,483. However, studios were the only unit size to maintain a double-digit annual growth pace in rents, up 10.1% (+$136) from September 2021.

"Realtor.com's September data highlights the true extent of the rental market boom that has taken place over the past three years, and underscores the prevalence of rental affordability challenges faced by many Americans today," said Ryan Coon, VP of Rentals at Realtor.com and Co-Founder of Avail —a subsidiary of Realtor.com.

Sun Belt rental markets moderate, big tech city rents keep climbing

As September's national rental trends reflected a shift toward relatively normal patterns, local rental markets showed a return to more typical activity. On the one hand, many Sun Belt metros showed substantial signs of yearly rental growth moderation in September, a marked reversal from the area's dramatic rent increases during the pandemic. On the other hand, urban rents are making up for lost time from their COVID slowdown as more Americans once again embrace downtown offices and lifestyles. In fact, big tech cities were among the only large markets to post double-digit annual rent gains in September.

  • In September, rental prices grew at a double-digit annual pace in just eight large metros, including many of the nation's major tech cities. In rank order, the biggest rent gains year-over-year were registered in: Chicago (+23.9%), Boston (+19.9%), New York (18.2%), Providence, Rhode Island (+16.7%), Oklahoma City (+13.8%), Miami (+13.2%), Kansas City, Missouri. (+11.2%) and San Jose, California (+10.7%).
  • Relative to those eight cities, September rent increases were smaller in more than three-quarters of the biggest markets, including many in the Sun Belt area. For example, rents increased by single-digits year-over-year in Dallas (8.8%), San Diego (8.4%), and Orlando, Florida (8.3%), each for the first time in at least 15 months.

"Recent surveys we've conducted at Avail also show that higher housing costs are a significant financial strain for many renters and landlords, at a time when inflation is driving up prices across the board," Coon added. "In some good news for renters –and further evidence that the rental cooldown will continue– many surveyed landlords indicate that they are adjusting their pricing strategies to account for tenants' tighter budgets."

To read the full report, including more data, charts and methodology, click here.

About Author: Demetria Lester

Demetria C. Lester is a reporter for DS News and MReport magazines with more than eight years' writing experience. She has served as content coordinator and copy editor for the Los Angeles Daily News, the Orange County Register, in addition to 11 other Southern California publications. A former editor-in-chief at Northlake College and staff writer at her alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, she has covered events such as the Byron Nelson and Pac-12 Conferences, progressing into her freelance work with the Dallas Wings and D Magazine. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Lester is a jazz aesthete and loves to read. She can be reached at [email protected]
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